VMware unleashes vSphere 5 and souped-up cloud suite

Packed with features to boost performance and ease management, the latest version of vSphere further turns up the heat on VMware's rivals

VMware came out with barrels blazing today, unveiling version 5 of its vSphere virtualization platform, an upgraded suite of cloud infrastructure apps, and a virtual appliance tailored for small-to-midsize businesses.

The added polish to vSphere -- which promises superior app performance through "monster" VMs (virtual machines), boasts more intelligent management tools, and includes a more cloud-friendly licensing scheme -- could well extend VMware's lead over virtualization rivals Citrix, Microsoft, and Red Hat.

Meanwhile, with its cloud infrastructure suite honed to address security, disaster preparedness, and provisioning, VMware clearly has its sights set on being the go-to vendor for emerging cloud offerings.

Also part of today's announcement: The VMware vSphere Storage Appliance, which provides advanced vSphere features to servers without requiring a back-end SAN or NAS.

vSphere 5 is alive!
The new release of vSphere is capable of supporting VMs that are up to four times more powerful than those of previous versions, according to VMware. These new VMs can support as much as 1TB of memory and 32 virtual CPUs, and they can process in excess of 1 million I/Os per second. The result: better performance and scalability for virtualized applications.

On the administration side, VMware said that vSphere 5 now delivers intelligent policy management, enabling an automated "set it and forget it" approach to managing data center resources. That means, for example, that an admin could define policies and operating parameters for server deployment or storage management, then let vSphere take it from there.

VMware introduced additional features aimed at easing storage-management pains. Profile-Driven Storage lets admins provision storage at a scale, eliminating the need to provision VMs on a case-by-case basis. Meanwhile, the new SDRS (Storage Distributed Resource Schedule) enables admins to combine storage resources from several volumes into a single pool, called datastore clusters. Once workloads are assigned to a cluster, vSphere 5 is capable of intelligently load-balancing traffic based on predefined policies in order to reduce bottlenecks.

VMware also revealed a new approach to licensing based on consumption and value instead of physical components and capacity. VMware vSphere 5 will continue to be licensed per CPU, but VMware is eliminating the current physical entitlements of CPU cores and physical RAM per server and is replacing them with a single, virtualization-based entitlement of pooled virtual memory, or vRAM.

Luxury cloud suite
Alongside vSphere 5, VMware updated its suite of companion offerings intended to improve automation, self-service, and security capabilities in cloud offerings. The suite comprises the newly revved VMware vShield 5,VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5, and VMware vCloud Director 1.5, along with vCenter Operations, which was released in March.

VMware vShield 5 includes a new data security capabilities to help admins pinpoint unprotected sensitive data in the potentially porous cloud environment, isolate apps with different levels of trusts, and migrate security policies with data and applications as they move among different virtual systems as well as in public clouds.

Enhancements to vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5 include built-in vSphere replication capabilities, enabling users to double the number of protected applications for the same cost while supporting heterogeneous storage configurations in the primary and backup sites. The application also boasts new automated failback and planned migration capabilities, aimed at helping customers orchestrate migrations for disaster avoidance, planned maintenance, or consolidation efforts.

Finally, VMware vCloud Director 1.5 is designed to enable IT to provision infrastructure services and manage resources from a single pane of glass. vCloud Director 1.5 includes a new Linked Clone feature that lets admins create clones of base vApps, dubbed children vApps. The system only stores changes made by the children while reading all other data from the base, resulting in faster performance and reduced storage costs.

Box o' vSphere
VMware's new vSphere Storage Appliance is designed as an alternative to shared storage, bringing some of vSphere's virtualization features, including high availability, vMotion, and Distributed Resource Scheduler, to the small and medium-sized market. The appliance runs as a virtual appliance on VMware vSphere, pooling internal storage across servers to create a virtual pool of protected shared storage without the need for external storage hardware. On the management side, the appliance offers "set and forget" automation features found in vSphere.

VMware vSphere 5 together with the updated cloud infrastructure suite and VMware vSphere Storage Appliance are expected to be available in Q3 of this year.

This story, "VMware unleashes vSphere 5 and souped-up cloud suite," 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.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.