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VMware one-ups Microsoft with vSphere 5.1

New vMotion capabilities make it easier to move VMs

By Tom Henderson, Network World
January 14, 2013 12:06 AM ET

Network World - The race for virtualization dominance between Microsoft and VMware has become more interesting with VMware's recent release of vSphere 5.1. We obtained vSphere around the same moment as the final release of Windows Server 2012, whose newly included virtual switch and enhanced Hyper-V features were designed to clobber VMware.

But back in the garages of their digital "brickyard", VMware was scheming to one-up the one-ups.

The highlight of the release is the ability to move a virtual machine from one machine and storage space to another. If your use of virtualization is small, this release won't make much difference to you. But if you need optimizations or have an appreciation for moving VMs around as though they were almost toys, vSphere 5.1 does it.

The vSphere 5.1 specs are statistically awesome and yet esoteric. At the upper end, vSphere is capable of controlling a 1TB VM, or symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) with up to 64 processors. We don't know of any commercial hardware that supports either of these.

The vSphere 5.1 pricing model was changed at VMworld to a more simplified model revolving around processors/cores, but it's still the priciest virtualization that we know of. It still has warts, but there has been much plastic surgery and lipstick applied, as well -- the face of a new web UI.

Included in the vSphere app kit is an updated Distributed Switch. The switch now supports more controls, including Network I/O Control (NetIOC) for admittance controls, IEEE 802.1p tagging for QoS/CoS flows, and enhanced vocabulary for Cisco and IBM virtual switches. There is increased monitoring capability for the switch, both in-band and out-of-band, and many of the changes reflect control capabilities that are suited towards 10Gigabit Ethernet.

We setup a local and VPN-connected network running several hardware servers thru a 10G Ethernet Extreme Networks Summit X650 (locally) and between our lab and network operations center connection. The reason? The vMotion software will jam an equal number of pre-bonded virtual and physical ports with a traveling virtual machine during VM movements. More ports, higher speed, means a faster movement from one metal server to the target host for a moving VM.

VMware

We started up configuration on a bare metal HP DL560 Gen8 server. This server has plentiful, even spectacular power and serious disk in a 2U frame, and uses what we believe to be pretty standard drivers. But VMware's vSphere 5.1 lacked drivers for it, so it hung with an indiscernible error message. We recognize that we received early, yet not beta, supposed-to-be-production code, so we contacted VMware and within a few hours, we had a custom-cut of 5.1, and from there, everything moved splendidly.

vCloud vs. vSphere: VMware explains security changes

Of the subtle upgrades, this edition is able to use more complex authorization and certificate trading schemes, and still has an ongoing affinity for authentication with Microsoft Active Directory. However, instead of the Windows-only client, we could now use browsers from Windows, MacOS and Linux. The UI is understandable and makes comparatively good use of browser windowing areas.

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