VMworld US 2015: Day 2 Recap

Welcome to The Virtualization Practice’s week-long coverage of VMworld US 2015. Tune in all week for our daily recap of the major announcements and highlights from the world’s premier virtualization and cloud conference.

VMworld US 2015 continued in force yesterday, beginning with a long but powerful general session/keynote talk. Carl Eschenbach, VMware’s president and COO, set the stage for a slew of announcements around VMware’s “One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device” approach to computing and a seamless federation of all types of clouds, supporting both traditional and new cloud-native applications. A variety of VMware leaders joined him on stage to talk about the various aspects of these announcements and how they mesh with their overall strategy. While each of these areas could give rise a whole series of posts by themselves, I’ll summarize the major points.

VMware NSX 6.2

Last week VMware quietly announced the release of NSX 6.2, which brings with it a number of new features that  support the other efforts VMware has announced. First, NSX now supports cross-vCenter configurations, meaning that network and security features no longer need manual synchronization between sites and deployments. This is especially important for firewall and security configurations, where rules can now be marked “Universal” and be automatically replicated. The cross-vCenter functionality also enables cross-vCenter vMotion, which was a new feature in vSphere 6 but was not available if you used NSX. Other big improvements are a central CLI for management and new troubleshooting capabilities, notably a function called “traceflow,” which allows IT staff to trace a packet from source to destination across the whole NSX deployment. This is a very powerful troubleshooting tool that is not available in the physical world.

Cloud-to-Cloud vMotion and Content Library Synchronization

The seamless federation of clouds means particular things need to be present for IT staff and users in both on-premises and cloud implementations. For most clouds today, this means that some poor soul in IT needs to manually synchronize service catalogs and VM templates. VMware has announced the extension of its Content Library, a feature introduced in vSphere 6, to synchronize seamlessly with vCloud Air, meaning less work (and fewer errors) for IT.

VMware also has addressed the problem of getting workloads into a cloud, announcing vMotion between vCloud Air and on-premises environments. This happens across something it calls Hybrid Networking Services, which is a superset of NSX. It implements intelligent routing, strong encryption, WAN acceleration, VXLAN extension, and direct connect—the ability to have dedicated network links between your site and vCloud Air sites. To demonstrate this, VMware moved a virtual machine between an on-premises environment and vCloud Air, and vice versa. This is an incredibly powerful feature, on par with the original release of vMotion. Common criticism is that this won’t work for Amazon Web Services or Azure, but that’s how VMware is differentiating itself from those offerings. These types of features will probably never emerge for those types of clouds because of the different design models and the indifference of Amazon et al. to enterprise needs.

VMware VSAN 6.1

VMware VSAN is the hyperconverged storage solution we’ve been hearing so much about lately, turning inexpensive local disk into clustered high-performance storage. VMware has added several new major features to its third VSAN release, continuing to step up the competition with other hyperconverged vendors. It now supports vSphere 6 stretched clusters, allowing customers to replicate data between geographically diverse sites, and synchronous replication between those sites (unlike vSphere Replication, which is asynchronous). For remote office use, VSAN can be scaled down to two nodes, mirroring storage between the nodes for availability while being managed by a central, home office vCenter instance. SMP Fault Tolerance, a feature introduced in vSphere 6, is now supported on VSAN, as well as Windows Failover and Oracle RAC clustering technologies. VMware also supports the Diablo ULLtraDIMM flash storage, as well as NVMe, for extremely high-performance storage.

Rounding out this release is additional integration and monitoring through both the Virtual SAN Health Check plugin and the Virtual SAN Management Pack for vRealize Operations, allowing both vCenter and vRealize Operations to natively and automatically analyze health and performance.

VMware vRealize Operations 6.1

Speaking of vRealize Operations, the new version supports vCloud Air and comes bundled with all the SDDC Management Packs, so you don’t have to find, download, and maintain them separately. It also has been extended to understand things like EVO SDDC, so that the workload placement functionality can make good recommendations across those structures and tools.

VMware Integrated OpenStack 2

VMware seems to be listening to enterprises when they say things like “we are interested in OpenStack but don’t like that it’s impossible to upgrade and manage.” VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) version 2 brings them up to the latest OpenStack release, Kilo, and allows customers running VIO version 1 to seamlessly upgrade to version 2. This is a long-awaited feature not found in native OpenStack deployments. Additional OpenStack features like Ceilometer, Heat Autoscaling, Load Balancing as a Service, and more have been added.


VMware announced its hyperconverged EVO:RAIL at VMworld 2014, and this year it builds upon it with the VMware EVO SDDC Manager. This tool enables IT to rapidly create a software-defined data center built on NSX, VSAN, vSphere 6, and vRealize. EVO is built to scale to a whole data center, beginning with eight nodes. Its presentation claimed 1,000 server VMs per 42U rack, as well as two million IOPS, though there was no data about sizing to help us understand these numbers. EVO SDDC Manager has some other interesting features as well, including the concept of “workload domains,” where you can sequester certain types of workloads to certain types of hardware and certain locations, behind specialized NSX firewall rules as well. EVO SDDC Manager also automates the lifecycle operations of IT infrastructure, managing patching, deployment, and decommissioning of hardware, as we’ve all come to expect from a hyperconverged platform.

VMware Integrated Containers

Last but probably the most interesting is VMware Integrated Containers support. This is a two-pronged approach by VMware to address the needs of IT in the face of DevOps, by allowing IT to start wrapping operational and security controls around developers who run container technologies like Docker, CoreOS, Kubernetes, Mesosphere, and Cloud Foundry. The first prong is an add-on to a vSphere 6 environment that allows containers to run as individual virtual machines, wrapped in a security model and resource controls, and deployed very quickly with VMware Instant Clone. Since each container is a separate VM using a lightweight Linux distribution called Photon OS, which is similar to Red Hat Atomic, a security compromise or resource issue will be diagnosable and confined to the particular container and application. This is something that other container technologies don’t have.

The second prong of its approach is called Photon Platform, a cloud-native platform that runs only containers. It has no HA, vMotion, or any of the other enterprise features of vSphere; this is intentional, because most cloud-native applications are designed for environments that don’t have those features. In fact, most features like vMotion only exist because of the inflexibility of applications, so once an application is designed for HA, the infrastructure doesn’t need to provide those features. Whereas its competition, like CoreOS, only supports particular container technologies, VMware intends Photon to be the Switzerland of containers, supporting whatever you want to use. Both approaches are manageable, to varying degrees, through vCenter and other VMware tools, and neither approach will be available as a product for the foreseeable future. Customers interested in either can get access through their account team, according to Kit Colbert on his blog post.

Most of these announcements today are not yet available in shipping code. VMware is always tight-lipped about when new releases will ship, and it is saying that most of these features will be available in Q3 2015. NSX 6.2 is shipping, however, and there are inoperable links to vRealize Operations 6.1, hinting that releases are not far off.

VMware also dropped hints today about more announcements tomorrow, including one about new authentication mechanisms. VMware has had its eye on Active Directory for a while now, and tomorrow’s general session should shed light on its plans. Additionally, tomorrow we’ll get into some of our partners’ announcements from before and during VMworld, so please tune in again.