vSphere 6.7 – What’s in it for Service Providers Part 1

A few weeks ago after much anticipation VMware released vSphere 6.7. Like 6.5 before it, this is a lot more than a point release and represents a major upgrade from vSphere 6.5. There is so much packed into this new release that there is an official page with separate blog posts talking about the features and enhancements. As usual, I will go through some of the key features and enhancements that are included in the latest versions of vCenter and ESXi and as they relate back to the Service Providers that use vSphere as the foundation of their Infrastructure as a Service offerings.

There is a lot go get through though and like the vSphere 6.5 release the “whats new” will not fit into one post so i’ll split the highlights between a couple posts and I’ll cover ESXi specifically in a follow-up. I still feel like it’s important to highlight the base hypervisor as well as the management platform. I’ll also talk about current interoperability with vCloud Director and NSX as well as Veeam supportability for vSphere 6.7.

The major features and enhancements as listed in the What’s New PDF are:

  • Scalability Enhancements
  • VMware vCenter Server Appliance Linked Mode
  • VMware vCenter Server Appliance Back Up Scheduler
  • Single Reboot
  • Quick Boot
  • Support for 4K Native Storage
  • Improved HTML 5 based vSphere Client
  • Security-at-Scale
  • Support for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 and virtual TPM
  • Cross-vCenter Encrypted vMotion
  • Support for Microsoft’s Virtualization Based Security (VBS)
  • NVIDIA GRID vGPU Enhancements
  • vSphere Persistent Memory
  • Hybrid Linked Mode
  • Per-VM Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC)
  • Cross-vCenter Mixed Version Provisioning – Simplify provisioning across hybrid cloud environments that have diferent vCenter versions

Below are the ones in red fleshed out in the context of Service Providers.

Enhanced vCenter Server Appliance:

The VCSA has been enhanced significantly in this release. Having used the VCSA exclusively for the past year in all my environments I have a love hate relationship with it. I still feel it’s nowhere as stable as vCenter running ontop of Windows and is prone to more issues than a Windows based vCenter…however this 6.7 release will be the last one supporting or offering a Windows based vCenter. With that VMware have had to work hard on making the VCSA more resilient.

Compared to the 6.5 VCSA, 6.7 offers twice the performance in vCenter operations per second with a three times reduction in memory usage and three times faster DRS operations meaning that power on and other VM operations are performed quicker. This is great on a service provider platform with potentially lots of those operations happening during the course of a day. Hopefully this improves the responsiveness overall of the VCSA which I have felt at times to be poor under load or after an extended period of appliance uptime.

There has also been a number of updates to the APIs offered in vSphere, the VCSA and ESXi. William Lam has a great post on what’s new for APIs here, but all Service Providers should have teams looking at the API Explorer as it’s a great way to explore and learn what’s available.

Single Reboot and Quick Reboot:

For Service Providers who need upgrade their platforms to maintain optimal compatibility, upgrading hosts can be time consuming at scale. vSphere 6.7 reduces ESXi host upgrades, by eliminating one of the two reboots normally required for major version upgrades. This is the single reboot feature. There is also vSphere Quick Boot that restarts the ESXi hypervisor without rebooting the physical host. This skips time-consuming server hardware initialization and post boot operation wait times. Both of these significantly reduce maintenance times.

This blog post covers both features in more detail.

Improved HTML 5 based vSphere Client:

While minor in terms of actual under the hood improvements, the efficiencies that are gained when it comes to a decent user interface are significant. When managing Service Provider platforms at scale, having a reliable client is important and with the decommissioning of the VI client and the often frustrating performance of the Flex client a near complete and workable HTML vSphere Client is a big plus for those who work day to day on vCenter.

The vSphere 6.7 vSphere Client has support for vSAN as well as having Update Manager fully built in. As per the last NSX 6.4 update there is also limited management of that. There is also a new vROps plugin…this plugin is available out-of-the-box once vROps has been linked with vCenter and offers dashboards directly in the vSphere client that can view, cluster view, and alerts for both vCenter and vSAN views. This is extremely handy for Service Providers who use vROps dashboard not needing to go to two different locations to get the info.

vCD and NSX Supportability:

Shifting from new features and enhancements to an important subject to talk about when talking service provider platform…VMware product compatibility. For those VCPP Service Providers running a Hybrid Cloud you should be running a combination of vCloud Director SP or/and NSX-v of which, at the moment there is no support for either in vSphere 6.7.

Looking at vCloud Director, it looks like 9.1 is supported however given the fact you need to be running NSX-v with vCD these days and NSX is not yet supported, it doesn’t make too much sense to suggest that there is total compatability.

I suspect we will see NSX-v come out with a supported build shortly…though I’m only expecting vCloud Director SP to support 6.7 form version 9.1 which will mean upgrades.

Veeam Backup & Replication Supportability: 

Veeam commits to supporting major version releases within 90 days or sooner of GA. So with that, those Service Provider that are also VCSPs using Veeam to backup their infrastructure should not upgrade to vSphere 6.7 until Backup & Replication Update 3a is released. For those that are bleeding edge and have updated your only option at that point is our Agents for Windows and Linux until Update 3a is released.

Wrapping up Part 1:

Rounding off this post, in the Known Issues section there is a fair bit to be aware of for 6.7. it’s worth reading through all the known issues just in case there are any specific issues that might impact you. In upcoming posts around vSphere 6.7 for Service Providers series I will cover more vCenter features as well as ESXi enhancements and what’s new in Core Storage.

Happy upgrading!

References:

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/6.7/rn/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-67-release-notes.html

Introducing Faster Lifecycle Management Operations in VMware vSphere 6.7