What’s New in VMware vSphere 6

vSphere 6 was announced at the start of February 2015 and is now available for download.

This version is marketed, in VMware’s words, as “the industry-leading virtualisation platform which empowers users to virtualise any application with confidence, redefines availability, and simplifies the virtual data centre” and that it is “a highly available, resilient, on-demand infrastructure that is the ideal foundation for any cloud environment”.

This version contains the following new features and enhancements: –

  • Increased Scalability
    • Clusters now support
      • 64 hosts per cluster, up from 32 in the previous version
      • 8000 virtual machines per cluster
    • Hosts now support
      • 480 CPUs
      • 12TB RAM
      • 1024 virtual machines per host
    • Virtual Machines now support
      • 128 virtual CPUs (vCPUs)
      • 4TB virtual RAM (vRAM)
  • Improvements to ESXi Local Accounts
    • Centralised management of local accounts on ESXi hosts using new ESXCLI commands to add, list, remove and modify accounts across all hosts in a cluster using vCenter. Previously you had to connect directly to each ESXi host in turn to manage the local accounts
    • New settings on the ESXi hosts to control number of failed login attempts before locking a local account and how long the account is locked for
    • Improved method of configuring ESXi local account password complexity rules via the Host Advanced System Settings instead of manually editing the /etc/pam.d/passwd file
  • Improved auditability of ESXi administrator accounts – ESXi logs now show logon user details when tasks performed from vCenter instead of just showing vpxuser
  • Lockdown mode improved to provide two levels:
    • Normal Lockdown Mode – Allows users on the DCUI.Access list to still access the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI)
    • Strict Lockdown Mode – DCUI disabled
    • Exception Users – Users allowed host access regardless of lockdown mode
  • Smart Card Authentication to DCUI – for U.S. federal customers only
  • Support for the latest x86 sets, devices, drivers, and guest operating systems
  • NVIDIA GRID Support
  • Instant Clone – virtual machines can be cloned 10x fasters than in previous versions of vSphere
  • vSphere Virtual Volumes
  • Per-VM Distributed vSwitch Network IO Control (NIOC) bandwidth reservations allowing isolation and enforcing limits on bandwidth
  • IGMP snooping for IPv4 packets in Distributed vSwitches
  • MLD snooping for IPv6 packets in Distributed vSwitches
  • Multiple TCP/IP Stack for vMotion provides vMotion traffic a dedicated network stack with a dedicated default gateway for the vMotion traffic.
  • vMotion Enhancements
    • Perform non-disruptive live migration of workloads across virtual switches
    • Perform non-disruptive live migration of workloads across vCenter Servers
    • Perform non-disruptive live migration of workloads over distances up to 150ms RTT, an improvement from 10ms in previous version of vSphere
    • Replication-Assisted vMotion – allows environments with active-active replication set up between two sites to perform a more efficient vMotion resulting in as much as 95% time saving
  • Fault Tolerance Enhancements
    • Now supports up to 4 vCPUs, an increase from a single vCPU in previous versions
    • VMware vSphere Data Protection, and other VMware Snapshot based backup solutions utilising VMware vSphere Storage APIs, can now be used with virtual machines protected by vSphere FT
    • Storage is also now duplicated between the two FT VM instances so that the storage is protected as well as the compute and memory. This also means that local storage can be utilised as well as shared storage.
    • All virtual disk formats can now be used, previous versions had to use eager-zero thick.
  • vSphere Content Library – a centralised repository of virtual machine templates, ISO images and scripts. Content stored and managed centrally and shared via a publish/subscribe model.
  • You can now copy and move virtual machines between hosts on different vCenter Servers in a single action
  • A streamlined, more responsive and intuitive Web Client
  • Virtual machine enhancements
    • Hot-add RAM enhancements to vNUMA – memory allocate equally across all NUMA regions instead of all to region 0
    • WDDM 1.1 GDI acceleration
    • USB 3.0 xHCI controller
    • Several serial and parallel port enhancements
      • Serial and parallel ports can now be removed (I presume this means Hot-Remove because you could remove serial and parallel ports when the virtual machine was powered off on previous versions)
      • Maximum number of serial ports increased to 32
    • The following additional guest operating systems are supported: –
      • Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel Release 3 Quarterly Update 3
      • Asianux 4 SP4
      • Solaris 11.2
      • Ubuntu 12.04.5
      • Ubuntu 14.04.1
      • Oracle Linux 7
      • FreeBSD 9.3
      • Mac OS X 10.10
    • Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) Enhancements
      • Support for WSFC on Windows Server 2012 R2
      • Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Availability Groups
      • Support for the PVSCSI adapter with virtual machines running WSFC to provide superior performance to that with the standard SCSI adapter
      • vMotion (and DRS) fully supported with Windows Server 2008 and later when using WSFC clustered across hosts using physical-mode RDMs.
    • vCenter Server Improvements
      • Simplified deployment
        • Two deployment models
          • Embedded – deploys new Platform Services Controller (PSC) and the vCenter Server system on the same server
          • External – deploys PSC and vCenter on different servers
        • All vCenter Server services (Inventory Services, Web Client, Auto Deploy, e.t.c.) are installed along with vCenter. There is no longer separate installers
        • Update Manager is still a standalone Windows installation
      • Linked mode enabled by default and supported with the vCenter Server Appliance
      • Reduction is the number of certificates required to manage the environment
      • VMware Certificate Authority used to generate certificates instead of using self-signed certificates
      • Increased maximums for vCenter Server Appliance, using either embeded or external database to match Windows vCenter Server, i.e.
        • 1,000 hosts
        • 10,000 powered on virtual machines
        • 64 hosts per cluster
        • 8,000 virtual machines per cluster

I will dig into some of these features in more details in future articles.

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