vSphere 5 storage enhancements

Doyle on a Riemann Sphere by fdecomite (cc) (from Flickr)
Doyle on a Riemann Sphere by fdecomite (cc) (from Flickr)

Twitter was all abuzz yesterday about the recent VMware vSphere 5 announcement. Although there were quite a few changes that came out, the ones of most interest to me were all in the data storage arena:

  • DAS storage appliance – VMware vSphere 5 now has a virtual machine that can take server DAS and offer a shared storage service to other VMs.  The storage appliance is only available for the Essentials+ and below licensing options and is restricted to a three physical ESX server environment.
  • Host based replication service – vSphere 5 now offers a software only replication option to support disaster recovery.  The host-based replication service is not considered high-bandwidth and will not compete with storage or other hardware replication products but can be used to support heterogeneous storage replication.
  • Storage DRS – For vSphere 5 Enterprise edition and above once storage pools have been defined, Storage DRS can migrate VMs to other storage within a pool to automatically load balance IO activity.
  • Storage performance guarantees – For Enterprise edition and above vSphere 5 can provide a QOS capability for IO activity allowing designated, high priority VMs to gain preferential access to IO queues and such so that they perform better in a noisy, mixed environment.
  • IO performance improvements – VMware claims a 4X improvement in storage throughput with vSphere 5.
  • Linked clones – VMware now offers a storage option that can chain two read-writeable copies of a VMDK together and only store the changes needed for the second copy enabling quicker and more efficient storage provisioning for similar VMs.

DAS appliances have been around for awhile now but have never been really popular. However for smaller shops, this might be just the thing to help them start down the virtualization path.  Similarly the VMware host- based data replication is a low-end capability that might help these customers virtualize, although this may be a bit more sophisticated than most SMB data centers need.

Storage performance guarantees, DRS, and automatic provisioning seem to be targeted at the higher end shops with vast storage farms to manage.  Such shops would like to automate (as much as possible) some of the performance management, provisioning and service management that they currently need to do manually to ease VMware’s storage admins workloads.

Linked clones and IO performance improvements will benefit all shops. However, IO improvements should enable bigger more mission critical applications to be virtualized.  On the other hand, linked clones will help all customers quickly and more efficiently deploy lot’s of similar VMs.


The big complaint on Twitter yesterday was on VMware’s licensing change. Apparently vSphere is licensed on a vRAM basis (the amount of virtual memory assigned to all VMs in a shop).  How this will impact customer costs is subject to debate but each vSphere processor license gets a certain amount of vRAM available to it (from 24GB to 48GB of vRAM per slot, depending on license level).

There’s been lot’s of talk about VASA and VAAI capabilities that are being rolled out by storage vendors but that will need to wait until another post.


VMworld 2010 review

The start of VMWorld2010's 1st keynote session
The start of VMWorld2010's 1st keynote session

Got back from VMworld last week and had a great time. Met a number of new and old friends and talked a lot about the new VMware technology coming online. Some highlights from the keynote sessions I attended,

vCloud Director

Previously known as Redwood, VMware is rolling out their support for cloud services and tieing it into their data center services. vCloud Director supports the definition of Virtual Data Centers with varying SLA characteristics. It is expected that virtual data centers would each support different service levels, something like “Gold”, “Silver” and “Bronze”. Virtual data centers now represent a class of VM service and aggregates all VMware data center resources together into massive resource pools which can now better managed and allocated to VMs that need them.

For example, by using vCLoud Director, one only needs to select which Virtual Data Center to specify the SLAs for a VM. New VMs will be allocated to the virtual data center that provides the requested service. This takes DRS, HA and FT to a whole new level.

Even more, it now allows vCloud Data Center Service partners to enter into the picture and provide a virtual data center class of service to the customer. In this way, a customer’s onsite data center could supply Gold and Silver virtual data center services while Bronze services could be provided at a service partner.


With all the advent of VM cloud capabilites coming online the need for VM security is becoming much more pressing. To address these concerns, VMware rolled out their vShield services which come in two levels today vShield Endpoint and vShield Edge.

  • Endpoint – offloads anti-virus scans from running in the VM and interfaces with standard anti-virus vendors to run the scan at the higher (ESX) levels.
  • Edge – provides for VPN and firewalls surrounding the virtual data center and interfaces with Cisco, Intel-McAffee, Symantec, and RSA to insure tight integration with these data center security providers.

The combination of vShield and vCloud Director allows approved vCloud Data Center Service providers to supply end-to-end data center security surrounding VMs and virtual data centers. Their are currently 5 approved vShield/vCloud Data Center Services partners today and they are Terramark, Verizon, Singtel, Colt, and Bluelock with more coming online shortly. Using vShield services, VMs could have secured access to onsite data center services even though they were executing offsite in the cloud.

VMware View

A new version of VMware’s VDI interface was released which now includes offline mode for those users that occasionally reside outside normal network access and need to use a standalone desktop environment. With the latest VMware View offline mode, one would checkout (download) a desktop virtual machine to your laptop and then be able to run all your desktop applications without network access.


vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI)

VAAI supports advanced storage capabilities such as cloning, snapshot and thin provisioning and improves the efficiency of VM I/O. These changes should make thin provisioning much more efficient to use and should enable VMware to take advantage of storage hardware services such as snapshots and clones to offload VMware software services.

vSphere Essentials

Essentials is an SMB targeted VMware solution license-able for ~$18 per VM in an 8-core server, lowering the entry costs for VMware to very reasonable levels. The SMB data center’s number one problem is the lack of resources and this should enable more SMB shops to adopt VMware services at an entry level and grow up with VMware solutions in their environment.


VMforce allows applications developed under Springsource, the enterprise java application development framework of the future, to run on the cloud via Salesforce.com cloud infrastructire. VMware is also working with Google and other cloud computing providers to provide similar services on their cloud infrastructure.

Other News

In addition to these feature/functionality announcements, VMware discussed their two most recent acquisitions of Integrien and TriCipher.

  • Integrien – is a both a visualization and resource analytics application. This will let administrators see at a glance how their VMware environment is operating with a dashboard and then allows one to drill down to see what is wrong with any items indicated by red or yellow lights. Integrien integrates with vCenter and other services to provide the analytics needed to determine resource status and details needed to understand how to resolve any flagged situation.
  • TriCipher – is a security service that will ultimately provide a single sign-on/login for all VMware services. As discussed above security is becoming ever more important in VMware environments and separate sign-ons to all VMware services would be cumbersome at best. However, with TriCipher, one only need sign-on once and then have access to any and all VMware services in a securely authenticated fashion.

VMWorld Lowlights

Most of these are nits and not worth dwelling on but the exhibitors and other non-high level sponsors/exhibitors all seemed to complain about the lack of conference rooms and were not allowed in the press&analyst rooms. Finding seating to talk to these vendors was difficult at best around the conference sessions, on the exhibit floor, or in the restuarants/cafe’s surrounding Moscone Conference Center. Although once you got offsite facilities were much more accommodating.

I would have to say another lowlight were all the late night parties that occurred – not that I didn’t partake in my fair share of partying. There were rumors of one incident where a conference goer was running around a hotel hall with only undergarments on blowing kisses to any female within sight. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to leave home.

The only other real negative in a pretty flawless show was the lines of people waiting to get into the technical sessions. They were pretty orderly but I have not seen anything like this amount of interest before in technical presentations. Perhaps, I have just been going to the wrong conferences. In any event, I suspect VMworld will need to change venues soon as their technical sessions seem to be outgrowing their session rooms although the exhibit floor could have used a few more exhibitors. Too bad, I loved San Francisco and Moscone Center was so easy to get to…


But all in all a great conference, learned lot’s of new stuff, talked with many old friends, and met many new ones. I look forward to next year.

Anything I missed?