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VMware vSphere 5.1 to include shared-nothing live migration

Here's a sneak peek at new features coming in VMware's vSphere 5.1, as well as roadmap details for Site Recovery Manager.

VMware vSphere 5.1 will contain new features that include shared-nothing live migration of virtual machines and other awaited capabilities, sources said.

One of the new features in the next version of VMware Inc.'s server virtualization platform, which will be unveiled at VMworld 2012 next month, is Content-Based Read Cache for vSphere servers, according to beta testers.

This "hidden" feature in vSphere 5.0 was exposed through the View 5.1 graphical user interface as a means of reducing the I/O hit on storage systems caused by boot storms, by caching the most-read blocks of data across VMs in host memory. It will now be available as a configuration option in the vSphere GUI as well, sources said, though its main application will still probably be in View environments.

Boot from Fibre Channel over Ethernet, or FCoE, storage and official *advanced support for virtualized Active Directory domain controllers are also expected in vSphere 5.1, though these features are hardly earth-shattering. As for the latter, "It might just be a matter of an agreement between VMware and Microsoft," said one beta tester.

VMware last year demonstrated its fault tolerance feature on VMs with more than one CPU, and customers expected the feature in the next release of vSphere. This year, however, the feature is still being billed as a "technology preview" in the VMworld Session Catalog, and beta testers say it's labeled "experimental."

Site Recovery Manager 5.1 and beyond

Shared-nothing live migration fits in with an overall long-term roadmap for Site Recovery Manager (SRM) and vSphere Replication that was discussed at VMworld 2011 and described in some detail in a public presentation at this week's New England VMware User Group Meeting by virtualization expert Mike Laverick.

IT pros can expect integration between SRM and vCloud Director -- "something VMware wants to add as a matter of urgency" -- and disaster recovery to cloud service providers, enabling DR as a service, Laverick said.

Plans that include policy-based disaster recovery and integration between vSphere Data Recovery, VMware High Availability and SRM are still "off in the distance," and will probably be realized with product updates in 2013, Laverick said.

VMware Data Recovery and EMC Avamar

Some sources expect VMware to replace its VMware Data Recovery (VDR) backup utility with a licensed, stripped-down version of EMC Corp.'s Avamar backup software in vSphere 5.1, though others say this isn't official yet. It's still unclear how pricing for the software would be handled, because VDR is given away for free and Avamar is not.

The inclusion of buffed-up backup software could give VMware a stronger alternative to Microsoft's Data Protection Manager, which now is included in its System Center 2012 management suite. There are also worries about the implications such a move would have on the EMC-VMware relationship, especially as the companies have grown cozier through a CEO swap-out this week.

"Some VMware folks are a little concerned as the relationship grows tighter and tighter with EMC," said a channel partner based in the Northeast.

VMworld session catalog spills the beans on shared-nothing live migration

The VMworld session catalog offers a glimpse of other upcoming features. One session -- called "What's New with vMotion, Architectures, Performance and Best Practices" -- to be held during the company's annual conference in August, describes in detail the shared-nothing live migration feature due in the next release of vSphere; it "integrates the support for simultaneous memory and storage migration, which allows running virtual machines to move between hosts without any requirement for shared storage."

The session description goes on to say that vMotion without shared storage will allow the live migration of VMs across vCenter Servers and over long distances. This will put vSphere 5.1 on par with Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, which also will introduce a shared-nothing live migration feature when it ships this fall. The next release of XenServer, code-named Tampa and expected to ship this quarter, also will contain a shared-nothing live migration feature.

"In the future, this will be huge for moving VMs to private and hybrid clouds," said one beta tester of the new VMware vSphere release, speaking on condition of anonymity. "This piece allows migration [of VMs] from one cloud to another, and one data center to another."

*Information added after initial publication.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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