Saturday 29 June 2013

vSphere 6.0 wish list

In recent history, VMware have adopted the Intel-like "tick/tock" approach to software releases. In other words, each "tick" is a major release (e.g. 5.0) and each "tock" is a minor release (e.g., 5.1). This has occurred on an annual basis for the last few years.

If this approach continues, then vSphere 6.0 is presumably due out later in 2013. With that in mind, here are some of the things I would like to see in the next release... (I'm not a beta tester, so this is all pure conjecture).

Make vCenter Server easier to install

vSphere 5.1 changed the architecture of vCenter Server and introduced separate Single Sign On (SSO) and Inventory Services. My experience of installing all these components on a single server has been fairly easy, but a quick look around the forums and blogs show that some people have had real problems updating existing installations or doing more complex architectures.

One way to make this easier would be to...

Make the VCSA a first class citizen

The vCenter Server Appliance has been an alternative to the "traditional" Windows-based vCenter Server for the last couple of releases. The advantage of the VCSA is that it is extremely easy to deploy and update. The downside is that it does not have all the features of the Windows vCenter Server and using the built in database is only suitable for small deployments (five hosts and 50 VMs). Bigger installations require an external database.

A VCSA that fully supports all vCenter functions (including things like linked mode) and can handle large workloads without requiring SQL Server or Oracle would be a step in the right direction. The dependency on third party databases could be resolved if VMware were to...

Bundle vFabric Postgres

VMware products support a number of different databases:
  • Traditional vCenter Server supports SQL Server, Oracle and DB2
  • The vCenter Server Appliance supports its own internal Postgres database or external Oracle database
  • vShield Manager bundles its own Postgres database
  • vCloud Director supports an external Oracle or SQL Server database. The vCloud Director appliance bundles an internal Postgres database
  • vCenter Operations Manager supports Postgres, Oracle or SQL Server
While the internal databases are suitable for lab work and test environments, for production workloads there is a currently a requirement to use a third party database with the licensing overheads this incurs.

VMware have their own vFabric Postgres database (itself a virtual appliance) and bundling this could allow VMware users to point all their application servers to a single, scalable database server, without needing to buy database licences. Bundling a cut-down version of vFabric Data Director would make management easier and also expose VMware admins to the vFabric product suite, gaining mindshare in the process.

Make vCloud Director easier to install

vCloud Director runs on a Linux VM and has a dependency on either an Oracle or SQL Server database. There are a number of manual steps to get a vCloud Director cell installed that requires some messing around at the command line to configure bits, followed by running SQL scripts to setup the database. I'm not adverse to the Linux command line, but would prefer it if the install was more straightforward.

VMware provide a vCloud Director appliance for testing, but it's not currently supported for production workloads. It would make sense for VMware to enhance the appliance and make it a fully supported option for production use, removing unnecessary complexity in the setup process.

This theme of turning all VMware products into appliances extends to the...

VUM appliance

Please can we have a Linux based VMware Update Manager appliance? If everything else is moving to appliances, having a dedicated Windows host for patching seems overkill. Alternatively, bundle the functionality in with the VCSA.

Update vCNS Manager

The vCenter Network and Security Manager is a rebranding of what was previously called vShield Manager. The web UI of this product is looking pretty dated and provides a completely different user experience to the new vSphere Web Client. It would be good to see this UI refreshed for the next release and to integrate it more closely with vSphere and vCloud Director.

Make the vSphere Web Client faster

The vSphere Web Client looks very nice and instantly makes the old .NET client look dated. However, for day to day operations I still find myself using the old client, simply because it's faster for most operations.

I want to use the new client, but it seems really sluggish a lot of the time, or perhaps it's simply that my Windows PC isn't quad core with 16GB RAM. VMware need to spend some time refactoring and improving the performance of the web client.

Infrastructure Overhead

This is more to do with those of us with home labs, so I'm not seriously expecting VMware to do anything about this...

The system requirements for VMware management servers is getting ridiculous and, while I appreciate the new functionality, there doesn't appear to be much effort going on to minimise system resources. For example:
  • vCenter Server with Inventory and SSO services on the same VM: 10GB RAM recommended
  • vShield Manager: 8GB RAM required
  • vCenter Operations Manager: 10GB RAM required

While these requirements might be fine in large, production environments, for those of us wanting to build a decent lab, it's possible to use all your resources just building the infrastructure, with no capacity left over to actually run VMs!

Make vCenter Operations Manager easier to buy!

The current way of buying VCOPS is missing some obvious options:

There is a free version (VCOPS Foundation) which is missing loads of features.

vCenter Operations Manager Suite can be bought standalone in Standard, Advanced and Enterprise  editions, licensed based on the number of VMs or physical hosts monitored, but not using a per-processor licensing model.

It's possible to buy vSphere with Operations Manager (VSOM) which provides per-processor licensing. Regardless of which vSphere edition (Standard, Enterprise or Enterprise Plus), you get a copy of vCenter Operations Manager Standard.

The vCloud Suite Advanced bundles what looks like Operations Manager Advanced per-processor licensing.

The vCloud Suite Enterprise bundles what looks like Operations Manager Enterprise per-processor licensing.

But what about those of us who had vSphere Enterprise Plus (pre-VSOM) and took advantage of the offer to upgrade to vCloud Suite Standard? Can we get a per-processor licensed version of VCOPS added?

Not that I can see. We're stuck with VCOPS Foundation.

The point is moot for me. We recently bought Veeam ONE for our monitoring and reporting solution. While it's not as sexy as VCOPS, it's a lot more affordable and we were able to buy it with per-processor licensing.

VCOPS is a great product but it's licensing is too difficult and not flexible enough. And it's still too expensive.

Roll on VMworld...

Although I won't be attending VMworld this year (boo!), I'll be watching the keynote, blogs and Twitter to see what new products are announced. I think the core products are pretty much done, so at this point I think it's about improving ease of deployment and management. Whether any of the above wishes are actually implemented will become clear in a few months...