What's key in VMware's new vSphere, vCenter, and vCloud

VMware's huge slate of new features fills in blanks, makes it more competitive -- but sometimes at the cost of its partners

Today, EMC VMware has detailed a raft of new enhancements to its line of data center virtualization and cloud products at its annual VMworld conference in San Francisco: vSphere, vCenter, the vSphere Storage Appliance, and vCloud Director are all being revved to version 5.1. VMware is also introducing vSphere Data Protection Appliance. There are many more new capabilities than you would expect from a 0.1 version upgrade, although this isn't vSphere 6.0 by any stretch.

Although VMware's focus is on public and private cloud construction through its vCloud Director suite, it has not forgotten the core of its product stack: the vSphere hypervisor. With Microsoft's virtualization-focused Windows Server 2012 hitting the market in just a few days, VMware is about to have much stiffer, low-cost competition on its hands. Introducing features like the ability to vMotion a virtual machine from one host's local storage to another without any downtime are obvious reactions to Hyper-V's ability to do the same.

[ VMware ends the dreaded "vTax" on vSphere. | Also on InfoWorld: Read Oliver Rist's review of Microsoft's Windows Server 2012. | Sign up for InfoWorld's Data Explosion newsletter for news and updates on how to deal with growing volumes of data in the enterprise. ]

However, it's not just about competing with Microsoft; many of the new features are aimed at retaining VMware's long-held feature lead (and justifying its higher price) over the competition.

But to add new features, VMware can't seem to help but duplicate features that well-known and well-liked partners have already developed and sell to VMware customers. Whether it's moving Site Recovery Manager's host-based replication into the vSphere product, implementing a new backup appliance based on parent EMC's Avamar tech, or teaching the vSphere Distributed Switch to do new tricks, VMware's 5.1 offerings could displace offerings from many close VMware partners. That's not a new trend, but it does seem to be accelerating.

vSphere Replication

One of the more interesting features in vSphere 5.1 is that it now can migrate the host-based VM replication, a feature introduced in the separate Site Recovery Manager 5.0 but now part of vSphere. Because it will work across the bulk of the vSphere product line (from Essentials Plus up), this replication capability should be attractive to smaller businesses that can't afford expensive array-based replication. It is also likely to be useful to larger enterprises as a remote-office disaster-recovery mechanism.

Including the migration technology into the core vSphere should increase the number of organizations that use it -- but those same businesses typically already use third-party products such as Quest Vizioncore and Veeam to accomplish those goals. Will they jettison those vendors as a result?

vSphere Data Protection

A new addition in vSphere 5.1 is vSphere Data Protection (VDP), an appliance-based, deduplicating backup package integrated into VMware's vCenter management framework. VDP completely replaces the previous (and frankly, not very good) vSphere Disaster Recovery appliance with deduplication tech borrowed from EMC's Avamar backup line. Like many third-party backup suites, VDP uses vSphere APIs for Data Protection (VADP) to affect fast, efficient backups. It supports both full image-based restores and file-level restores for Windows and Linux VMs.

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