What is new in VMware vSphere 5.1

Today VMware announced vSphere 5.1. This posting will give an overview of the most interesting new features.

vSphere 5.1 will be available September 11 2012!

Some highlights are:

-vRAM has been killed. vSphere is again licensed per CPU just as it was before vSphere 5.0. The licensing whitepaper is here.
For both vSphere 5.0 and vSphere 5.1 the physical processors needs to be licensed. So no vRAM for vSphere 5.0 either! This could mean that customers have spare vSphere 5.0 licenses now!

-an additional edition named ‘standard Edition with Operations Manager’
enhanced vMotion. Enhanced vMotion allows you to combine a vMotion and Storage vMotion into a single operation. Effectivly enabling a “shared nothing” vMotion. Use cases can be found in large datacenters and SMB markets; Cross host and datastore vMotion allows VM migration between clusters in a large datacenters, which may not have a common set of datastores between them.
vSphere Replication is  decoupled from Site Recovery Manager and released  as an available feature of every vSphere license from Essentials Plus through Enterprise Plus.

VMware also changed the features in the vSphere editions. The features below all are available now in Standard Edition as well.
Also VMware Site Recovery Manager can be used for vSphere Essentials Plus and higher.

Fault Tolerance is now available in the Standard Edition (used to be in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions only)
Storage vMotion is now available in the Standard Edition (used to be in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions only)
vShield Zones is now available in the Standard Edition (used to be in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions only)
Hot Add is now available in the Standard Edition (used to be in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions only)
vShield Endpoint is included in all editions. Used to be a solution which needed to be purchased extra.
-a new backup solutionnamed vSphere Data Protection replacing VDR.
-Single Sign On for various software components in the new vCloud Suite
-distributed switches health check
-Distributed Switch Rollback and Host networking rollback


vSphere Essentials costs $495 and is licensed to run across three physical hosts with a maximum of two processors each.
Essentials Plus adds in the vSphere Storage Appliance, a virtual SAN that runs on servers, and costs $4,495 across those three machines.
Standard Edition costs $995 per socket
Standard Edition Plus vCenter Operations Manager  $1,995 per socket.
The Enterprise Edition costs $2,875 per socket
Enterprise Plus costs $3,495 per socket

VMware introduced a new suite of software named vCloud Suite. vSphere Enterprise Plus customers will be able to upgrade for free  to vCloud Suite standard edition

Others can get a 35% discount. More information on the vCloud Suite here.

Pricing for the vCloud Suite (per CPU):
vCloud Suite Standard  $5000,-
Advanced $ 7,500,-
Enterprise $ 11,500,-

An overview of vSphere 5.1 features can be seen at the VMware website.

info by other bloggers on vSphere 5.1
vSphere 5.1 launch – Link Collection
Bas Raayman
Roy Mikes

Mike Laverick has a nice overview of vCenter Server enhancements

Jason Nash blogs about the distributed switch enhancements

vSphere 5.1 – New Features and Enhancements in Networking

Virtual machines enhancements

Each vSphere edition introduces new specifications of the virtual machine hardware. The level of virtual hardware was previous  known as Virtual Machine Hardware. With the introduction of vSphere 5.1 this has been renamed to Virtual Machine Compatibility. The reason for this name change is that many customers felt the need to upgrade the VMs to the latest virtual machine hardware. When many VMs are used this is a time consuming task with downtime for each VM. VMware decided to change the name to reduce the pressure of upgrading to the latest virtual machine hardware.
Note that the new Compatibility Level nomenclature only applies to the new Web based client.  The vSphere client will continue to show Virtual Hardware.

New in vSphere 5.1 is support for Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 guests.

vSphere 5.1 will have Virtual Machine Compatibility version 9. It will support up to 64 virtual CPUs but this is only supported by 64-bit Windows 2003/2008 Datacenter Edition, and some Linux distributions

Eliminating guest reboots for common VM configurations when upgrading VMware Tools in Windows Vista and later Windows based guest OS’s. When upgrading from VMware Tools 5.0 (or earlier) to VMware Tools 5.1 you will still need to reboot

Other new features for virtual machines:

  • Run high performance 3D graphics apps in VMs / VDI.
  • Support For nVidia GPU’s and heavier 3D Workloads (CAD)
  • Nested Hypervisor support which allows to run Hyper-V and ESXi as guests on ESXi. Running  nested ESXi and Hyper-V was already possible in vSphere 5 but it did not allow to run 64-bits guest inside the nested hypervisor. With vSphere 5.1 it is possible to install ESXi on bare metal, run 2 ESXi 5.x servers as guests and run for example Windows Server 2012 as guests inside the guest. Nice for demo and study!

Improvements to vSphere Web Client
vSphere Web Client was first introduced at the release of vSphere 5. It allows administrators to manage the vSphere infrastructure from any workplace having a modern browser without having to install the full Windows client. In 5.1 the Web Client has been improved. This new client increases the number of managed objects you can work with as well as the number of concurrent active sessions without sacrificing speed.
A video demoing the Web Client 5.1 version here.

Single Sign On
VMware has a lot of different software solutions available. An administrator needed to authenticate on each of these solutions seperately. So using vCenter Server needed authentication, vCloud Director needed authentication etc. While these solutions could use a single authentication services like Microsoft Active Directory, LDAP or NIS these were not aware someone was already authenticated to another VMware solution.
This changes in vSphere 5.1. Single Sign On (SSO) is now possible for all components of the VMware vCloud Infrastructure Suite. SSO is supported when using the vSphere Web Client or the  API. Single Sign On is required for Inventory Service, vCenter Server and Web Client Inventory Service

Two installation methods
VMware vSphere 5.1 will have two installation methods:

  • vSphere Simple Install. Allows to install vCenter Server in a single installation run. It will install Single Sign on, Inventory Service and vCenter Server
  • vSphere Custom install allows to customize the vCenter Server installation. Single Sign on and Inventory Service can be installed on different servers to improve scalability.

A new function named Inventory Object Tagging allows the vSphere administrator to tag objects in vCenter Server. Objects can be searched by using tag names in the search query. This makes it easier to organize objects besides using folders which has been available for a while.

Storage enhancements
VMware increased the support for in guest clustering. In previous versions the support was limited to maximum 2 nodes running as a VM. Now support for up to 5 node Microsoft cluster using the Node Majority Model.

vSphere 5,1  now supports a Storage vMotion up to 4 parallel disk migrations per operation.

Support for 16 Gbps Fiber Channel has been added.
Support for boot from Software Fiber Channel over Ethernet ( FCoE )

Storage DRS
vSphere 5.1 enables more granular latency measurement for I/O load balancing called “VMobservedLatency”. This is achieved
by measuring the I/O request-response time between a VM and the datastore. In vSphere 5.0, latency was measured as the
I/O request-response time between the host and the datastore.

Storage I/O Control (SIOC)
vSphere 5.1 improves SIOC functionality by automatically computing the best latency threshold for a datastore in lieu of using
a default or user selected value. This latency threshold is determined by modeling, when 90% of the throughput value is

Advanced I/O Device Management
vSphere 5.1 introduces new commands for troubleshooting I/O adapters and storage fabrics. This enables diagnosis and
querying of FC, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adapters, providing statistical information that allows the administrator
to identify issues along the entire storage chain from the HBA to the ESXi, fabric and storage port.

Efficient storage
vSphere 5.1 introduces Flexible Space Efficiency (Flex-SE), a disk format to achieve the right balance of space efficiency
and I/O throughput. This balance can be managed throughout the life cycle of a VM, from storage allocation (controlling the
allocation block size) to how the blocks are managed after they are allocated (deleted blocks can be reclaimed). This feature
enables the user to determine the right level of storage efficiency for a deployment. For example, you can use Flex-SE to
optimize storage efficiency for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

This feature will reclaim deleted storage in thin provisioned disk. Before vSphere 5.1 it was not possible to use the storage capacity freed when files are deleted inside the guest operating system. See this posting for more info. Some tricks needed to be done to reclaim space. One solution was to perform a storage migration. This is not needed anymore when the Flex-SE disk format is selected.

Network enhancements
vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) Health Check
In most cases when virtual machines are part of a VLAN, the VLAN needs to be configured at both the VMware virtual switch and the physical switch to which the host is connected. Also issues in misconfiguration of MTU and teaming between the virtual networking and physical networking can cause issues.
vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) Health Check tries to detect and resolve the isssue. It makes the life of the vSphere admins and network admins easier.

The distributed switch will sent a signal (Level 2 Echo Protocol with an Ethernet broadcast Frame (type 0x2289) ) to the physical switch every minute. If a configuration issue is detected this in displayed in the vSphere client.

This feature of vSphere 5.1 ensures proper physical and virtual operation by monitoring the health of physical network
configurations including VLAN, MTU or Teaming, by identifying and troubleshooting configuration errors. An example of this feature is the following:
– Ensuring the MTU Jumbo Frame setting per VLAN on a physical switch matches the vDS MTU setting.

Export/Import/Restore Distributed Port Group Settings
This feature, available only with the vSphere Web Client 5.1, enables the creation of backups for network settings
(configurations) at the Distributed Port Group level and making them available for subsequent deployments. This feature was requested by customers to allow a master virtual switch configuration. If for some reason the configuration of a vDS was lost, it was difficult to restore the configuration. Restore is now very easy.

vSphere Network Rollback
vSphere 5.1 allows rollback and recovery from network configuration errors utilizing previous configuration versions. Rollback
mitigates the loss of connectivity to a host. There are two types of rollback capabilities:

  • Host Networking Rollback—Any network change that disconnects a host triggers a rollback. Examples of configuration changes to the host networking configuration that might trigger a rollback include:
    – Changes to the speed or duplex of a physical NIC.
    – Removal of a physical NIC that contains the management VMkernel network adapter.
  • Distributed Switch Rollback—Incorrect updates made to distributed switches, distributed port groups, or distributed ports trigger a switch rollback. Examples include:
    – Changing the Maximum Transmit Unit (MTU).
    – Blocking all ports in the distributed port group containing the management VMkernel network adapter.

MAC Addresses
Prior to vSphere 5.1 MAC addresses used by the virtual machines are provisioned by vCenter Server. However the maximum number of MAC-addresses in the pool was limited to 64,000 addresses. This sounds a lot but for large organizations like service providers this was not enough. The MAC-address allocation range was coupled to the vCenter Server ID.
In vCenter Server 5.1 this has changed. MAC prefix and range can be set by the vSphere administrator.

Link Aggregation Control Protocol Support
Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) is a standards-based method to control the bundling of several
physical network links together to form a logical channel for increased bandwidth and redundancy purposes.
LACP enables a network device to negotiate an automatic bundling of links by sending LACP packets to the
peer. As part of the vSphere 5.1 release, VMware now supports this standards-based link aggregation protocol.
This dynamic protocol provides the following advantages over the static link aggregation method supported by
previous versions of vSphere:
1) Plug and Play – Automatically configures and negotiates between host and access layer physical switch
2) Dynamic – Detects link failures and cabling mistakes and automatically reconfigures the links

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