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VMware vSphere 6 Update 1 brings technical improvements for ESXi, VSAN

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The new I/O filtering framework was announced quite a while ago because third-party vendors needed to start developing offerings to use this new feature. The official name is vSphere APIs for I/O Filtering (VAIO).

It allows VMware's partners to connect into the I/O stack for virtual machines and filter or manipulate the data stream. At the time of this publishing, there are no available products that support VAIO, but we will likely see them in the next few months.

VSphere 6 Update 1 also means upgrades to VSAN, which is now version 6.1. It's not a separate update; if you upgrade your ESXi hosts with vSphere 6 Update 1, then VSAN is also updated. Several new features have been added, such as a management pack for vRealize Operations, and a feature to deploy a two-node cluster -- which is interesting for remote and branch office deployments. In Figure 1, you see a report from the health check plugin for vSphere Web Client that shows the status of all components in your VSAN deployment.

Health check plugin Figure 1: Health check plugin

 

One of the biggest new features for VSAN 6.1 is the ability to build a stretched cluster. This feature allows you to place VSAN nodes on two different sites. In a normal VSAN deployment, a VM's files are stored on two different servers within your cluster, but with a stretched cluster the servers are in two different physical locations, enabling your VMs to continue running if one site goes down.

To set up a stretched cluster you not only need servers in two sites, but also a server in a third location that will contain VMware's VSAN witness appliance. This appliance communicates with other servers in the cluster to detect a failure and coordinates how the remaining site will respond. The maximum round-trip latency for the two data sites is five milliseconds, and for the connection from both sites to the witness site must have a round-trip latency of 200 milliseconds or less.

VMware vSphere Replication

Another feature that has been affected by Update 1 is vSphere Replication. This new version (6.1) has a strong association with VSAN, allowing for an improved recovery point objective when used in combination with VSAN data stores.

Normal replication time is still 15 minutes. However, you can run a VSAN cluster on multiple sites, even stretched, and then replicate the VM's data via the network. However, there will be a minimal amount of data lost. Ideally, there would be no data lost but in order for that to happen, there is a price. VSphere Replication is free for all vSphere customers and therefore there is a small window for data to be lost.

As you can see, vSphere 6 Update 1 is a huge package with technical improvements and many new features. You could even argue that VMware could have named it vSphere 6.1, like they have done for VSAN and vSphere Replication.

 

Administrators were eager to start deploying vSphere 6 when VMware released it, but the anticipation for the first update is still high. VMware released the vSphere 6 Update 1 in September 2015 and a large number of components and products were updated. In this article we describe the new features and how you can start using them in your environment.

 

Before we get started please check if you have the most up-to-date version installed. If you inherit an environment from another administrator or if other administrators might have updated software, then it's necessary to be able to verify this -- and that has not always been simple. Even after the vSphere 6 Update 1 installation, your server will still be version 6.0. VMware has simplified this by releasing a knowledge base article with the version and build numbers for their products.

Another very important document for administrators is the one that explains in which order VMware products should be updated. VMware suggests you start with the Single Sign-On server -- now called Platform Services Controller (PSC) -- and then follow its list to update the other components and products.

VMware vCenter and Update Manager

One of the welcome new features for administrators in vSphere 6 Update 1 for the appliance version is the Web-based interface that you can use to manage the appliance. The virtual appliance management interface was available in previous releases but was dropped with the initial release of vSphere 6. It's now back and can be accessed on port 5480 where it used to be. The interface is completely new and offers a few interesting features, including the ability to manage the networking configuration of the appliance as seen in Figure 1.

Networking configurationFigure 1: Networking configuration

 
 

Another important feature that has been made available is the section that allows you to easily update the appliance in the future. There are a lot of steps involved in updating the appliance. Now that the new Web-based interface has been made available you will be able to update the appliance more easily in the future, for when Update 2 is released for example.

The PSC now has its own Web-based management user interface. This interface allows you to manage identity stores, users and groups for single sign-on (SSO) and password policies. Admins can also manage certificates for your environment inside the PSC Web-based management user interface. Not only can you manage the Certificate Authority and replace certificates, but you can also manage individual certificates for your vCenter servers, as shown in Figure 2.

Platform Services Controller interfaceFigure 2: Platform Services Controller interface

 


With the vCenter Update 1, VMware has also provided a tool to separate an embedded vCenter and PSC. This is interesting for customers that are upgrading from vSphere 5.1 or vSphere 5.5 and already using an embedded SSO server in their environment. When upgrading to vSphere 6 the only possible path is to upgrade to an embedded vCenter server with PSC.

But if you wanted to move to another setup with a separate vCenter server and PSC, then there was no other option other than to install new servers and recreate your inventory. That changes in the new PSC architecture.

As soon as you want to connect multiple vCenter servers to a PSC, it needs to be external and can no longer be embedded in your vCenter server. It also needs to be external if you want to create a redundant setup for your PSC.

With the new update, if you have installed an embedded PSC or have migrated from an earlier version with an embedded configuration, you can move to an external PSC. To do this, first install a new PSC with either a Windows Server or a Linux vCenter appliance with just a PSC, not vCenter. Next, point your existing vCenter deployment to the new PSC using the command cmsso-util. Figure 3 shows the options of this command inside the vCenter appliance.

VCenter appliance cmsso-util commandFigure 3: vCenter appliance cmsso-util command

 



Besides technical enhancements in Update Manager, a great improvement is that it now has full support for managing the product from the vSphere Web Client. As you can see in Figure 4, you can now manage baselines and the rest of the Update Manager configuration from this client and you no longer have to use the vSphere Web Client for this.

 

VSphere Update Manager

 
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Article details
Article ID: 64
Category: Virtualization
Date added: 2016-02-25 17:28:43
Views: 885
Rating (Votes): Article rated 3.2/5.0 (9)

 
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