VMware Pumps Up Virtual Machine Performance In vSphere 5

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Recognizing that some customers have stalled along the road to adopting virtualization, VMware is coming around with some seriously powerful jumper cables.

With Tuesday's unveiling of vSphere 5, VMware's first major update to the cloud operating system it launched in April 2009, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is boosting, by a factor of four, the performance and scalability of virtual machines. VMware is also touting new features that automate IT processes, speed execution and pave the way to its long-held vision for the self service data center.

On average, VMware's customer base was 40 percent virtualized at the end of 2010. When vSphere 5 arrives sometime in the third quarter, VMware expects to remove all remaining technology barriers to virtualization and get customers more comfortable with running mission critical applications in the virtual environment.

"We are very confident that with vSphere 5 there is absolutely nothing out there that runs on x86 that cannot be virtualized in a VMware virtual machine with appropriate performance," said Bogomil Balkansky, vice president of product marketing at VMware, in an interview.

vSphere 5's virtual machines come with 32 virtual CPUs, compared to 8 virtual CPUs in vSphere 4. vSphere 5's virtual machines can also hold one terabyte of virtual RAM, compared to 256 gigabytes for those of their predecessor. These virtual machines exceed Microsoft's maximum configuration for running Exchange, according to Balkansky.

VMware has improved networking and storage throughput so that vSphere 5 virtual machines can more quickly execute the round trip from the application above to the hardware below. vSphere 5 virtual machines can now handle an application with a transaction rate of 2 billion transactions a day, Balkansky said. "We want to give confidence to customers that are running very large implementations of SQL, Oracle and SAP," he said.

Is this overkill? Perhaps, but some of VMware's larger customers are ready to tap into the additional power of vSphere 5, Balkansky said. "We don’t anticipate a lot of people creating virtual machines of this size, but we do have larger customers that are pushing the boundaries of where the virtual machine is today and want to have larger virtual machines," he said.

Eric Kaplan, vice president of engineering at Ahead, a Chicago-based solution provider, says he's got plenty of customers that will have no problem taking advantage of the additional performance.

"We've seen several large adopters of vSphere begin to rub up against the limits in vSphere 4. With expanded virtual CPU and memory support vSphere 5 will open the floodgates to having massive databases, Exchange instances and large application servers run in a virtualized environment," said Kaplan.

VMware is also touting several new automation features in vSphere 5 that power what it calls Intelligent Policy Management. This allows customers to set policies for the different workloads they need to run -- accounting for things like storage, performance, security, backup, and disaster recovery -- and have the underlying infrastructure provision all necessary services and manage the SLA on an ongoing basis.

"The challenge we have set in front of ourselves is to build enough intelligence in our cloud infrastructure stack to be able to automatically meet the service level requirements without human intervention," said Balkansky.

NEXT: Where vSphere 5 Automation Comes Into Play

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