After considerable speculation and anticipation, VMware has finally announced vSphere 5 as part of a major cloud infrastructure launch, including vCloud Director 1.5, SRM 5 and vShield 5. From our first impressions, it is both well worth the wait and merits immediate serious consideration as an enterprise virtualization platform, particularly for existing VMware customers.

The list of features is voluminous, with at least 100 improvements, large and small, but among the features, several stand out as particularly significant as I&O professionals continue their efforts to virtualize the data center, primarily dealing with and support for both larger VMs and physical host systems, and also with the improved manageability of storage and improvements Site Recovery Manager (SRM), the remote-site HA components:

  • Replication improvements for Site Recovery Manager, allowing replication without SANs
  • Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS) for Storage
  • Support for up to 1 TB of memory per VM
  • Support for 32 vCPUs per VM
  • Support for up to 160 Logical CPUs and 2 TB or RAM
  • New GUI to configure multicore vCPUs
  • Storage driven storage delivery based on the VMware-Aware Storage APIs
  • Improved version of the Cluster File System, VMFS5
  • Storage APIs – Array Integration: Thin Provisioning enabling reclaiming blocks of a thin provisioned LUN on the array when a virtual disk is deleted
  • Swap to SSD
  • 2TB+ LUN support
  • Storage vMotion snapshot support
  • vNetwork Distributed Switch improvements providing improved visibility in VM traffic
  • vCenter Server Appliance
  • vCenter Solutions Manager, providing a consistent interface to configure and monitor vCenter-integrated solutions developed by VMware and third parties
  • Revamped VMware High Availability (HA) with Fault Domain Manager
  • All hosts in cluster can be primary nodes
  • Cluster also uses shared storage as a channel for heartbeat detection

These improvements, particularly the increased scaling of both hosts and VMs, comes at a critical juncture for many users, as they have completed a cycle of vitalizing all of the very low utilization applications with VMware versions 3 and earlier, and subsequently tackling more I/O intensive applications with VMware 4.x. At this point, the applications that remain are either highly critical, with customer reservations about reliability, or applications that need more than 4 cores per VM, territory where earlier versions of VMware showed marginal performance gains. vSphere 5, with its improved “fundamentals” – numbers of cores per VM and number of logical CPUs (physical cores on the host), paves the way for additional virtualization of applications that were previously not being considered as viable candidates for virtualization.

If vSphere 5 performs well in real customer environments, it provides an important extension to the foundation capabilities required for the continued industrialization of data centers and the management of enterprise workloads.