VMware Unveils New vSphere 4

vSphere Ok so now VMware has officially unveiled their new platform vSphere 4 (aka ESX 4.0) I figured I would give my quick reactions to today’s announcements. First off, to be fair, I’m a rabid VMware fan-boy. Not that I won’t give the other virtualization platforms a fair shake but from a business standpoint VMware is way out in front and with this new release it looks like they’re staying there. Second, will the folks at VMware PLEASE invest in someone to make a better presentation? You have enough capital, make it happen.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the features that we’ll have available in this new version:
I’m sure I’m missing some but these are just the quick major points to run through. Kudos to VMware for acknowledging the movement of virtualizing databases and addressing that specific issue. With this release it looks like they really focused on optimizing an environment for database servers to thrive in. Today’s demo showed a virtualized Oracle instance hammering the server (CPU) on a physical box. In the new virtualized environment the server’s resources were much better and they were actually able to move 2 SQL Server instances on to the same box and performance still didn’t degrade by much. Now granted this demo was for Intel’s new Xeon 5500 processors and it depends on the type of database as well as 3,000 other "what-ifs" but at least it showed where VMware’s head is at. Brent Ozar recent did a webcast on performance monitoring your SQL instances and warned that once virtualized its much tougher to get true metrics from your instances so be wary with rosy numbers.
The next exciting feature I saw was thin provisioning of storage for VM’s. The way this works is that if you create a VM that you specify as 20 GB the system doesn’t really take 20 GB away from your storage, it only takes what is ACTUALLY being used. This is key since you actually start over-allocating storage to your machines which can be a blessing or a huge curse. What was really awesome is the fact that you can thin provision on-the-fly while performing a storage vMotion which I thought was really slick.
VMware’s flavor of clustering is finally coming to us in the form of VMware Fault Tolerance. I, for one, have been waiting for this with baited breath since often it is often a cumbersome and annoying process to setup a Microsoft cluster. Fault Tolerance technology allows you to run two instances of the same VM on separate hosts. If one goes down the other picks up the work seamlessly. The folks at VMware demo’ed this by bringing up a Blackberry emulator that had emails continuously streaming to it. The presenter pulled out the blade that held one of the VMs and the emails never stopped flowing. They also did a similar demo at VMworld with a streaming movie. Very exciting stuff!
The last big one I’ll go over is their new move towards policy-based management with Host Profiles. Anyone who has setup multiple ESX hosts in their environment can attest to the pains of discovering 1 or more of your servers had one little setting that was different from the rest in a cluster or environment which caused all sorts of headaches. Now with Host Profiles you create a standardized policy of what settings should be set in your host servers. Now when you deploy your ESX servers you simply apply this policy to your servers and you can see which servers are in compliance and which are not. The policy system also lets you see on the fly if someone makes a change and causes your server to fall out of compliance. Lots of really exciting possibilities with this especially in fast-growing shops.
Overall I was very impressed with the new offering although the recent naming changes for marketing’s sake I could do without. One thing that hopefully they’ll show on their website in the coming days is the improvement for monitoring in VCenter. When virtualizing your infrastructure metrics are gold and currently I feel the Virtual Center’s monitoring is OK but can definitely use improvement.  I’ve been pining for waiting this new release ever since the first announcement was made at VMworld so I’m very anxious to get a copy of this in our environment and start putting the new features to use and putting the virtualized databases through their paces. VMware states that vSphere 4 will be available "this quarter".

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