Benefit from using the VMware Compatibility Guide

VMware's Compatibility Guide is a useful resource when admins are planning all aspects of servers, storage, and virtual machines. Here's what you'll find in the guide.

If you think a compatibility guide for virtualization would be rather basic, you should check out the VMware Compatibility Guide. I think it's one of the most important virtualization resources available.

VMware's resource is often mistakenly referred to as an HCL, but it is more than just a hardware compatibility list; the VMware Compatibility Guide provides a central resource for these categories of a vSphere installation (I refer to vSphere 4 but other versions such as VMware Infrastructure 3 are included in the guide):

  • Systems: This is a collection of compatible host server systems. A number of factors, primarily processor chipset, go into putting devices in the compatibility guides.
  • Storage/SAN: This is a collection of supported storage systems, disk arrays, or NAS devices for vSphere virtualization. This is one of the most important areas of the guide, as there is a complicated mix of drivers written by VMware and the storage devices to enable features such as vMotion and VMFS.
  • IO Devices: This section identifies devices that are supported for vSphere, including fibre channel host bus adapters (HBAs), iSCSI initiators, and Infiniband controllers.
  • Guest/Host OS: This area outlines the ever-growing mix of operating systems that are supported for VMware virtualization. This is where we'll see products other than vSphere document the operating system support, such as VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, and VMware Server.
  • VMware View: This section lists the thin clients (by feature and version) that support the VMware View display protocol natively.

You should use this resource to help you design your production environment. While it's true that something that isn't on the compatibility guides might work, you would only want to use it for a lab or test system not a production environment.

The VMware Compatibility Guides change, especially as new versions of vSphere are released, so be sure to download the PDF version of each category of the VMware Compatibility Guide. The link to Download Full Systems Compatibility Guide is on the right side of the web page, or you can download whatever title is relevant for each section.