VMware Releases vSphere 5.5 – What’s New?

At VMworld this year VMware released the latest version of vSphere, v5.5.  Actually, they revised the vCloud Suite so we’ll go over a few different products in the offering.  First let’s talk about vSphere itself.

Single Sign-On

When you look at the new features they are both big and minor.  It’s kind of an odd release.  Great stuff but fixing issues with SSO (Single Sign-On) will probably be the biggest reason people upgrade from 5.1 and especially 5.0.  We’ve had a lot of people holding off on moving to 5.1 due to known problems upgrading.  It’s almost always SSO.  In this release VMware re-wrote the SSO component.  Yes, the last one lasted an entire dot release but this is a good thing.  The SSO in 5.1 was from RSA and this is a complete re-write.

You can upgrade from 5.0 or 5.1 to this version.  We/I highly suggest you test it first, of course, but so far in our labs it has gone much more smoothly than 5.1 installations.  Some other notable changes:

  • Support for One-Way and Two-Way AD trusts
  • Multi and single forest
  • Can do local authentication if needed
  • No more manual database configuration
  • New High Availability mode
  • Simpler Installation

So that’s probably the biggest impacting change for most people.  What else?

Improved Web Interface

The web interface is much more responsive.  I noticed this right away when running the Beta and RC code.  It’s a very good change.  There are a few new things in the interface but nothing major.  You can now easily jump to your recently viewed inventory items and there are more search filters.  The big change is performance.  For my VMworld session labs I’m using the vCSA and have it cut down to 4GB of RAM and it’s still very responsive.

Networking

There are a few nice additions and enhancements on the networking side.  A post showing many of the changes in more detail with a video is here.  These changes require use of the VDS, so keep that in mind.

You can now have multiple LACP LAGs (Link Aggregation Groups) and have over 20 choices of load balancing algorithms.  This gives you more flexibility, especially if you can’t do LACP LAGs between your different switches.

Next are some marking and filtering changes.  You can now apply ACLs to traffic at a port-group or vNIC level to give you stateless traffic filtering.  So if you need basic IP-based ACLs you can do it without anything extra…but again, stateless.  In the same place you can now mark packets with CoS and DSCP values.

Storage

Some really good additions here.  First is VSAN, which we’ve been hearing about for a while.  VSAN allows you to “pool” the local storage in your servers and create an object-based datastore across them.  There are some requirements though.  First, you need both SSD and regular HDs in each servers.  The SSD is there to provide write buffering for better performance.  I didn’t have time to get a post and video up to do VSAN justice before leaving for VMworld so expect that very soon.  Plus I’m sure there will be plenty of others out there.  Check it out.

If you want to try out VSAN you can sign up for the public beta here.

The second storage-based addition is Virtual Flash (vFlash).  This is a really good addition and no longer requires us to go third-party.  It allows you to use SSDs or flash cards as read-cache in your servers.  It’s all integrated in to vSphere so no agents or anything else in the guest is needed.  Again, a post with more detail and a video is here.

The third set of enhancements are for vSphere Host-Based Replication.  These include:

  • Support for vSAN datastores
  • Better integration with the web interface
  • Can do replication between shared and non-shared storage
  • Provides multiple points in time (snapshots) for protection against logical corruption
  • Support for Storage DRS balancing across datastores

Good to see HBR getting more mature.

And now one we’ve been waiting on for a while now.  You can FINALLY have VMDKs larger than 2TB.  Yay!  You need need vSphere 5.5 and VMFS 5.

Other Products / Features

There are several other products and features improved with this release.  vCloud Director got a number of changes focused around the content catalog, provisioning, better lifecycle management, and now support for Macs for VM consoles.  I’ll wait and do a larger post on that.

Site Recovery Manager (SRM) also gets revised.  New features include:

  • Support for VSAN datastores with HBR
  • Support for SDRS and Storage vMotion
  • Support for the new HBR snapshot/points-in-time

What I like here….  SRM is being revised and released at the same time as vSphere 5.5 and takes advantage of the new features.  No more delay.

And finally a new application called vSphere App HA.  This integrates with vFabric Hyperic to provide application level monitoring.  If a host crashes or a VM stops responding we know that vSphere HA will restart it…but what if the app inside that VM dies?  That’s what App HA will handle.  It monitors the application using Hyperic and restarts it if needed.

Thoughts

Overall I think 5.5 is a very solid release.  It’s good to finally see VSAN in the wild.  SSD/Flash caching is a great addition.  Many people will rejoice the re-write of SSO (especially us).  That’s a big thing for a release like this, but something we think is necessary.  The other product improvements are also welcome.  My opinion is everyone waits 30 or 60 days and moves to 5.5, especially if you’ve been holding out on 5.1.

8 Comments

  1. Great summary of the new features of vSphere 5.5. You have a broken link in your Virtual Flash (vFlash) demo that you might want to fix. Looks like you put 8/25 when it should be 8/26 in the URL.

  2. Not a lot to get excited about in this release considering it is this one big release that we anticipate each year. The SSO improvements should help. I’ve got to wonder if VMware is resting on their Laurel’s a bit considering nobody else has come up with an enterprise class hypervisor that competes IMHO.

  3. Greate job Jason thanks :)

    • Title of the post is What’s New w/ vSphere 5.5. Not what was announced at VMworld..so, really.

  4. I hope 5.5 will resolve a lot of frustrations introduced by 5.1.

    I’m wondering if vSphere ESXi 5.5 is able to passthrough common external USB 3.0 hubs to a vm (like the ones based on VIA VL812 chipset).

    Since ESXi 5.1 took away the ability to passthrough PCI-based internal USB cards which worked fine in ESXi 5.0, I hope 5.5 has a viable workaround like being able to simply passthrough an external USB hub — a hub we can actually find available for purchase these days.

    Also wondering what specific graphic cards are supported for vGPU.

    Having access to hardware compatibility list for 5.5 would be helpful, but it doesn’t seem available yet. Hoping well-connected bloggers can help us with more info before the release date!

  5. Thanks for the great post. I’ve been mulling about taking the 5.x certification course and eventually certify. Considering 6.0 is just around the corner, can you please give an approximate timeline when it can be expected?

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