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First look: VMware vSphere 6 keeps its edge

Paul Venezia | March 13, 2015
In the not so distant past, VMware held a long and commanding lead in the server virtualization space, offering core features that were simply unmatched by the competition. In the past few years, however, competition in virtualization has been fierce, the competitors have drawn near, and VMware has been left with fewer ways to distinguish itself.

The ESXi 6.0 hypervisor in vSphere 6 can handle up to 64 physical hosts per cluster, up from 32 hosts, and each instance can now support up to 480 CPUs, 12TB of RAM, and 1,000 VMs. Each VM can now be run with up to 128 vCPUs and 4TB of RAM, with vNUMA hot-add memory capabilities.

VMware vCenter Server improvements

On the management side, the vCenter Server Appliance is now feature-complete, on par with its Windows counterpart. Previously, you could run the Linux-based vCenter Server Appliance and manage ESXi hosts, but some of the more advanced features (notably Update Manager) of the Windows-based vCenter Server were not available. As of vSphere 6, the appliance can handle all the tasks that a Windows installation can. This is significant news to those who prefer to not manage a Windows server to run vCenter.

Those who run vCenter Server on Windows will notice that the installation procedure is simplified, though it takes quite a while to complete. All of the moving parts that make up vCenter Server are installed in a single installer action now, including the new Platform Services Controller, which handles SSO, licensing, and certificate management. vCenter Server can be deployed with all components on a single system, or it can be split across multiple systems with the Platform Services Controller and vCenter Server installed separately.

Both vCenter Server for Windows and the vCenter Server Appliance now use a local PostgreSQL database by default, though external Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases are also supported on Windows and Oracle databases on the appliance. The switch to PostgreSQL will be important to those running with local databases on earlier versions of vSphere due to the fact that the limitations of the previous Microsoft database are no longer present; thus, local databases can now support 1,000 hosts and 10,000 VMs.

A better Web UI

The first version of the vSphere Web Client was slow, incomplete, and not nearly as fluid as the Windows client, and many users simply refused to work with it. In vSphere 5.5, we saw improvements to the Web client, but it still wasn't quite to the level of the stand-alone client. In vSphere 6, further usability and speed improvements make the Web client more palatable, as does the addition of support for a broader range of client browsers and operating systems. The client integration tools that allow for important features like VM console access are now available for more platforms, including Mac OS X.

Users of the Web UI will note that it bears a stronger resemblance to the stand-alone client, including the recent tasks pane at the bottom that displays what actions have been taken within the infrastructure. Further, the context menus available via right-click are better laid out, and the overall navigation in the Web client is better than the previous iterations.

 

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