VMware vSphere 5 details leaked

Details of VMware's forthcoming vSphere release have leaked. These VMware vSphere 5 details include information about new storage, networking and availability features.

VMware vSphere 5 will support up to 1 TB of RAM and 32 virtual CPUs per VM, according to a leaked document.

A posting entitled “What’s new in vSphere 5.0” appeared last Friday in a Turkish Web forum, with details on the next major release of VMware’s server virtualization platform.

The public posting about vSphere 5, which appears to have been copied and pasted from a typical VMware “What’s New” page accessible only to authorized users, also suggests that a release candidate hit the market March 31, judging by captured metadata code.

John Troyer, VMware’s senior social media specialist, responded to tweets calling attention to the posting with a request that they be taken down, saying, “That info is still confidential!” His posting has since been removed, as has the posting with the vSphere 5 details.

New scalability, Auto-Deploy feature
Among the enhancements detailed in the document is support for still larger virtual machines (VMs) than were supported in vSphere 4.0 and 4.1 -- up to 32 virtual CPUs per VM, up to 1 TB of RAM per VM, and a new graphical user interface to support provisioning multicore CPUs.

Another reported vSphere 5 feature is VMware vSphere Auto Deploy, which combines features from host profiles, Image Builder and PXE. The feature will “[simplify] the task of managing ESXi installation and upgrade for hundreds of machines,” according to the document. With this feature, new hosts can be automatically provisioned based on user-defined rules, and “rebuilding a server to a clean slate is as simple as a reboot.”

It also appears VMware has overhauled VMware High Availability (HA). “VMware HA is more reliable in operation, more scalable in its ability to protect virtual machines, and can provide better uptime than before,” the document says. It also mentions that all hosts in the cluster can be primary nodes (active-active failover), and the cluster can use shared storage for host heartbeat detection.

Storage integration to deepen through new APIs
As previewed at the VMware Partner Exchange 2011 conference in February, vSphere 5 will also offer a feature called Storage Distributed Resource Scheduling, or Storage DRS, which would allow virtual machine disk format files to be automatically moved between RAID groups as well as separate storage arrays, depending on resource availability.

New details about storage integration in the leaked document also include a category called “policy-driven storage delivery,” which appears to be the incarnation of new application programming interfaces (APIs) extended to storage partners, previously known as VMware-Aware Storage APIs. Policy-driven storage delivery “enables virtual machine storage provisioning to become independent of specific storage available in the environment,” according to the document.

Other storage integration updates include a new version of the VMware Cluster File System, with improved scalability and performance. That could be achieved -- at least in part -- by adding finer-grained SCSI locking controls. This is an area in which VMware and storage vendors have been honing performance for at least the last three platform releases, and previous efforts have included the offloading of SCSI lock management to the array through the VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration released with vSphere 4.1.

As is its custom, VMware is also adding support for existing features to new storage protocols following a first release that focused mainly on Fibre Channel block storage. This release contains a new UI for managing iSCSI storage through the vSphere Client and support for Storage I/O control on Network File System storage volumes.

Another detail mentioned in the document is new support for LUNs greater than 2 TB. Brandon Worrell, director of business development for VMware partner Solutions-II in Salt Lake City, Utah, said his customers have been looking for this feature.

“We have some customers with petabytes and petabytes of info, and having to carve everything up in 2-TB chunks is a pain,” he said prior to the vSphere 5 documentation leak.

Network I/O control, virtual firewall updates
As with storage management, vSphere 5 users will reportedly be able to establish networking resource pools according to pre-defined rules. The new version will also enable multi-tenancy deployment, and will bridge physical and virtual QoS by complying with a new IEEE 802.1 VLAN tagging standard.

And when it comes to the vSphere 5 version of VMware’s virtual firewall, the management interface will now be “protected by a service-oriented and stateless firewall, which [users] can configure using the vSphere Client or at the command line.” This could potentially address issues of vShield management interface availability, which have been raised by some evaluators of the 1.0 product.

“VShield … needs to be fully developed and easy to implement, [with] best practices defined,” said the CIO of a state government agency on the East Coast. “Right now it seems that third party-vendors like Altor Networks have more mature solutions … but I think in a year or two, we will wonder how we survived without it.”

VSphere’s command line interface also appears to be getting an update, in the form of a unified CLI framework. This will bring together esxcli and PowerCLI, allowing “consistency of authentication, roles, and auditing, using the same methods as other management frameworks.” It is unclear whether this update will address market concerns relating to the transition from PowerCLI version 4.0 to version 4.1.x.

VCenter Server gets a facelift
Finally, the vSphere management server for deployments itself will be getting an update, including a new browser-based vSphere Client; a new preconfigured vCenter Server appliance; the ability to deploy new management extensions created by VMware partners; and enhanced logging support.

Matthew Liebowitz, a solutions architect for Manhattan-based VAR Kraft and Kennedy Inc., said he hopes there will be improvements to the native availability of vCenter Server itself as VMware builds more features into vCenter.

“It used to be that if vCenter went down, you couldn’t do vMotion, but that was pretty much the worst of it,” Liebowitz said. “Now look at all the pieces that are integrated: distributed vSwitches, the vShield products, VMware View, Site Recovery Manager, CapacityIQ, AppSpeed, vCloud. … VMware sells their vCenter Heartbeat product that is pretty expensive and can protect vCenter, and I think folks will be almost forced into buying it. There is too much relying on vCenter these days to simply rely on VMware HA … to protect it.”

Another detail revealed in the leaked documentation is that Apple OS X is now supported as a guest OS. Phil DeMeyer , an information technologist at an early-childhood education program in the Midwest, said he’d like to see a Mac version of the vSphere Client as well.

“The thing I’m kind of intrigued with is their new iPad app for vCenter,” DeMeyer said. “I thought that that was interesting. In lieu of a Mac client … that would be nice.”

VMware vSphere 5 licensing concerns
Worrell said he still has customers that remember that bought Virtual Infrastructure 3 just before VMware released vSphere 4.

“[They] thought they were buying the most recent, updated version, only to find out a few months later that something new came out,” he said.

That remains a lingering sore subject for some users, as does the addition of the Enterprise Plus licensing tier.

“Two-plus years later, there are still customers that are unhappy about this,” Worrell said.

There haven’t been any indications of licensing changes with vSphere 5, and Worrell and others said they hope it stays that way.

“Licensing is still way too painful,” said the government CIO on the East Coast. “That and cost are the only reasons I would look at Hyper-V.”

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at [email protected].

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