vSphere 7 - yeah, nah ?

vmware Jun 18, 2021

So VMware vSphere 7 has been out in the wild for quite a while now and I thought it was about time to visit the features that might motivate an upgrade. In fact vSphere 7 Update 2 is the latest version and is stacked with even more goodness than the base release. Now, while we certainly don't want to be bleeding edge here, we do want to be offering our customers the best possible experience we can so lets dig into it.

I think we'll break this down into a couple of broard areas of focus:

1) - Benefits to you, the consumer of our IaaS platform

Building on a solid base there are a number of important availability and efficiency improvements with this release. Improved vMotion means even those monster vm's can be migrated without fear of stun or performance degradation and we even have auto scaling now where they system will use all the bandwidth you give it to make that migration faster. And speaking of monster vm's with every release the maximums increase - yes, you can now have a vm with 768 vCPU's and 24TB of vRam.... just say the word and we'll make it happen!

DRS (VMware's distributed resource scheduler) has been refactored to focus on vm "happiness" with a move away from host utilization. This along with a reduced sampling (every minute) means the performance of vm workloads is paramount. That's not to say we don't care about the hosts anymore but lets face it, its all about you (the vm's) really and anything that contributes to improving their lot is a good thing.

There's support for a bunch of new guest OS's and some new virtual hardware features like vTPM, Watchdog Timer, Guest Content Distribution and Precision Clock Drivers for those really sensitive applications. These of course will only be available when you have the latest versions of vm Hardware (v17) and vm tools (v11). This is probably a good time to talk about vm maintenance - take maybe 10 minutes to review the vm Hardware and vm tools levels of your vm's. It's always good practice to keep these up to date not only from a performance perspective but also when considering availability ........ I won't mention names but we have some vm's on the platform that have particularly old versions of vm tools which can actually lead to the vm becoming unresponsive đŸ˜±...... don't let that be you!

2) - Benefits to me/us, maintainer of said IaaS platform

Enhancements to the UI - lets face it, if I'm spending my time in here then a better UI is winning! There are some nice touches in the UI that make getting information easier - thing's like the improved VM Summary screen, update and patch notifications, and host firmware and driver information along with many others.

Probably my favorite though is vLCM (vSphere Lifecycle Manager). I have already sung its praises here but its just a thing of joy. If you've ever had to manage updates and patches on a multi vendor IaaS platform then you know its the gift that keeps giving. This component pulls together the key pieces (vendor customisations, drivers/firmware, vSphere updates, security patches along with HCL integration) and gives you one place to manage it all.

Building on that we have vCenter Server update planner added to the mix which does what the name implies - it helps co-ordinate all the different components that need updating ensuring you have no compatibility issues. There are lots of moving parts to our platform so this is a good thing!

VM Template Versioning and the Content Library -  allows for check in/ check out of templates and content for easy updates. A time saver more than anything.

Security is a big one. It seems like not a week goes by without some sort of security breach hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons! The vSphere 7 release continues to build with new and improved security features being added.  This release we have ESXi Key Persistence, vSphere native key provider, ESXi configuration encryption, vSphere Trust Authority (uses TPM), and Identity federation with Active Directory Federation Services (supports MFA).

Futures for vBridge with vSphere 7

Arguably the biggest change with vSphere 7 has been the native integration of Kubernetes with Tanzu which will allow for container workloads on the vSphere platform. This is certainly an area of interest for some customers and one which has a lot of potential for growth.  With vSphere 7 U2 and Tanzu we have integrated load balancing, kubernetes 1.19, confidential containers and private container registries.

Finally, on the AI and ML front we see further NVIDIA support of new gpu's, mutli-instanance gpu's, bitfusion 3 and Assignable hardware improvements. Perhaps these will mean we one day get to offer gpu backed workloads on the platform should there be enough interest.

Wrap Up

If I was to summarise the vSphere 7 release I'd broadly say two things. In general its an incremental improvement on what came before so we'd expect it to offer performance/scaling improvements, and of course better resiliency as a platform - all of which it delivers on. In terms of futures it could be a game changer! The native integration of Kubernetes with Tanzu means the delivery of container workloads via vSphere is now a first class citizen! The latest release of Tanzu now improves resiliency and adds security features which is hugely relevant given the current climate of security challenges.  And while we have some work to do before we're ready to make the jump I'm excited by the opportunities ahead that vSphere 7 has to offer.

Definitely a yeah from me!