VMWare released the latest iteration of its enterprise virtualisation platform vSphere. Now at version 5, it reflects that virtualisation has reached a degree of maturity and integration that puts it at the heart of any enterprise commuting strategy. So, what do CIOs need to know about vSphere 5?
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1. vSphere will make you think about your storage planning
One of the challenges of previous versions of vSphere was the way storage needed to be allocated. VMware vSphere's resource pooling capabilities needed separate shared storage hardware, which presented a cost and complexity barrier for some businesses. The new VMware vSphere Storage Appliance can use server internal storage, pooling into shared storage. So, the need for shared storage hardware is reduced. In large enterprises, with SANs and other large data storage arrays, this might not seem like a big deal but in smaller or growing enterprises, the initial expense of such hardware has been a barrier.
2. VMWare has changed the licensing arrangements
Before jumping straight into an upgrade, you'll need to do your research. There's a lot of angst on VMWare's message boards about the changed licensing arrangements. For example, one customer put the following scenario up.
BL460c G7 with 2 sockets and 192G of memory = 2 vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses
DL585 G7 with 4 sockets and 256G of memory = 4 vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses
BL460c G7 with 2 sockets and 192G of memory = 4 vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses
BL585 G7 with 4 sockets and 256G of memory = 6 vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses
That's an increase from six licenses to ten - a substantial chuck of money.
If this is followed through, it's possible that some customers will find that new, physical hardware is cheaper to purchase than a virtual server. Bob Plankers, at The Lone Sysadmin, has done the math.
Although he can see a patch to making this upgrade cost neutral, he's not very hopeful that there's any financial benefits in the new licensing model.
There's a calculator at PeetersOnline that helps calculate the vSphere5 licensing costs. We're not endorsing this calculator's accuracy but it's a place to start.
vSphere 4 is still available for purchase till 24 August 2011. If you're planning to buy more licenses and have a specific budget set aside, you might want to move fast. Or start the negotiation process with your vendor.
3 - Your VMs can be more powerful
Moore's Law makes sense in the physical world so it follows that VMWare would apply the same to the latest version of vSphere. With vSphere 5, each VM can be provisioned with up to 1TB of memory and 32 CPUs. That potentially means that applications that ended up on their own physical device might be candidates for virtualisation.
Being able to translate those "on paper" benefits into something tangible for the business will require some homework. However, there are some potential benefits to bottom line if you can move a system from a physical box to a VM.
4 - The new game is about resource pooling
Resource fragmentation is challenge that everyone, from consumer to enterprise, is faced with. vSphere attempts to work part this by allowing more resources, such a CPU, memory and storage, to be treated as one big pool that each VM can access. The trick here is that you'll need to balance the temptation of having lots of resources available to the pool with the licensing costs associated with having those resources available.
Potentially, that means that the CIO can transition from being a systems delivery department into a more service-focussed one. By being able to better pool resources, you can focus on delivering value to the business. Effectively, you can create a more robust private cloud infrastructure.
5 - vSphere 5 comes with several updated applications
Along with the upgraded hypervisor, VMWare has added several updated support applications. vShield 5 (PDF Link), vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5 (PDF Link) and vCloud Director 1.5 (PDF Link) have been updated.
We'll avoid the marketing speak, telling you how awesome VMWare thinks their products are. Like any updated product from a vendor you're already working with, in order to extract the maximum value you need to look carefully at what new products are on offer, whether they fit into your business and what they'll cost.