It's important to note that while the Web interface handles the bulk of normal vSphere administrative tasks, there are some notable exceptions. It's missing an Update Manager interface, and it lacks third-party plug-in support. This means that any time Update Manager is used, it must be accessed with the Windows client, and the same holds true for any third-party plug-ins, such as a hardware vendor's server management plug-in.
Also, there's the matter of compatibility. The Web interface is officially supported on Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox on Windows, as well as on Chrome and Firefox on Linux. It will run on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari on the Mac, but key elements -- such as VM consoles -- will not be available. While the effort of providing a cross-platform client is definitely something to be lauded, the lack of Mac support for consoles is very unfortunate.
Under the hood, we find more fairly significant changes, highlighted by feature additions to distributed switching, including load balancers and firewalls with extensive capabilities. VXLAN, the hypervisor-driven network layer, is VMware's big push behind concentrating all layers of the data center into a single management framework; while it's not new, much of the administration has been updated to reflect the new virtual networking capabilities.
Some of the new switching capabilities seem simple in relation to their hardware counterparts, such as configuration backup and restore, rollback and recovery, and LACP support. These are elements that are frankly necessary for any viable software-based switching framework, so it's important to see them in place.
Another new function is vMotion support without shared storage. This is a feature that Microsoft's Hyper-V has, and it was important for VMware to provide a similar function. This allows VMs to be migrated between hosts and nonshared storage at the same time. Thus, it's possible for a running VM to be moved from one host's local storage to another host's local storage, or from one data store to another.
On a related note, vSphere 5.1 also includes VM replication, wherein a VM can be replicated from one host to another -- say, from a primary site to a recovery site from within the host itself. This was previously available in VMware's Site Recovery Manager, but is now part of the main vSphere package.
Other additions include support for truly massive VMs with up to 64 vCPUs and 1TB of RAM per VM.
I'll be digging deeper into this new release. The initial impressions are good, but there's a lot of change in vSphere 5.1, and it may be a while before we all come to grips with the new look and feel and features -- and before the many transformations that VMware has set in motion are complete.
This story, "First look: Driving VMware vSphere 5.1," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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