Best Features of Vsphere 5.5

Written by Mo Elamin. Posted in VMWare

Flash Read Cache

This completely new feature in vSphere 5.5 provides a mechanism for utilizing fast SSD as a Linux host swap cache or to provide improved read speed for a host virtual disk. To make use of this feature, you first have to create a new resource, as shown in the screenshot.

Then you must connect to that resource from each VM needing access. For a Linux guest, this would consist of configuring a swap disk to use part of the read cache. Another option would be to enable caching for a VM.


Application HA

One of the best new features is Application Ha which is a policy-based application monitoring and automatic remediation. Based on vFabric Hyperic, Application HA supports a short list of off-the-shelf applications. If the application restart is unsuccessful, the feature will leverage vSphere HA to restart the VM on the same host after a predetermined amount of time. If that process fails, the VM will be restarted on another host. It can also trigger vcenter alarms and send email notifications. For now vSphere App HA supports the following applications:
  • Microsoft SQL 2005, 2008, 2008R2, 2012
  • Tomcat 6.0, 7.0
  • TC Server Runtime 6.0, 7.0
  • Microsoft IIS 6.0, 7.0, 8.0
  • Apache HTTP Server 1.3, 2.0, 2.2
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Low-latency improvements

VMware has added a number of improvements at both the VM and hypervisor level to help improve overall latency. At the VM level, this consists of a single setting to indicate to vSphere the sensitivity to latency. For high-sensitivity applications, the underlying hypervisor can do things like bypass the CPU scheduling algorithms and dedicate one or more CPU sockets exclusively to a single VM. Additional actions include reserving memory for latency-sensitive VMs and disabling networking features, such as coalescing and LRO vNIC support for predictable network response.

62TB virtual machine disks

With vSphere 5.5, the maximum size for VMDK files increases all the way up to 62TB. ¬†VMDK files will have to be offline in order to be expanded. The new huge VMDK file size will not be supported in the initial release of the VSAN product, however — expect that to come at a later date.

Improved LACP support

LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) allows you to aggregate the bandwidth of multiple physical NICs. Whereas vSphere 5.1 supported only one LACP group per distributed switch, severely limiting your aggregation options, vSphere 5.5 supports up to 64.

Port mirroring Sometimes it becomes necessary to capture the packets going across the network to track down a problem. The latest version of vSphere includes an enhanced version of the open source packet analyzer tcpdump and a number of options for mirroring ports to capture traffic in a variety of places. You can capture packets from virtual NICs, virtual switches, and uplinks at the host level as well.

Traffic filtering

Moving network traffic from host A to host B in a virtual network now resembles what you would expect to see on a physical network with sophisticated switches. The vSphere 5.5 distributed switch now includes the ability to shape and direct Layer 3 network traffic using the Differentiated Services Code Point field in the IP packet header.

vCenter Server improvements

The vSphere Web Client has seen a number of enhancements. Many reflect user feedback, such as the “10 most recent objects” list shown in the screenshot. Other improvements to the user experience include the new drag-and-drop support and the ability to filter search results for large installations. The vCenter Server Appliance, meanwhile, gets a scalability boost. Previous versions supported a limited number of hosts and VMs, but these limits have been increased to 500 hosts and up to 5,000 VMs.

VMware has put a lot of effort into vCenter Single Sign-On simpler to install and easier to scale across multiple vCenter Server instances. This was very much needed, as single sign on process was long hard to get right.

Multiple point-in-time replicas

Previous versions of vSphere Replication kept only the most recent copy of a virtual machine. Version 5.5 can keep up to 24 historical snapshots. You could retain one replica per day for 24 days, or one per hour for 24 hours — however you want to slice it. Recovery always draws on the most recent copy, but from there, you can use the snapshot manager to revert to any other point in time.

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