When it comes to the world of virtualization, VMware is generally the first company that comes to mind. VMware vSphere has been the premiere enterprise virtualization product on the market now for over a decade. However, it has certainly evolved from the early days of the first vMotions.

Recently, VMware released its next flagship virtualization hypervisor platform – vSphere 7. VMware vSphere 7 represents the latest and greatest offering from VMware that builds on very familiar technologies along with completely redesigning the underpinning of the hypervisor itself to natively support containers and container orchestration. Let’s take a look at VMware vSphere 7 new features to take a closer look at what’s new in this release.

vSphere 7 Provides Full Kubernetes Integration

VMware vSphere 7 represents the largest step forward for the hypervisor in many years. It has been completely redesigned from the ground up with containerized workloads in mind. VMware gave a glimpse into the next generation of VMware vSphere by way of Project Pacific that was showcased at VMworld 2019.

Project Pacific demonstrated VMware had completely redesigned vSphere in a way where it was fully integrated with Kubernetes. The Project Pacific functionality that was demonstrated at VMworld 2019 is functionality that VMware has baked into VMware vSphere 7.

There are some very powerful takeaways and realizations that are made with the melding of both vSphere and Kubernetes together in vSphere 7. VMware has not just “added” Kubernetes to vSphere. Interacting with vSphere can be performed using interaction with the Kubernetes APIs.

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This is an extremely powerful capability that will lead to developers being able to interact with vSphere in a way that is familiar, and also allows IT operations the tools and capabilities needed for automation. This allows multiple operational benefits.

VMware vSphere 7

VMware vSphere 7 will provide the tools needed for both developers and IT operations (image courtesy of VMware)

VMware vSphere 7 is an integral part of VMware Tanzu that includes VMware Cloud Foundation 4. VMware Tanzu is the overall suite of products that allows automating, running, and unifying multi-cloud operations.

Diving deeper into VMware vSphere 7, it includes three major areas of new functionality, enhancements, and capabilities that are provided when compared to previous vSphere releases. These include:

  • New lifecycle management
  • New security features
  • Application acceleration features

Let’s take a look at each of these new areas and see how they have been implemented in VMware vSphere 7.

vSphere 7 Includes New Lifecycle Management

It appears that with VMware vSphere 7, the vSphere Update Manager (VUM) is going to be deprecated and is making way for a new tool that will be used to manage vSphere lifecycle operations. This new tool is called the vSphere Lifecycle Manager (VLCM).

vSphere 7 VLCM provides simplified lifecycle management

vSphere 7 VLCM provides simplified lifecycle management

VMware has completely redesigned and rethought the tools to take care of lifecycle management across the landscape of vSphere. The new VLCM tool applies DevOps methodologies to vSphere lifecycle management. VLCM uses the following methodologies:

  • The concept of desired state when managing lifecycles in vSphere
  • Automation using JSON and REST based endpoints
  • Proactive recommendations as part of the vSphere Lifecycle Manager

With the new VLCM utility, when thinking about desired state, it allows setting a desired end result of how you want your vSphere hosts to look, then VLCM applies that profile to the ESXi hosts. For instance, if you have a host profile that you want to replicate onto additional ESXi hosts, you can effectively do that with VLCM.

VLCM not only manages the software for the hypervisor, it also will have the ability to manage the firmware updates for your platform. This will provide a tremendous advantage operationally for managing hardware updates such as in the case of firmware for storage that may be backing vSAN.

VLCM also comes into play with vCenter Server as well, helping to manage the lifecycle of your vCenter Server. This includes managing updates, upgrades, and other operations.

VMware does a great job of providing the automation tools needed to effectively automate your vSphere environment. This includes JSON and REST-based endpoints. By exposing the API endpoints for interaction, IT admins can automate many of the operations that streamline everyday processes.

In addition to the other benefits to the new lifecycle capabilities managed by VLCM, it also allows for proactive recommendations that can provide visibility to potential issues in your environment.

vSphere 7 New Security Features

VMware has focused a lot of attention on security with vSphere 7. VMware refers to the new security features in vSphere 7 as “intrinsic security”. VMware vSphere 7 introduces what is called a trusted computing base. You can now set up attestation based on a set of secure hosts.

Your computing environments may span many different physical and logical locations. This may well include on-premises and cloud environments. Remote vSphere environments may not have the physical security desired as is the case in certain edge environments.

Using the trusted computing base, the secure ESXi hosts can be used to validate the integrity of remote vSphere environments. This will help to make sure your hosts have not been tampered with or compromised.

New Application Acceleration Enhancements

There are many new applications of technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that businesses are now making full use of. With vSphere 7, VMware has incorporated Bitfusion right into the hypervisor. Bitfusion, which was acquired by VMware, allows taking advantage of GPU virtualization technology for AI/ML use cases.

In addition, VMware has introduced improvements with vSphere 7 to both vMotion technology as well as enhancements to DRS.

  • vMotion enhancements allow for much more efficient transfers of “monster” VMs
  • DRS improvements are more focused on VM performance and health. The new DRS checks run every 1 minute as opposed to every 5 minutes with previous releases

VMware vCenter Server 7

The centralized management component of VMware vSphere for enterprise features is vCenter Server. VMware vCenter Server 7 provides many great new features that will help to simplify management and operations. These include the following:

  • vCenter Server Profiles – The new vCenter Server Profiles functionality will allow you to export settings from one vCenter Server and import those into another vCenter server. This is accomplished using new REST APIs to easily accomplish this. Also, the import of settings to a new vCenter Server does not require a reboot
  • vCenter Server Upgrade Planner – As part of the vSphere Lifecycle Manager for vCenter Server, there is a new feature called the vCenter Server Upgrade Planner. This allows proactively gaining insights into any potential problems with upgrades, updates, patches, and other operations to allow a much smoother lifecycle experience with vCenter Server
  • Multi-homed NICs – A new feature that will provide interesting capabilities with network configuration is the new multi-homed NICs feature. This will allow having multiple management interfaces for vCenter to satisfy various network configuration/segmentation needs
  • Check-in and Check-out VM templates functionality – With the check-in and check-out functionality with VM templates, IT admins will have a more “Git-hub” like approach to managing their VM templates. Changes will be versioned and will allow much easier control and management of templates in the content library

VMware vSAN 7

With the new vSphere 7 release, comes the release of VMware vSAN 7. VMware vSAN 7 will be the premiere software-defined storage solution on the market. VMware vSAN 7 touts many great new features. Let’s take a look at three of those new features a bit closer.

  • Simplified management
  • Native file services and Cloud Native Storage
  • Enhanced two-node and stretched cluster features

Simplified vSAN 7 Management

There are many great new features of vSAN 7. One of those new features continues the discussion regarding the new vSphere Lifecycle Management (VLCM) tool. With VLCM in vSAN 7, simplified management of your software-defined storage solution powered by vSAN is made even easier.

VLCM in vSAN 7 allows taking care of the entire lifecycle management of both the vSAN software itself as well as managing and maintaining the firmware of the hardware as well. With VLCM in regards to vSAN, firmware for storage controllers and other supporting hardware can be controlled and managed with the new vSAN VLCM features.

Native File Services and Cloud Native Storage

One of the great new features with vSAN 7 is the native file services offered with the solution. With vSAN 7, you can expose NFS 3 or NFS 4.1 file shares as a vSAN cluster service. You get all the benefits of vSAN for your file services and easy present these for business-critical services. Building on top of the native file storage, vSAN cloud-native storage allows containers to deploy and use file-level persistent storage.

Enhanced Two-Node and Stretched Cluster Features

One of the popular options with VMware vSAN is the two-node and stretched cluster options. With VMware vSAN 7, there have been many enhancements made to vSAN two-node and stretched cluster options. This includes more intelligent recovery operations when there is a failure, improved resilience, and better capacity management.

Wrapping Up

VMware vSphere 7 is going to be a revolutionary release for VMware and the enterprise datacenter. VMware has been front and center throughout the past several years in the “age of virtualization”. With VMware vSphere 7, they are redesigning vSphere 7 to take on the new container movement with Kubernetes.

Using Kubernetes vSphere will be the conduit for developers creating applications as well as the tool that IT operations can use effectively to interact with vSphere using DevOps methodologies. The new vCenter Server 7 and vSAN 7 will be great steps forward in both managing vSphere 7 as well as running modern applications on top of software-defined storage.

VMware vSphere 7 should be generally available in May 2020. A note that VMware has made regarding vSphere 7 is that it will only be delivered by means of VMware Cloud Foundation 4 when first released.

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