VMworld 2015

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VMworld 2015

This is a featured blog from Frontline Technical Consultant, Chris Beckett.

A colleague and I from the consulting team attended VMworld Europe last week in Barcelona, along with 10,000 other delegates including end users and partners.

Even before the conference really got started, there was a buzz around when news of the acquisition of EMC (VMware’s parent company) by Dell. I doubt anyone really saw it coming, but it was good that this was tackled in the main keynote on Tuesday morning by Carl Eschenbach (VMware COO) who stated that VMware would continue to run as an independent business and that it was very much “business as usual”.

I was even more surprised to see a short video from Michael Dell basically outlining the company line, but only time will tell what effect the takeover will have on VMware.

Away from the business side of things, there were a raft of excellent technical sessions with some good examples of VMware technology in action as well as making business cases for virtualisation of networking, compute and storage. Between the two of us, we attended nearly 40 sessions in a week! My main area of interest right now is NSX (see a previous blog post for some background on network virtualisation) and also Virtual SAN (VSAN).

During the week, I attended valuable sessions on automating network creation using NSX and vRealize Automation, saw an interesting case study with the British Army (who stated that NSX was the only product that could give them the fine grained level of security they needed) and also took in some troubleshooting classes. Although NSX is still relatively new (around 2 years old), it has made great strides in a short space of time and can help organisations radically improve their provisioning times, introduce self-service and provide micro segmentation (VM level) of networking and security.

NSX 6.2 is fairly recent (announced at VMworld US in August) and now provides cross vCenter capabilities, extending the product still further to be able to provide NSX security into the public cloud for a truly holistic network environment.

As I mentioned, I also spent a lot of time in Virtual SAN sessions. This technology (if you haven’t seen it) allows you to take directly attached storage to ESXi hosts and present it up as either a hybrid or all flash virtual SAN. The hybrid model uses flash storage as the caching layer and spinning disk as the persistence layer, giving superb read and write performance with standard parts on standard hardware. The other benefit here is that using existing storage in hosts reduces costs for power and cooling and reduces the need to learn a storage specific software and hardware stack.

Virtual SAN has now also been extended to support stretch clusters. Using 10Gbps Ethernet networks, it is now possible to span Virtual SAN installations over multiple sites, giving the ability to run in active/active mode and provide enhanced services for business continuity. This feature will be enhanced in future versions of the product to provide even more fault tolerance across sites.

One of the most interesting announcements of the week was vRealize Automation 7. For those not familiar, vRA is used to provide self service automation of services, including the creation of virtual machines, installation of applications and “day two” operations such as adding users, changing passwords and requesting virtual desktops. The product installation has been streamlined and also now has a smaller footprint, which is good news when deploying the management/infrastructure pieces. There is also now a consolidated service designer canvas, so advanced services blueprints and application blueprints can be designed from the same place. The Application Services component is now no longer a standalone piece.

NSX has also been integrated with this canvas, so it’s now possible to spin up virtual networks on demand, as virtual machines are provisioned. This provides a previously impossible level of agility that really reduces the provisioning of applications and services from weeks to minutes.

Finally, I attended a session on what’s new with Horizon 6.2. Again, VMware are really raising the bar in the virtual workspace market – now adding an Access Point device which will ultimately remove the need for a Security Server and also the ability to create Linked Clone RDSH servers. This means you can scale out RDSH farms in minutes and without taking up a massive storage footprint, again reducing the TCO of the product. There has also been a lot of work with Linux virtual desktops, and at some point within the next year I’d expect to see pretty much feature parity between what can be done with a Windows virtual desktop and what can be done with a Linux virtual desktop.

With virtual disk forking and AppVolumes becoming more mainstream and being enhanced on a frequent basis, I’d expect to see VMware innovating further in this area in the coming months.

All in all, a week well spent but very tiring!

If you would like to find out more about the topics discussed in this blog, then get in contact with a member of the Frontline Team today.

Network Virtualisation, NSX, SAN, VMware, VMworld,

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