vSphere 5 Aims To Make Infrastructure Transparent


vSphere 5 is VMware’s largest integrated product ever, touching on storage, networking and security

A significant number of IT professionals already know this and aren’t going to like hearing it, but VMware chief executive Paul Maritz believes that “most people just want [IT] infrastructure to go away”.

So VMware is here to help enterprises do this by selling them vSphere 5, a new cloud computing infrastructure suite it launched on 12 July that essentially is a one-stop shop – mainly for midrange companies and SMBs – for running a new-generation data centre. vSphere 5 ostensibly makes IT go away by utilising software and services that replace traditional data centre hardware.

‘Largest product ever’

“Virtualised infrastructures are really the new hardware,” Maritz said at a press conference at the Terra Gallery that was streamed live on the VMware site. “You just want to plug it in and make it work.”

vSphere 5, whose predecessor vSphere 4 came out about a year ago, is the largest integrated software product ever launched by VMware, Chief Technology Officer Steve Herrod told conference attendees.

vSphere 5 includes as its key components vShield 5 (security), VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5 (disaster recovery) and VMware vCloud Director 1.5 (cloud management). The new platform is designed to automate as much of the lower end of the management stack as possible and make it simpler for non-IT experts so that they can “set it and forget it” when it comes to monitoring and managing cloud infrastructures and provisioning storage for workloads running on VMs, Maritz said.

VMware also announced that it has made available an iPad version of the management interface in the Apple App Store.

The generalisation about wanting IT to go away may or may not be true, but since it does play directly into VMware’s approach to conquering the IT world, that’s the company’s strategy. And, frankly, it does expect to conquer the enterprise IT world in its own way.

“According to the folks at Gartner and IDC and such, we’re on the verge of reaching the 50 percent mark of the world’s available workloads running on virtual machines – led by VMware,” Maritz said. “That’s great. … We’ve accomplished this in a relatively short time, and we’re proud of our success. But we still have 50 percent to go.”

VMware Storage Appliance

With vSphere 5, VMware is offering its own plug-and-play cloud system. A key example of this type of functionality is some new storage software introduced on 12 July – called, succinctly enough, VMware Storage Appliance. This is not part of vSphere 5, but nonetheless can be used in concert with the new platform.

With Storage Appliance, the user loads the software, makes sure that the storage is on line and available, sets policies, and then lets it go. Everything else is automated. The software determines on what tier each piece of data is stored and enables access as necessary.

“Storage is at the core of what we do at VMware, and people have disparate types of array systems,” Herrod said. “What we’re doing with this is to allow people to map their storage systems together into logical entities – they might be iSCSi, NAS or SAN arrays, or whatever they have. We allow you to place the data into pools. It could be Tier 1, 2 or 3 sets of pools. We’re now able to disassociate where you place a virtual machine from the physical type of storage satisfying it, and in turn, matching it up with what type of I/O expectation you have.

“So this helps handle some of the challenges we have around capacity.”

‘Set it and forget it’

Herrod said that VMware vSphere 5 will support virtual machines that are up to four times more powerful than previous versions, with up to 1TB of memory and 32 virtual CPUs. These VMs will be able to process in excess of 1 million I/O operations per second, which will far surpass the requirements of even the most resource-intensive applications, Herrod said.

“vSphere 5 also has three new features: intelligent policy management to support a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to managing data centre resources, including server deployment and storage management,” Herrod said. “With this, customers now can define policies and establish the operating parameters, and vSphere 5 does the rest.”

vSphere 5 also features what Herrod called Profile-Driven Storage and Storage DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler), which automates tedious, repetitious but non-trivial storage tasks that take a lot of extra time for storage administrators.

vShield 5 enables the identification of risk exposures resulting from unprotected sensitive data, isolates applications with different levels of trust, and migrates security policies as data and applications move between different virtual systems, Herrod said. This is VMware’s way of keeping the data and its security apparatus in sync at all times.

The key attribute, however, is that vShield 5 now enables IT administrators to apply the same policies they have in their physical infrastructure in public clouds.

Perhaps the most important advancement in storage administration of vSphere 5 is that vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5 introduces new automated replication that allows customers to double the number of protected applications for the same cost, Herrod said.

“Traditionally, you have been required to do array-based storage replication with VMware,” Herrod said. “Now we have brought replication directly into the software and use the network to copy between two sites. This allows the cost of replication to go down for some customers [they won’t have to buy arrays, for example], and will allow you to replicate more of your workloads for a lower cost.”

The much-hyped term “big data” wasn’t uttered at this event, but the word “monster” became a commonly used expression.

‘Monster’ VM Handler

“The engineers have dubbed this a ‘monster’ VM because it can handle so many more processors and 1TB of storage,” Herrod said. “Because so many of these virtual machines are now bigger than the physical machines, this is enabling them to run these large and critical workloads, and accelerate the journey to virtualisation. We’re sort of ‘monstering’ the data centre, so to speak, with vSphere 5.”

Raghu Raghuram, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s virtualisation and cloud platform, told eWEEK in summary that vSphere 5 “sets the stage for customers to be 100 percent virtualised. Also, the game is no longer about virtualisation; it’s about running infrastructure in a new way.

“And what we announced today are a set of products to provide a foundation for that.”

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