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VMware vSphere, the leading virtualization platform in the market, has come to version 6.0, which was released in February 2015.
In this article we will provide an overview of the main innovations with some considerations based on use experience and an analysis of the set of problems that can arise with un upgrade from previous versions

UPDATE: vSphere 6.0 U1 here's the news


The new numbers

Improvements are naturally of computational nature, as we expect in every upgrade to a new version. New number indicate that a single instance of VMware vCenter can host as much as 1.000 ESXi hosts, 15.000 registered VMs and 10.000 simultaneously powered on VMs. Each host can support up to 1024 VMs, can handle up to 480 CPU (from which 4096 vCPU can be exploited) and 6TB of RAM, which can get up to 12TB with certified hardware. Host clusters’ numbers are akin to that increase: it is possible to have 64 hosts and 8.000 VMs per cluster.

Like every release of vSphere, this one introduces an higher virtual hardware level with version 11, which allows each VM to handle up to 128 vCPU and 4TB of memory.

Architectural modifications

In the first releases of vSphere, the application layer (Management, Operations, etc) was tied with the services dedicated to security and authentication. VMware vSphere 6.0 bring a clear separation of these roles with two new components:

  • the vCenter Management Server, which consolidates the Inventory Service and Web Client services (and the traditional management modules);
  • the Platform Services Controller (PSC) that consolidates the Single Sign-On (SSO), Certificate Authority (VMCA) and Licensing services, dedicated to the security of the infrastructure.

The PSC is so important that it determines the functioning of the whole infrastructure according to the implementation choices made during the vCenter installation (Windows version and Appliance version). Two PSC implementations are proposed, and the choice is not reversible:

  • vCenter Server with integrated Platform Services Controller (Embedded).
  • vCenter Server with external Platform Services Controller (External). In the latter case, first the PSC installation must be performed, then the vCenter Server installation on another machine follows, connecting it then to the PSC. It is possible to connect more vCenter Server instances to the very same PSC.

img01 vsphereSelezione della modalità di implementazione del PSC

The following requests deals with the implementation under an SSO (Single Sign-On) domain. SSO version 6.0 inherits the multi-master functionality introduced with version 5.5. This mechanism permits the automatic replication among different SSO sites and eliminates the necessity of a database for the management of the information. The multi-master architecture is an information memorization model on its own, therefore an external database would be too much.

There are two options to distribute SSO 6.0:

  • A new SSO domain in the same vCenter Server machine is created.
  • A link with an existing SSO domain is made (that domain exists on another machine with a PSC installation)

Connecting to an already present SSO domain means to abilitate the new Enhanced Linked Mode functionality, an improvement of the previous Lined Mode. This technology allows to automatically replicate the data of the infrastructure, intended as roles, permissions, licenses, policies, etc, to all the vCenter Server connected and to login to a single instance, with the advantage of managing the inventory of all the instances.

In the previous vSphere versions the presence of a Windows vCenter Server was necessary because an SSO multi site solution in Linked Mode had to be implemented. With vSphere 6.0, the new PSC and the SSO mechanism have the same functionalities on both vCenter Windows and Appliance. Moreover, the difference Windows and Linux PSC can operate between them.


New features

vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA)

VCSA is one of the most renewed elements in this 6.0 release. Its scalability is now tied with vCenter Server for Windows, finally allowing to choose this distribution with regards of large installations: it is now possible to manage up to 1.000 ESXi hosts and 10.000 VMs. Those number are reachable thanks to the PostgreSQL integrated database as well as the external Oracle database. It is worth to mention that vCenter Server installed on Windows with the integrated PostgreSQL database supports just up to 20 hosts and 200 Vms, resulting way inferior to the Appliance under this aspect.

The installation method has changed too, according to the various possible modalities of implementing PSC and SSO that have already been described. The installer is provided as ISO image to mount as CD/DVD inside a Windows VM, which is by the way just a placeholder. The file that execute the installer (vcsa-setup.html) is found in the initial path of the ISO image; to continue with the installation it is necessary the Client Integration Plugin.

The setup requires the acceptance of the licensing conditions, the connection parameters of the ESXi host that will host the Appliance and the main parameters of the last. Then, a choice between implementation modalities of PSC and SSO has to be made. 

img02 vsphereSchermata iniziale del setup di vCenter Server Appliance

The setup requires the acceptance of the licensing conditions, the connection parameters of the ESXi host that will host the Appliance and the main parameters of the last. Then, a choice between implementation modalities of PSC and SSO has to be made.

vSphere Web Client

With regards to the previous versions, vSphere Web Client has been made 13 times quicker. The number is indicated by Vmware in its promotional documents, but it can be confirmed by anybody who has already utilized the new interface. The navigation of the various section has been improved thanks to a new menu with a foreground aperture (Home symbol on the right of the writing “vSphere Web Client”). The new menu still leaves the Navigator at sight (that is, the primary menu with the items Hosts & Clusters, VM and Templates, Storage and Networking). The Task Bar is positioned in the lower part of the screen, so the visualization is similar to the one of the classic vSphere Client, and it is now possible to customize the user interface with drag and drop in the main areas.

img03 vsphereSchermata iniziale di vSphere Web Client con il nuovo menu in vista

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