Five vSphere 5.0 enhancements you may have missed

VMware's licensing changes have overshadowed the host of new features and enhancements found in vSphere 5.0

If VMware is of any interest to you, you've probably been consumed with the vSphere 5.0 licensing changes, both the ones announced during the product's initial launch and those revealed later, after VMware modified them to be more palatable to upset users who yelled from the top of the virtual mountain.

Marrying the licensing changes with the vSphere 5.0 product announcement was a major marketing faux pas. Not to say that VMware couldn't make licensing changes with the new version, but announcing them at the same time as the new release absolutely took away from the fantastic list of new features and updates. Now that the licensing (debacle) dust has settled, it seems like a good time to revisit the features and enhancements that should have been the focal point of a major new release of VMware vSphere in the first place.

[ Also on Altaro readies Hyper-V backup tool for small businesses. | Read about how VMware listened to its customers and changed vSphere 5.0 licensing, again. | Keep up-to-date on virtualization by signing up for InfoWorld's Virtualization newsletter. ]

VMware's goal for quite some time has been to enable customers to become 100 percent virtualized, and the features found in vSphere 5.0 have taken great strides toward that goal by removing obstacles that keep people from virtualizing mission-critical applications. One such advance is being able to create monster-sized VMs with 32-way processors and up to 1TB of memory. Another new feature grabbing headlines is around Storage DRS, and its coverage is well deserved. However, with this article I thought I would take the opportunity to spotlight five other areas that may have been overlooked. Beyond these, you can always find a detailed list of features on VMware's website.

1. Turn your unused x86 servers with direct attached storage into a vSphere storage node

Along with vSphere 5.0, VMware released a separate storage appliance called the vSphere Storage Appliance, or VSA for short. This VSA appliance is aimed at the small and midsize businesses that may not be in a position to purchase a physical SAN or NAS array for their virtual infrastructure. Not having access to shared storage, SMB customers would miss out on many of the features and capabilities that make vSphere such a popular virtualization platform, and they would be unable to implement many of vSphere's core technologies such as vSphere HA and vMotion.

Customers who decide to deploy a VSA can benefit from many additional vSphere features without having to purchase a SAN or NAS device to provide them with shared storage. The VSA also comes with a new vCenter Server 5.0 extension that's installed on a vCenter server machine. It comes with the VSA Manager component that's used to manage the VSA Cluster.

VMware has done a good job of making this an easy process, and the installer does everything automatically for the user. This helps create an opex savings as the installation, configuration, and management of the VSA was designed to be handled by a vSphere administrator who may not have SAN or NAS management experience. At the same time, it provides capex savings for SMB shops since it removes the need to purchase a dedicated physical SAN or NAS device for shared storage.

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