How strong is your Foundation..?

There is a very obvious question which comes to anyone’s mind while starting of with virtualization which hypervisor to choose from – which will eventually become your FOUNDATION. Considering the diversify hypervisor market these days it is a wide choice to make. Last month VMWare released it’s flagship hypervisor suit vSphere 6.5 with tones of new features and amazing concatenation with other vSphere product portfolio. The major stress for this release was kept with the approach to make it future ready. When I say future-ready it not only means scope for Docker/Containers but also from an overall product standpoint. Broadly I differentiate vSphere 6.5 features in three categories: Simplicity, Security & Availability

There is popular phrase “Complex is better but Simple is Significant“. Anything which can be deployed, managed and consumed easily is considered most robust solution.

Let’s first talk about Simplicity:

1. vSphere Server appliance has built-in HA feature which means it is no longer a single point of failure and can provide 5 min RTO. It is achieved using native backup/restore feature available for vCenter & PSC VM which stores backup for VCSA at network share
This new feature has no dependency on shared storage, RDM or external DB
2. vSphere Update Manager is is built-in feature of vSphere 6.5 web client and no longer require separate windows VM
3. vSphere 6.5 gives customer ability to migrate from vSphere 5.5 or 6.0 to fully functional vSphere 6.5 without hassle. Also customer can carry all of settings from their previous version environment
4. Host profile & Auto deploy is now part of vSphere web client
5. Fully module based PowerCLI now enables user to script virtually any administrative task and also REST API is integral part of vSphere 6.5 suit

Then comes Security, which in today’s date is most talked about topics across the globe. Any organization let it to be  eCommerce, Financial house, Data-ware housing or Product based company the ultimate goal of any organization is to cater security loopholes. According to Gartner report money spent by companies (across globe) in year 2016 will reach $81.6 billion which makes security as the most important pillar of any organization. vSphere 6.5 has taken some significant steps towards security.

1. Encrypted storage policy feature enables admins to encrypt .vmx & .vmdk files and only crypto user (new role) will have access to modify it
Using this feature all VMs are secured inside ESXi host and can’t be booted outside of that vCenter environment
2. With vSphere 6.5 admin can encrypt vMotion of VM so there is no clear text visible to sniffer over the network during vMotion
3. Secure boot firmware via UEFI (replacing traditional boot process)
This new firmware verifies every VIB attached to ESXi host and if there is any failure or changes made to it, host will not boot
This new firmware feature will be available only to supported hardware
4. vSphere Integrated Container (aka VIC) – long awaited feature. Easiest way to integrate Docker based containers into vSphere environment and can be managed same way as traditional VM

And last but not the least Availability. Since early days of vSphere the most common question every customer had in their mind was What if my vCenter goes down..?? Initially VMWare has introduced vCenter Server Heartbeat to counter this problem but the problem with this product was first – it was hard to achieve and second – it wasn’t popular among the customer as their 1st choice. Which was the reason VMWare decided to discontinue this product (29-Dec-2016) and it will not be available to the customer going forward. The expectation was to have something Native and easy to deploy which is why I have listed it under availability section

1. Easy HA configuration based on 3 simple choices
2. vSphere HA Orchastrator included in vSphere 6.5 which is responsible for VM boot order incase of failure for multi-tier application
e.g. 1st Boot DB VM
2nd Boot APP VM
3rd Boot Web VM
3. Proactive HA – detects hardware conditions of host components by receiving alerts collected from various hardware sensor and notifies vCenter
Incase of hardware degradation notifies vCenter for proactive HA to be done and vMotions VM to healthy hosts
currently Dell, HP & CISCO UCS supports this feature
4. Quarantine DRS Mode: In a health-aware vSphere cluster any degraded ESXi host is placed in Quarantine mode which means – DRS will evacuate VM to make sure no impact is made to cluster. It also avoid placing VMs on this host until it comes healthy
However Admin can forcefully override this feature and use degraded ESXi host if this is business need
5. Improved DRS: DRS is now network aware which means whenever Tx/Rx packets on any ESXi host crosses Threshold it STOPS placing VM on it
This improves network congestion and balanced resource placement

This brings to the end of this topic and the question which I started off with – how strong is your foundation? The building block on which we are deploying our virtual workload play very important role so choosing a right hypervisor is key to success.

These are few of the tonnes of new features vSphere 6.5 brings in. I’ll be writing more on individual feature in future blogs, till then Happy Reading…

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