VMware vSphere Review

VMware vSphere 5.5 Review

The industry’s flagship virtualization platform, VMware’s vSphere, reached its latest release in September of 2013 with the launch of version 5.5. I am a ‘best tool for the job’ sort of technologist, and strive to stay impartial and always recommend the right product for the purpose. Currently, this release is better than any other hypervisor on the market in many ways, such as performance, scalability, management, and automation. I make this statement unequivocally and without bias because I believe so strongly in this product. Every environment that I encounter in my job has some sort of VMware infrastructure powering some set of its critical business applications.

The core of the platform is the server-level virtualization hypervisor, VMware ESXi. It is a bare metal hypervisor that gets installed on each server, and the installation footprint is as low as 2GB! Most of my new installations either run from an SD card embedded on the motherboard, or a certified USB key.

The centralized management portion comes from the vCenter Server. It provides relatively simple management for the environment, and unlike some of VMware’s competitors, vCenter Server is included with the vSphere suite of products. A web-based management interface (unfortunately Flash based at the moment, so iPads need not apply), in addition to a fat client, is available for remote management.

The scalability of the product is simply incredible. A single virtual machine can now scale up to 64 vCPUs and 1TB of vRAM. CPU and memory overhead take a benchmarking team to determine the virtualization ‘wedge’, or performance penalty, which the virtualization layer imposes on performance. Storage latency is under 100 microseconds per I/O. at this point, the VMware ESXi hypervisor layer’s impact to performance is so minute that I consider it functionally transparent.

It has the capacity to run over 85 different operating systems, well beyond its competitors. Bells and whistles like vMotion and Storage vMotion, shared-nothing vMotion, Distributed Virtual Switches, capacity management features such as Storage and Network I/O Control, and capacity management tools such as VMware vCenter Operations Manager (Foundation version included at no cost) stack up to make this the most flexible, scalable, and capable virtualization platform on the market today.

My home lab is completely virtualized with VMware vSphere 5.5 is running at its core. Anywhere from three to six hosts are powered on at any given time, and can handle anything that I need to replicate a problem encountered at a client site, or tinker around with learning scenarios for continuing self-education.

Add-ons to the core hypervisor, such as Site Recovery Manager, vCloud Director, vShield, and vCenter Operations Manager continue to enhance the platform, and add that much more capability and flexibility into an environment that is already the flagship of the industry.

The core VMware vSphere suite is capable of handling just about any application workload that I have ever ran across, and is suitable for any datacenter at tiny businesses all the way up to Fortune 50. Leverage VMware’s vSphere to let your infrastructure move at the speed of the business, not of the IT department. Welcome to the cloud!

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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author avatarit_user2652 (Project Manager at a non-tech company with 10,001+ employees)
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What hardware and storage have you used for vmware architecture?........what do you advise on dell hardware and emc storage for around 10 web servers?

author avatarit_user4524 (Founder & Principal Architect at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employees)

I have used everything from just a single server with local disks all the way up to the large VCE vBlocks. It all really depends on the workload properties of those individual web servers. Do you know how utilized the current web servers that you have are? What sort of IOPs and throughput requirements do you have? Usually web servers are CPU and memory intensive but not very disk hungry.