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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 success of the Web client is crucial to VMware. The company has been warning about the impending demise of the stand-alone client for several releases and currently stresses that using the stand-alone client will limit the functionality of vSphere to vSphere 5.0 levels. Features and enhancements from vSphere 5.5 onward are simply not available in the Windows client.

VMware Virtual Volumes

VMware introduces a new storage integration concept with vSphere 6 called Virtual Volumes. This is essentially tighter integration with SAN and NAS devices to manage storage operations at the virtual disk level. Virtual Volumes are designed to eliminate the need to carve out large numbers of LUNs or volumes for virtualization hosts and to offload storage-related operations to compatible arrays, with granularity at the virtual disk level.

This integration includes vSphere Storage Policy Based Management, which uses VMware's storage API to communicate with storage arrays and connects the administration of VMs and storage through to the vSphere UI. Thus, policies can be created and applied to VMs through vCenter while related functions are performed natively by the arrays.

VMware now includes vSphere Data Protection with vSphere Essentials Plus and higher editions of vSphere 6. This is a VM backup and recovery tool that was previously known as vSphere Data Protection Advanced, a separate option. This tool can be used to provide application-aware VM backup and restoration, including support for Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange down to the mailbox level, and other popular databases and applications.

Up from vSphere 5.5

With vSphere 6, VMware offers a collection of welcome features that are now bundled in rather than separate products, advances a number of pre-existing features, and streamlines the installation process. The Web client may still cause more than a few grumbles from those who have been using the stand-alone client from the beginning, but it's significantly better than in previous iterations.

The advances in vMotion and other cross-site features are of limited use to shops not running multiple interconnected data centers with sufficient dedicated bandwidth to support those features. But as VMware increases the tolerances to lower bandwidth and higher latency, the viability of introducing such features grows.

There's no mistaking the fact that VMware continues to hold the leadership role in server virtualization, but as the feature sets of the top vendors continue to converge and competing solutions continue to get more robust, we may see more of this feature bundling and simplified licensing in the future. For now, vSphere 6 maintains its place as the cream of the crop.

 

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