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VMware vSphere 5.5 bulks up with more muscle, high-availability

Latest virtualization offering from VMware targets Microsoft's Hyper-V

By Tom Henderson, Network World
December 02, 2013 06:54 AM ET

Network World - VMware's latest salvo in its virtualization war with Microsoft is vSphere 5.5, which features a host of improvements, the most interesting being high availability, support for Big Data/Hadoop and improved storage and backup.

The ongoing battle pits Microsoft’s Hyper-V V3 hypervisor and the Microsoft System Center 2013 management platform, now with R2 updates, against vSphere 5.5 and vSphere Operations Manager (vSOM 5.5).

Some of the vSphere/Operations Manager bits are poised towards infrastructure, like those that handily unite vSAN storage options or can use server-based flash storage. But the best and most interesting bits in the release are high availability features within specific application structures. This traces back to VMware's acquisition of Hyperic. One note of caution -- high availability needs to be important to you, because it’s only found in VMware’s most expensive option.

In our testing, we found that the other vSOM5.5 highly touted features -- VM movement, cloning, better and denser vCenter UI, and snapshot restoration capabilities  -- worked largely as expected. There is also support for extensions to clusters of VMs of the type that support distributed databases, especially Hadoop infrastructures. Unfortunately, there are few standards-based methods to test Hadoop and Big Data.

[ALSO: Citrix edges VMware, Microsoft in VDI face-off]

We reviewed Hyperic's VM management app five years ago. Its new role is as an application monitor and re-starter in a formula called App HA. We also found that the products covered by this formula are a handful of mostly Microsoft apps, although Apache and Tomcat on Windows or Linux can be covered, too.

vmware vsphere

It wouldn't take much to monitor currently non-supported apps. And despite a fit of early documentation oddities, lack of unifying syslog management to ease troubleshooting, and a few other small scrapes, we made it all work.

To Upgrade?

So, should you run right out and upgrade to vSphere 5.5? The answer is yes, if maximized app uptime for Microsoft-specific or top-tier database and web apps can be a job-changer. And if you have the budget (or have a well-negotiated contract), as most of the new features come at the top tier, per-CPU pricing.

Not much in this release is poised towards cloud, private or public, that hasn't been already introduced. Your Adobe Flash must be upgraded, too.  

The feature list for VMware vSphere 5.5 with Operations Manager is graduated in terms of Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise+. Only Enterprise+, at $4,245 per CPU, has the juiciest features of App HA, Big Data Extensions (Hadoop support), and hybrid flash-cache read support.

As Microsoft has aimed Windows 2012 R2 and Systems Center 2012 R2 at the exposed throat of VMware, the HA changes are the secret sauce in 5.5, along with a maturation of Active Directory Single Sign-On (SSO) initiatives.

Here, VMware is closer to neck-and-neck with Microsoft's support for their own products, as VMware attempts to compete with Microsoft's vast and pending upgrades to Hyper-V virtualization features and Microsoft System Center updates.

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