VMware vSphere 5 aims to virtualise small business

VMware's latest version of its vSphere virtualisation platform boosts the power of virtual machines, adds further security features and introduces a virtual storage appliance for small business
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

VMware hopes its vSphere 5 virtualisation suite will encourage small businesses to use its hypervisor by quadrupling the power available to virtual machines and eliminating the need for a dedicated SAN.

vSphere 5, detailed by VMware on Tuesday, is the fifth major release of the company's core virtualisation product. With it, VMware hopes to virtualise more demanding workloads, such as business intelligence applications like SAP and SAS, and to head into smaller businesses.

"The cost of infrastructure, at the end of the day, is not the cost of the hardware and software, it is the cost of operating it," VMware's chief executive, Paul Maritz, said.

VMware has updated its licensing model for vSphere 5, abandoning the per-core fee in favour of one based on the total amount of virtual RAM available to virtual machines (VMs) and the number of physical processors.

ESXi 5.0, VMware's hypervisor, has received a major upgrade, enabling vSphere 5 to support VMs with up to 32 virtual cores instead of vSphere 4's eight. Each VM can support up to a terabyte of RAM, up from 256GB, and has a maximum of a million input/output operations per second (IOPS), up from 300,000. Networking between VMs has been tweaked as well to allow inter-VM speeds to reach 36Gbps, up from 30Gbps previously.

The cost of infrastructure, at the end of the day, is not the cost of the hardware and software, it is the cost of operating it.
– Paul Maritz, VMware

At the moment, 50 percent of VMware's customers' virtualised server workloads are based on VMware's hypervisor, Maritz said. With the new high-powered "monster" VM, said Maritz, the company wants to get the other half.

"The value [in the high-powered VM] is that it removes a technical hurdle for some business critical applications, specifically databases," Stuart Miniman, a principle research contributor for analyst firm Wikibon, told ZDNet UK. "If [VMware's] goal is 100-percent virtualisation, this removes a barrier for some apps that before just couldn't fit on a VM."

But "even with the technical hurdle removed, there are operational and organisational constraints that will need to be addressed", he said.

Virtual SAN

For small businesses, the company has created the VMware vSphere Storage Appliance, which uses on-server hard and solid-state disks to create a virtual pool of storage from which vSphere 5 can draw.

"[Previously] you had your ESX hosts connect to a SAN or NAS-based storage system... but in an SMB marketplace that can be cost prohibitive," Dave Wright, vice president of technology for VMware in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday. "In order to address the lower end of the market we take the physical disks that sit on the servers and create a virtual SAN."

vSphere 4 was released in 2009. According to VMware, over a million hours of engineering time went into the technology of vSphere 5. Pricing was not clear at the time of writing. VMware expects vSphere 5 to be available by the end of the third quarter of 2011.

Alongside the release of vSphere 5, VMware will update its security, recovery, management and automation applications.

VMware vShield 5 allows data to be kept in mutually isolated zones for the purpose of compliance. The company has also integrated technology from EMC's security subsidiary, RSA. This will allow tiered security policies where VMs are assigned a security rating and are only sent to hosts that comply with the required security features.

Wright said this is to tackle the job of ensuring hosts have security sufficient for the virtualised application. "The way to think about it is everything you generate is barcoded," he said. The "barcode" defines where the VM can move.

VMware vCentre Site Recovery Manager 5 has gained automated failback, which means that if a datacentre fails, load can be automatically replicated to a second datacentre and migrated back to the primary one when it comes back online.

The orchestration package, VMware vCloud Director 1.5, is faster at provisioning virtual machines from templates, the company said.

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