When I wrote recently that this year's VMworld event was important, I held back some of the details. I have some access to information about the future of VMware products, as do many in the vExpert program. But, of course I wanted to hold on until the public forum of events brought everything to light.
Now that the event is over, I've had a chance to let it all sink in (it takes a while) and here are my key takeaways from VMworld. Let's break them down this way:
#1 NetworkingI personally think this is the most fundamentally different change coming our way. The VMware software defined data center includes networking at the core of the next generation infrastructure. One of the key solutions to achieve this is NSX. NSX is technology from the recent Nicira acquisition. NSX is a network virtualization engine that lives on the hypervisor, and effectively virtualizes the entire network-not just interfaces, as we've seen with virtual switches.
The material difference here is that security profiles are created and applied to VMs and the virtual infrastructure. It's not a repurposing of the physical network to the virtual infrastructure like the standard vSwitch effectively is. Get ready for some long talks with your network team, but the permissions model will allow NSX virtualization to be handed over to them to administer if you'd wish. The good news is that one of the best communicators in the IT community, Scott Lowe, is working on this segment in VMware. I recommend following him on Twitter and on his blog if you are not already. Note that NSX was announced, but isn't generally available.
The next major category is storage, and VMware is pushing the VMware Virtual SAN. This one feels a bit less of a tumultuous change for me as I've worked with virtual storage appliances (VSAs) quite a bit. All storage systems are really software-driven I/O controllers. It is quite refreshing to have a feature-rich shared storage solution that works with existing storage.
VMware Virtual SAN can leverage direct attached storage as a clustered datastore to run VMs. If you think this sounds familiar, here's why. The vSphere Storage Appliance is a previous product that functions more like a traditional VSA. The Virtual SAN that was much hyped at VMworld is very feature rich, including SSD caching, more resiliency, and better integration with vCenter. It likely overcomes some of the limitations from the vSphere Storage Appliance. This product is currently in Beta.
#3 vSphere 5.5
Over the years, we have seen the releases go something like this: 3, 3.5,4,4.1,5,5.1, and now 5.5 has been announced. We didn't have a 3.1, nor did we have a 4.5. vSphere 5 has the distinction of having now three releases within its major cycle. It's interesting to note that vSphere 5.5 also has a new name, "vSphere 5.5 Platform". You can read the "What's New for vSphere 5.5" (I'm still getting used to the new name; we'll see) online now, however it is not yet available. There was some confusion about availability at the event, but I'm sure it will make an appearance soon.There are a lot of new things in vSphere 5.5, but I'm mostly tickled to finally see VMDK support geometry greater than 2 TB. That's awesome!
#4 vCloud Automation Center
The vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) is a new way of aggregating everything. Literally everything. Not just vSphere, but other components of a modern data center. Now the hard part here is that this is pretty clearly going to be the direction for rapid delivery of the VMware software-defined data center. During VMworld it was announced that the functionality currently available in vCloud Director will end up here and directly in vSphere, so this means that vCAC is the direction going forward.
#5 We still need to change our applications
This really isn't anything new, but we are at a point now where we can do incredible things in our data center. With all these advances, why are we still burdened by applications that simply don't behave well? We can offer great deployment, availability, and performance, so I think the infrastructure team can now push back a little harder on application teams to finally get everything virtual. I think we are close, but we just need to communicate to the application owners why some applications work better than others for ensuring availability, migration, storage consumption, performance and more.
Training may be in order
I'd offer one last piece of advice for what all of this means today. Between NSX, vCAC and the VMware Virtual SAN, we are in a new era of VMware virtualization. I'd go so far to say that through vSphere 4.1, one could quite easily "self-teach" how to deploy, install, and run a virtualized infrastructure. These new technologies don't have the same level of ease of adoption, and I'd recommend training investments to implement things correctly. Learning how to troubleshoot these additional layers of automation, orchestration, and abstraction is the first step, and formal training may be a good place to start.VMworld was a lot more than this; but I think this sums it up well. What was VMworld to you? Share your comments below.
Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.