New vSphere Ramps Up the Cloud

Arthur Cole

It's no secret that virtualization is the building block for the cloud. So it should be no surprise that VMware's latest vSphere, 4.1, leans heavily toward leveraging enterprises' virtual infrastructure for cloud-based applications and services.

To do that, the platform incorporates a number of key elements needed to ensure a smooth transition from the data center to the cloud. Chief among these is scalability -- the new version doubles the size of resources available in a single pool and triples the number of virtual machines to 10,000, that can be managed under vCenter Server. The new vCenter, by the way, is now outfitted with a healthy dose of EMC's former Ionix management stack, including the Application Stack Manager, the Server Configuration Manager and the Application Discovery Manager, all aimed at reducing the complexity of managing data environments across physical, virtual and cloud architectures.

The new vSphere is not only bigger, it's faster too. The company claims a 25 percent boost in application performance thanks to new memory compression technology. And an enhanced virtual migration tool is said to produce a fivefold increase in transfer speed even while it allows each server to handle eight concurrent migrations at once.

The package also gives your SAN a break. Through a new set of vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), ESX servers can offload much of the storage processing directly to the array. This includes block-level write operations, virtual machine cloning and workload migrations. There's also a means to reduce SCSI reservation bottlenecks that jam up I/O performance.

Initial reaction to the platform have been mostly positive, although Tech Target did find a few analysts who noted a lack of reporting and monitoring tools needed to handle a universe of 10,000 VMs. An upgraded capacity-planning module might also be necessary, considering the licensing costs that could come into play with that kind of scalability.

As the one who spearheaded the server virtualization market over the past decade, VMware always ran the danger of failing to keep up with rapidly changing technology, much the way Detroit continued to churn out gas-guzzling automobiles well into the 1980s, largely because that's what it what it knew best. vSphere 4.1 at least serves as evidence that VMware is not afraid to step out of the pure virtualization box if that is what the market is demanding.

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