VMware vSphere 4 Raises the Virtualization Bar

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2009-06-07 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

REVIEW: VMware vSphere 4--the renamed and upgraded VMware Infrastructure--will allow IT departments to place application workloads on the most cost-effective compute resource. With its new vNetwork Distributed Switch and support for third-party, integrated network switches, vSphere 4 removes barriers that made it difficult to implement and manage virtual machine infrastructure on a large scale. Advances made in this version of VMware's infrastructure platform also include new linked management consoles, host profiles that ease ESX Server creation and maintenance operations, and enhanced virtual machine performance monitors.

VMware has changed the name of its flagship VMware Infrastructure to VMware vSphere 4, and in the process has added new switching and management features that raise the bar for x86 data center virtualization technology.

The VMware marketing team has been working overtime to promote vSphere 4 as the first cloud operating system. IT managers can safely set aside this breathless chatter and focus on the fact that vSphere will allow IT departments to place application workloads on the most cost-effective compute resource.

vSphere 4 puts VMware well ahead of the virtualization pack. Click here for images. 

With its new vNetwork Distributed Switch and support for third-party, integrated network switches-including the forthcoming Cisco Nexus 1000v-vSphere 4 removes barriers that made it difficult to implement and manage virtual machine infrastructure on a large scale.

The advances made in this version of VMware's infrastructure platform also include new linked management consoles, host profiles that ease ESX Server creation and maintenance operations, and enhanced virtual machine performance monitors. These new capabilities place vSphere 4 well ahead of Microsoft's Hyper-V platform and open-source projects based on the Xen hypervisor, and earn the new VMware platform an eWEEK Labs Analyst's Choice award.

Eyes and Ears of the Platform

The eyes and ears of vSphere 4 is the significantly updated VirtualCenter, now called vCenter Server 4.0. vCenter Server still runs on a Windows-based system, which can be either a physical or virtual machine. Large installations will need to also provide access to either a Microsoft SQL Server system or an Oracle database system to store and organize server data.

vCenter Server provides a very handy search-based navigation function that enabled me during tests to quickly find virtual machines, physical hosts and other inventory objects based on a wide variety of criteria. For example, I was able to find physical hosts using more than 10 different characteristics, including power state and virtual machine properties. This is a good tool for quickly locating unused virtual machines and, for IT managers in large networks, is in itself a compelling reason to consider vSphere 4.

In addition to making it significantly easier to monitor and manage virtual machines, vSphere 4-with the vNetwork Distributed Switch-has taken a big step forward in easing the management burden of virtual networks.

Until now, a standard virtual network switch was created and managed on each ESX Server system. Using the vNetwork Distributed Switch, I was able to create virtual switches that spanned multiple ESX hosts.

For large VMware installations, it is hard to overstate the importance of this advance. The time savings in avoiding per-ESX switch configuration changes alone will likely be significant.

vSphere 4 also allows the integration of third-party distributed switches.

The Cisco Nexus 1000v, which is at the end of its beta cycle, is the first announced switch in this category. If the Nexus 1000v fulfills its promise, it will usher a significant talent pool of Cisco-trained network engineers into the world of server virtualization. This would likely relieve system engineers who have been doing double duty with virtual machine and virtual network tasks, while adding some much-needed network architecture experts to the data center virtualization mix.

IT managers can access multiple vCenter Servers from the vSphere Client interface. During tests, this allowed me to see and manage virtual machines and network switches on all of my vCenter Servers installed in the lab. I also linked these vCenter Servers together, another new function, which enabled me to share administrative roles.

This is a good example of the management features included in vSphere 4 that should help preserve the cost-savings that have been realized from server consolidation projects.



 
 
 
 
Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at cameron.sturdevant@quinstreet.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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