Wednesday, January 25, 2017

vSphere 6.5, Important items 2 months after Official Release

What you should know now that vSphere 6.5 has been out a couple of months...

UPDATE: It figures, as soon as I click Publish on this article, I found out that Veeam released Update 1 for all their 9.5 products on 1/24/2017 making them all compatible with vSphere 6.5!

Well, vSphere 6.5 has brought hundreds of major and minors updates to the venerable virtualization platform from VMware.   Many of the changes are significant.

Realistically, for the small to medium vSphere organization, many of these changes will go unnoticed or unused.  But, there are goodies that need to be considered by all.

The most significant change has to be the re-energized focus on moving to the VCSA or vCenter Server Appliance.  In vSphere 6.5, this appliance now runs on VMware's own Photon OS, a Linux distro that they own & maintain in-house.  The first major advantage this appliance has over the previous ones is speed.  Having eschewed SUSE Linux provides VMware the opportunity to tune & tweak their Linux to provide the best performance possible for their specific needs.

The VCSA 6.5 gains significant speed advantages over its predecessor as well as the current Windows based vCenter Server 6.5, just because of this change to the underlying appliance OS.

As with the previous appliance in 6.0, VMware has parity with sizing and maximums between the VCSA 6.5 & the Windows vCenter Server 6.5.  A monumental change comes in the fact that the current VCSA 6.5 ONLY supports the embedded PostgreSQL database from VMware.  They no longer support an external Oracle database for vCenter!  

A major focus for VCSA 6.5, following the initial introduction of vSphere 6.0 Update 2M, is the ability to migrate from previous versions of Windows vCenter Server and VCSA to the current version, pulling in the database information from any of those previous platforms.  This current design obviates the need for an external database from previous designs.

This practice of embedding the database is followed up with the brand new inclusion of Update Manager 6.5 as part of the appliance as well.  In other words, the new VCSA 6.5 is a complete solution for vCenter and Update Manager and their databases in a single VM.  That design allows for the other major feature introduced in 6.5 of High Availability for the VCSA (VCHA) without the need to use a host based HA cluster solution.  No more worries about losing your vCenter.  There is a 2nd VCSA copy that is passive and up to date with a 3rd witness VM, all of which are cloned from the original.

The final VCSA 6.5 addition that benefits all organizations, is the ability to backup the appliance from within the appliance, no dependency on 3rd party or VDP backup solutions... more on that in another post.

So what do we need to be wary of before upgrading to the latest and greatest vSphere?

Compatibility of 3rd party products is the most important for many organizations.  Many are using Veeam Backup & Replication, which in its current (1/25/2017) version of 9.5 has not released support for vSphere 6.5 yet.  It is rumored on their site to be forthcoming in an Update 1 release for 9.5.  For many, that's the deal breaker for now, but all your linked or dependent 3rd party apps need to be checked.

Currently, NSX is not supported on vSphere 6.5 either.  If you are currently running a 6.x version of Horizon View, that needs to be updated to at least 7.0.  So make sure you carefully plan your upgrades to all 3rd party products designed to support vSphere 6.5 before you jump to upgrade your base virtualization platform...