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VMware Unleashed Technology Updates at Partner Exchange (PEX) 2015

With last week's kickoff of the annual VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) conference in San Francisco, more than 4,000 partner attendees from more than 80 countries found their way to the Moscone West Conference Center to hear from VMware executives.  

VMware's president and chief operating officer, Carl Eschenbach, set the tone early for the conference by daring partners to disrupt the industry and work towards fostering change and growth.

With PEX in full effect, the virtualization giant introduced a series of new products across its cloud, network, and storage groups.  Amongst the many announcements, VMware made a much anticipated introduction to the newest member of its flagship server virtualization product line, vSphere version 6.0.  The technology received a major overhaul, with more than 650 new features, making it - according to chief executive officer Pat Gelsinger - "the biggest ever release of vSphere." The latest iteration also laid the foundation for VMware's long-term plan to allow easy transfer of workloads not only between machines but also between data centers and clouds.

A few of the standout features found in vSphere 6.0 included:

  • Scale and Performance - This seems to come with each major release of vSphere; and 6.0 was no exception.  It now supports 64 hosts per cluster (double that of vSphere 5.5) and 2,048 VMs per host (four times as many as vSphere 5.5).  It also increases the maximum virtual RAM per VM fourfold, with support now up to 4TB of virtual memory per VM.  It also increased the amount of RAM supported per host by threefold, making it 12TB with the new release.  And when it comes to CPUs, 6.0 is listed as supporting up to 480 CPUs per host and up to 128 vCPUs per VM.   
  • Long-Distance Live Migration Capabilities - VMware introduced Long-Distance vMotion for live, real-time migration of workloads over long geographic distances (i.e. between New York and London); boasting zero downtime for larger virtual machines with up to four virtual CPUs.
  • Instant Clone Technology - Remember Project Fargo from VMworld 2014?  This technology is no longer "preview," and it allow users to clone and provision thousands of container instances and virtual machines to make new virtual infrastructure available in sub-second time frames.
  • Fault Tolerance - The release also introduced support for fault tolerance with support added for up to 4 vCPUs running in a natively supported fault tolerant way - arguably, a very difficult nut to crack. 
  • 3D Graphics Support - Adding support for designers, architects and engineers, vSphere 6 features integration with NVIDIA GRID vGPU technology for 3D graphics support delivered via the cloud for scalability and cost savings.  Administrators can allocate a single graphics processor to up to 8 users to provide support for Windows 2D/3D and media-rich Windows applications on any device.

Beyond the vSphere 6.0 announcement, VMware also discussed other new ingredients that would make up the company's software-defined data center.

VMware drilled down into the storage side of the software-defined data center equation with the debut of Virtual SAN (vSAN) 6.0 -- aimed at simplicity but still providing greater capacity and performance.

Perhaps the biggest enhancement is the introduction of its virtual storage software, Virtual Volumes (vVols), so that the management software can see and control the storage being used by a single virtual machine.  It does so by moving the control plane off the storage device and into the hands of the storage manager.  What's interesting is that it can recognize storage on third-party and external storage arrays inside the virtual storage pool, and manage it centrally along with the rest of the virtualized storage in the data center.

VMware also revealed that its networking software, VMware NSX, can now securely bring together public and private infrastructures under a single network via its hybrid cloud connectors.  VMware revealed on stage that this is the "first time ever we can really deliver hybrid networking - the ability to tie together on-premises environments with hybrid networking, to view the public cloud as an extension of their on-premises data center."

The company also positioned where it was going with OpenStack cloud management, and provided more details about the VMware Integrated OpenStack software - its commercially supported distribution which has been in beta for the past few months.  It provides deep hooks into the VMware environment.  VMware said this distribution would provide smaller IT shops with little to no OpenStack or Linux experience the ability to deploy an OpenStack cloud within minutes.

On stage, Gelsinger said the UI was both elegant and familiar, and added, "It's not just that it's the best of breed components, but it's also a better way to deploy an OpenStack environment."

The company is making the distribution free of charge to anyone running vSphere Enterprise Plus, vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus and the vCloud Suite.

What's next for PEX?

For the first time since the event's introduction, the structure of Partner Exchange will change.  Eschenbach announced that next year's partner event would be not one, but two conferences.  One conference will be called the "Business Partner Summit" and focus on changes in business models; while the other will cater towards the technologists, allowing them to get more in-depth with the products.  The latter would be scheduled to coincide with VMworld for deeper collaboration between technologists and business leaders.

Eschenbach described the Business Partner Summit as a more intimate event, with more one-on-one and one-on-few engagements with partners.  Adding, "We need to change in how we engage with you.  We're evolving to meet your demands and your needs."
Published Thursday, February 12, 2015 12:28 PM by David Marshall
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