The following is an excerpt from my book Mastering VMware vSphere 5.5, which you can read more on this blog over the coming weeks. To read the full text you can get a copy here. To test out this software, download AutoLab.
Introducing VMware vSphere 5.5
Now in its fifth generation, VMware vSphere 5.5 builds on previous generations of VMware’s enterprise grade virtualization products. vSphere 5.5 extends fine-grained resource allocation controls to more types of resources, enabling VMware administrators to have even greater control over how resources are allocated to and used by virtual workloads. With dynamic resource controls, high availability, unprecedented fault-tolerance features, distributed resource management, and backup tools included as part of the suite, IT administrators have all the tools they need to run an enterprise environment ranging from a few servers to thousands of servers.
Exploring VMware vSphere 5.5
The VMware vSphere product suite is a comprehensive collection of products and features that together provide a full array of enterprise virtualization functionality. The vSphere product suite includes the following products and features:
The core of the vSphere product suite is the hypervisor, which is the virtualization layer that serves as the foundation for the rest of the product line. In vSphere 5 and later, including vSphere 5.5, the hypervisor comes in the form of VMware ESXi.
VMware vCenter Server
Stop for a moment to think about your current network. Does it include Active Directory? There is a good chance it does. Now imag-ine your network without Active Directory, without the ease of a centralized management database, without the single signon capabilities, and without the simplicity of groups. That is what managing VMware ESXi hosts would be like without using VMware vCenter Server. Not a very pleasant thought, is it? Now calm yourself down, take a deep breath, and know that vCenter Server, like Active Directory, is meant to provide a centralized management platform and framework for all ESXi hosts and their respective VMs. vCenter Server allows IT administrators to deploy, manage, monitor, automate, and secure a virtual infrastructure in a centralized fashion. To help provide scalability, vCenter Server leverages a backend database (Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle are both supported, among others) that stores all the data about the hosts and VMs.
vSphere Update Manager
vSphere Update Manager is an add-on package for vCenter Server that helps users keep their ESXi hosts and select VMs patched with the latest updates.
VMware vSphere Web Client and vSphere Client
vCenter Server provides a centralized management framework for VMware ESXi hosts, but it’s the vSphere Web Client (and its predecessor, the Windows based vSphere Client) where vSphere administrators will spend most of their time.
VMware vCenter Orchestrator
VMware vCenter Orchestrator is a workflow automation engine that is automatically installed with every instance of vCenter Server. Using vCenter Orchestrator, vSphere administrators can build automated workflows for a wide variety of tasks available within vCenter Server.
vSphere Virtual Symmetric Multi-Processing
The vSphere Virtual Symmetric Multi-Processing (vSMP or Virtual SMP) product allows virtual infrastructure administrators to construct VMs with multiple virtual processors. vSphere Virtual SMP is not the licensing product that allows ESXi to be installed on servers with multiple processors; it is the technology that allows the use of multiple processors inside a VM.
vSphere vMotion and vSphere Storage vMotion
If you have read anything about VMware, you have most likely read about the extremely useful feature called vMotion. vSphere vMo-tion, also known as live migration, is a feature of ESXi and vCenter Server that allows an administrator to move a running VM from one physical host to another physical host without having to power off the VM. This migration between two physical hosts occurs with no down-time and with no loss of network connectivity to the VM. The ability to manually move a running VM between physical hosts on an as-needed basis is a powerful feature that has a number of use cases in today’s datacenters.
vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler
vMotion is a manual operation, meaning that an administrator must initiate the vMotion operation. What if VMware vSphere could perform vMotion operations automatically? That is the basic idea behind vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS). If you think that vMotion sounds exciting, your anticipation will only grow after learning about DRS. DRS, simply put, leverages vMotion to provide automatic distribution of resource utilization across multiple ESXi hosts that are configured in a cluster.
vSphere Storage DRS
vSphere Storage DRS takes the idea of vSphere DRS and applies it to storage. Just as vSphere DRS helps to balance CPU and memory utilization across a cluster of ESXi hosts, Storage DRS helps balance storage capacity and storage performance across a cluster of datastores using mechanisms that echo those used by vSphere DRS.
Storage I/O Control and Network I/O Control
VMware vSphere has always had extensive controls for modifying or controlling the allocation of CPU and memory resources to VMs. What vSphere didn’t have prior to the release of vSphere 4.1 was a way to apply these same sort of extensive controls to storage I/O and network I/O. Storage I/O Control and Network I/O Control address that shortcoming.
With profile-driven storage, vSphere administrators are able to use storage capabilities and VM storage profiles to ensure that VMs are residing on storage that is able to provide the necessary levels of capacity, performance, availability, and redundancy.
vSphere High Availability
In many cases, high availability (or the lack of high availability) is the key argument used against virtualization. The most com-mon form of this argument more or less sounds like this: “Before virtualization, the failure of a physical server affected only one application or workload. After virtualization, the failure of a physical server will affect many more applications or workloads running on that server at the same time. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket!”
VMware addresses this concern with another feature present in ESXi clusters called vSphere High Availability (HA). Once again, by nature of the naming conventions (clusters, high availability), many traditional Windows administrators will have preconceived notions about this feature. Those notions, however, are incorrect in that vSphere HA does not function like a high availability configuration in Windows. The vSphere HA feature provides an automated process for restarting VMs that were running on an ESXi host at a time of server failure .
vSphere Fault Tolerance
While vSphere HA provides a certain level of availability for VMs in the event of physical host failure, this might not be good enough for some workloads. vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) might help in these situations.
As we described in the previous section, vSphere HA protects against unplanned physical server failure by providing a way to automatically restart VMs upon physical host failure. This need to restart a VM in the event of a physical host failure means that some down-time (generally less than 3 minutes) is incurred. vSphere FT goes even further and eliminates any downtime in the event of a physical host failure.
vSphere Storage APIs for Data Protection and VMware Data Protection
One of the most critical aspects to any network, not just a virtualized infrastructure, is a solid backup strategy as defined by a company’s disaster recovery and business continuity plan. To help address organizational backup needs, VMware vSphere 5.5 has two key components: the vSphere Storage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) and VMware Data Protection (VDP).
Virtual SAN (VSAN)
VSAN is a major new feature included with vSphere 5.5 and the evolution of work that VMware has been doing for a few years now. Building on top of the work VMware did with the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), VSAN lets organizations leverage the storage found in all their individual compute nodes and turn it into.. well, a virtual SAN.
vSphere Replication brings data replication, a feature typically found in hardware storage platforms, into vSphere itself. It’s been around since vSphere 5.0, when it was only enabled for use in conjunction with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 5.0. In vSphere 5.1, vSphere Replication was decoupled from SRM and enabled for use even without VMware SRM.
vFlash Read Cache
Flash Read Cache brings full support for using solid-state storage as a caching mechanism into vSphere. Using Flash Read Cache, administrators can assign solid-state caching space to VMs much in same manner as VMs are assigned CPU cores, RAM, or network connectivity. vSphere manages how the solid-state caching capacity is allocated and assigned and how it is used by the VMs.