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
With the scalability improvements, vCenter Server Appliance can now support up to 100 hosts and 3,000 virtual machines using the embedded database, and up to 1,000 hosts and 10,000 VMs using an external Oracle database. In the next release, I expect the vCenter Server Appliance to support SQL Server as an external database in addition to Oracle.
There are still some limitations. Linked mode, vCenter Server Heartbeat, Update Manager, and SRM still require a separate Windows installation (but not vCenter Server for Windows), and they aren't compatible with the vSphere Web Client. As these pieces fall into place, I predict that many companies will be making the move from vCenter Server for Windows to vCenter Server Appliance.
Meanwhile the vSphere Client for Windows lives on. However, when you launch the Windows client in version 5.5, a new "warning label" tells you this will be the last release of the vSphere Client for Windows and, in different words, that you should start using the vSphere Web Client immediately. However, while the vSphere Web Client has been vastly improved and is now a pleasure to use, there are other hurdles to dumping the Windows-based vSphere Client outright.
To be compatible with the vSphere Web Client, third parties must rewrite their application-specific plug-ins that currently run in the vSphere Client for Windows. VMware also has some work to do to make all of its add-on applications (such as Site Recovery Manager and Update Manager) completely compatible with the Web client. And finally, there is no way to deploy the vCenter Server Appliance or create your first virtual machine on a brand-new ESXi host in a new vSphere infrastructure today unless you have the vSphere Client for Windows.
What's new in vCenter Operations Manager
While vCenter Server offers basic performance graphing and reporting, it doesn't offer the full functionality needed for managing performance and capacity in large vSphere environments. Ops Manager provides that performance and capacity management through deep knowledge of vCenter and vSphere (see InfoWorld's review of vCenter Operations Manager 5.7).
Announced at VMworld 2013, vCenter Operations Manager 5.8 adds dashboards for monitoring Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange, support for Microsoft Clusters, and new storage analytics with out-of-band management and greater visibility. With this new release, you can even use Ops Manager to keep an eye on the health of Hyper-V and Amazon Web Services, including EC2 and EBS.
VMware continues to make Ops Manager more intelligent, powerful, and useful thanks to improvements like the ones in vCenter Operations Manager 5.8. With improved management support for these "Tier 1" Microsoft apps and Hyper-V, vCenter Operations Manager could become the standard for managing multihypervisor environments (as long as vSphere is used).
Note that these new version 5.8 features are available only in the vCenter Operations Manager Advanced and Enterprise editions. This means that only vSphere Operations Management customers licensed with the Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions will receive these advanced capabilities -- and that the multihypervisor management features of vCenter Ops are not available in the Standard edition that most companies will have.
Nevertheless, vCenter Operations Manager is a tool that all VMware shops should use. Even if all you have is vSphere Essentials Plus and you're currently using the free vCenter Ops Manager Foundation Edition, I recommend upgrading.
No matter which version of vSphere you're currently running, I also recommend upgrading to vSphere 5.5 with Operations Management. All of the new vSphere 5.5 features -- SSO redesign, fast and improved Web Client, more scalable vCenter Server Appliance, flash-based read caching, Application HA, improved backup, VM enhancements, and so on -- should have you looking at upgrading sooner rather than later. And for any IT manager looking for a rock-solid hypervisor and capacity management, vSphere with Operations Management remains at the top of the list.
This article, "Review: VMware vSphere 5.5 adds speed and usability," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization, data center, and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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