Review: VMware vSphere 5.5 adds speed and usability
VMware's latest vSphere with Operations Management bundle has must-have improvements for both large and small shops
- ESXi: The bare-metal, Type 1 hypervisor installed on physical servers.
- vCenter Server: The centralized management server, available in both a Windows version and the Linux-based virtual appliance edition noted above. Note that vCenter is licensed in addition to vSphere with Operations Management but is a required piece. In addition to the Standard edition, vCenter Server comes in a Foundation edition for small or remote offices.
- vSphere Client for Windows: The Windows-based client-side management tool for vSphere. This Windows client is still included but will soon be replaced by the Web-based client.
- Advanced feature-set: Advanced management features that include vSphere vMotion, vSphere Storage vMotion, vSphere HA, and vSphere DRS, depending on the edition of vSphere you purchase.
- vCenter Operations Manager: A "vApp" (containing two virtual appliances) that provides performance monitoring, alerting, and capacity management for the vSphere infrastructure.
Note that the free version of the ESXi hypervisor, called simply "the vSphere Hypervisor" (previously known as "Free ESXi"), has been updated to version 5.5 as well. As the free vSphere hypervisor is the same code as the commercial vSphere hypervisor, it too will benefit from numerous enhancements found in the commercial edition of vSphere 5.5. (Of course, numerous restrictions apply.) No matter which edition of vSphere you purchase, the ESXi hypervisor remains the same with only the advanced feature set varying from edition to edition.
In addition to the Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus editions of vSphere, VMware offers specific kits called Essentials and Essentials Plus, which are designed for the small and midsized business market. To be more specific, vSphere Essentials lacks advanced features, including vSphere vMotion, vSphere Storage vMotion, vSphere HA, and vSphere DRS. The Essentials Plus edition adds vSphere vMotion, vSphere Data Protection, and vSphere HA.
At the high end of the SKUs, the vSphere Enterprise Plus edition provides you with all the advanced vSphere features that you may have heard of, including HA (High Availability), DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler), FT (Fault Tolerance), the Distributed Switch, vSphere Replication, App HA, Hot Add (for memory, CPU, and drives, including SSDs), Host Profiles, vSphere Auto Deploy, SDRS (Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler) with Storage Profiles, and much more. (See VMware's official edition comparison chart for the complete list of vSphere editions and associated features.)
All editions of vSphere include a basic edition of vCenter Operations Manager called Foundation Edition. That edition, however, doesn't contain capacity planning (an essential piece) nor a number of other important features.
Although you can buy the full-fledged vCenter Operations Manager separately, you'll typically save by acquiring it with vSphere in a vSphere with Operations Management edition. Like vSphere itself, vSphere with Operations Management is available in Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus editions.
Thus, as vSphere and vCenter Operations Manager are really two separate (but tightly integrated) packages, let's analyze them one at a time.
What's new in vSphere 5.5
I've mentioned the increased scalability of the vCenter Server Appliance and the improved usability of the vSphere Web Client. Version 5.5 also boosts vSphere scalability by roughly doubling the host configuration maximums. The vSphere hypervisor now supports up to 320 physical CPUs, 4TB maximum memory, and 4,096 virtual CPUs per host.