VMware Upgrades vSphere, VSAN To Prep For Improved Multi-cloud Operations

VMware has unveiled updates to its vSphere, VSAN, vRealize Automation and vCloud Air solutions that are aimed at making it easier for businesses to work across a variety of physical and cloud-based networks.

The announcements, made Tuesday at the VMworld Barcelona conference, follows last week's agreement to let VMware software-defined data center infrastructures work natively on Amazon Web Services clouds.

Several similarly cloud-focused announcements were made at last month's VMworld conference in Las Vegas, said Mark Chuang, senior director of products for VMware's software-defined data center division.

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Cross-cloud architectures have a number of components that are required to make them work as promised, including compute, storage, and networking, Chuang told CRN.

"In Las Vegas, we laid out the umbrella architecture," he said. "Now we're following up with the meaty components on the compute, storage, and cloud management side."

With vSphere 6.5, VMware made three significant changes to the cloud management solution, Chuang said.

The first was a major update to the vCenter Virtualization Appliance, a virtualized appliance that offers unified patching of the operating system, application and databases, along with native high-availability features, he said. A simple one-step migration feature gives users of the older virtual appliances double the scalability and triple the performance, with up to 2,000 hosts and 25,000 virtual machines per vCenter appliance possible, he said.

The upgraded vCenter Virtualization Appliance also offers REST APIs to give IT administrators and developers improved control and automation capabilities, he said.

The second major enhancement was virtual machine-level encryption which protects virtual machines at rest and while moving via vMotion, Chuang said.

The third update is the introduction of vSphere Integrated Containers which allow developers to develop workloads using the Docker containers they are already used to using, with those workloads moving to vSphere Integrated Container in production to give IT the ability to control security, Chuang said.

These are some very significant upgrades, said Jamie Shepard, senior vice president for healthcare and strategy at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and long-time VMware channel partner.

Many of the vSphere 6.5 upgrades are all about TrustPoint, a new VMware endpoint security solution for migrating workloads developed in conjunction with Tanium, Shepard told CRN.

"When big enterprise customers do upgrades, they will now have a path to heightened security and endpoint security," he said. "Just as important, virtual machines are now encrypted in the cloud. So VMware can extend TrustPoint into the cloud. Now customers won't care where workloads are running, because they are secured everywhere."

For instance, Shepard said, an iPad user connected to a virtual machine no longer needs to worry about the security. "This is no longer an issue of transferring the security risk to Amazon," he said. "Before, this kept a lot of workloads off AWS. Now those workloads are secured."

On the storage side, VMware unveiled version 6.5 of Virtual SAN, or VSAN, which Chuang said is a major element in VMware's converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure strategy.

VSAN 6.5 now allows VSAN clusters to be presented as an iSCSI target for the first time, Chuang said. "For example, Microsoft SQL Server could use it as a fail-over cluster," he said. "VSAN 6.5 supports up to 128 iSCSI targets per VSAN cluster."

Also new is the introduction of direct cabling between two physical servers running VSAN without the need of a networking switch, a change which represents a big cost saving for remote and branch office users, Chuang said.

VSAN 6.5 also supports both VMware Integrated Containers and VMware Photon Linux containers, the REST API, and the VMware PowerCLI (command line interface), he said.

VMware has also introduced a new VMware Ready for VSAN certification which provides joint certification of solutions with the company's technology partners. The VMware Ready for VSAN certification is already offered with EMC, NetApp, and Nexenta solutions, with more to follow, he said.

Shepard said the timing of the VSAN 6.5 introduction couldn't be better.

VMware's VSAN competes with Nutanix, which is also sold by VMware's parent company, Dell EMC, Shepard said. Nutanix has recently unveiled its new NAS capabilities and other unique features that helps it compete better with VSAN.

The enhanced Nutanix solution has become a selling point among Dell channel account managers who are actually selling the solution competitively against VSAN, Shepard said. "Nutanix could disrupt VMware's VSAN sales," he said.

On the cloud management side, VMware introduced vRealize Automation 7.2, the newest version of its vRealize Automation cloud automation suite. vRealize Automation allows customers and partners to design application blueprints with pre-defined policies and infrastructure that can be put in a services catalog, Chuang said.

vRealize Automation 7.2 now adds support for Microsoft Azure as an endpoint. Previous support included Amazon Web Services and vCloud Air, he said.

Also new is Admiral, a container management portal that lets developers and application management teams to speed-up deployments using either Docker containers or vSphere Integrated Containers, he said.

Also new at VMworld Barcelona is the beta release of a new vCloud Air disaster recovery solution that provides enterprises with the security and isolation of a dedicated cloud environment directly integrated into vSphere with software-defined WAN technologies.