VMware recently released vSphere 6.5, which brings great new features and enhancements to both the hypervisor and vCenter. This post briefly discusses these features.

vSphere Web Client and HTML5 vSphere Client

VMware continues to improve its web interface. The old C# client is no longer part of the vSphere 6.5 release, replaced by an enhanced vSphere web client and a new HTML5-based vSphere client. Although Adobe Flash is still needed for the vSphere web client (it is built on the Adobe Flex platform), they are moving closer to a true, single HTML5 platform.

For the vSphere Web Client, the inventory tree is now the default view, and the home screen is reorganized to have a better flow. The “Manage” tab is renamed to “Configure,” which more closely matches the functions found on this section of the client. Additionally, the “Related Objects” tab is split into separate tabs for different objects: Hosts, VMs, Datastores and Networks. Both of these UI changes make the interface more intuitive than it has been in the past. From a plug-in perspective, there is no longer a need for the Client Integration plug-in (now natively part of the functionality). A new Enhanced Authentication plug-in is now used for advanced authentication procedures such as Windows pass-through and logins using smart cards.

The new HTML5 vSphere client evolved from VMware Fling and replaces the legacy C# client. It is built into vCenter 6.5 and enabled by default. Although it doesn’t have full parity yet, most administrative functions are available for VM processes.

The only confusing pieces are that both clients are enabled by default and the URL determines which client is used. For the vSphere web client, use https:///vsphere-client. The HTML5 vSphere client is reachable at https:///ui. Possibly, a future release might combine them into a single HTML5 client.

Improved Management and Operations

One of the most requested features was modernizing vSphere Update Manager, and with this release, it is now built into the vCenter Server Appliance. This integration simplifies deployment, and these functions no longer need dedicated resources. Additionally, the vSphere Update Manager UI is fully integrated into the vSphere web client.

Host Profiles improved with vSphere 6.5, allowing for easier use and administration of host profiles. A modernized graphical editor and search functions streamline ways to create and use host profiles for configuration tasks.

The real-time UI refresh for the vSphere web client gives a much better operational overview and state of the environment, which also seamlessly integrates with vRealize Operations Manager.

Another feature of note is Auto Deploy. The PXE-based deployment method has been around since vSphere 4, and each release improved this tool’s use and functions. With vSphere 6.5, Auto Deploy has a new graphical interface for managing deployed and discovered hosts (hosts that are newly deployed and unassigned).

From an availability perspective, vSphere 6.5 now supports Proactive HA when partnered with supported hardware, allowing for early detection of hardware issues and movement of VMs to unaffected hosts. VM restarts now include enhancements, such as better rules regarding applications hosted on multiple VMs, as well as allowing for proper restart order, even without vCenter being online.

vSphere DRS and FT have a number of enhancements. The algorithms behind VM placement for DRS have improved, taking into account other variables such as network bandwidth, deltas between host utilization, and new memory calculations. A new feature called Predictive DRS works closely with predictive analytics gathered from vRealize Operations Manager to migrate VMs before contention occurs. FT network latency has improved as well, decreasing the latency between primary and secondary VMs. FT logging traffic can now use multiple port groups, allowing increased bandwidth.

Virtual Machine Performance Enhancements

With vSphere 6.5, VMware Tools has two versions: 10.1 and 10.0.12. Each version has a specific use case. VMware Tools 10.1 is the latest version and includes drivers and agents for current operating systems. For OS families that are no longer supported (Windows Pre-Vista, Windows Pre-2000, Mac OS X Pre-10.11, Linux Pre-glibc2.5), VMware Tools 10.0.12 is a legacy version that works with older operating systems. Not all of these legacy OS versions are bundled into vSphere, some of them have to be downloaded from VMware.

Both versions of VMware Tools now allow for signed ISO images, enabling additional security for ISO use. The VMware Tools agent also checks for updates periodically every five minutes (previously, this was only done during power and migration processes). If a new version is discovered, the VM shows an alert notifying the system of an available upgrade.

Support of NVIDIA GRID vGPU on virtual machines has improved, now integrating with vSphere HA to ensure VMs restart on another host that has the same vGPU profile.

Simplified Application Development

vSphere 6.5 has additional extensions for its REST-based API. In the previous version, these extensions only had basic functions, but with vSphere 6.5, you can manage and configure the vCenter Server Appliance, as well as perform VM management tasks.

vCenter Server 6.5 includes an API Explorer interface, allowing administrators to look at API calls and see the request and coding behind it. This makes custom development easier for VMware administrators with limited development experience. API Explorer includes a “Try It Out” function, where administrators can turn an API call into a URL that can be tested.

VMware PowerCLI evolved with vSphere 6.5 to be module-based, moving away from the legacy snap-ins using PowerShell 1.0. The three modules (Core vSphere, Storage and VMware Horizon) have been updated with various process improvements. Deeper VSAN and VMware Horizon integration are the main updates of note.

Comprehensive Security

Several new security features have been added to vSphere 6.5. Virtual Machine Encryption allows for VM encryption at the hypervisor layer, making it OS/storage agnostic. Encryption is based on KMIP 1.1. The vCenter server acts as the client and works with most KMIP 1.1 managers. Encrypted vMotion is now supported, providing secure in-transit migration of VMs from host to host.

vSphere 6.5 now allows Secure Boot Support for both the ESXi hosts and VMs. This ensures the EFI loads trusted bits as the OS starts its boot process. If the guest OS supports EFI firmware and Secure Boot, it is easy to enable it from the VM Options tab for each VM. On the ESXi host, Secure Boot ensures that unsigned VIBs cannot run on the hypervisor. If one is loaded, the system will crash with an error identifying the unsigned VIB so it can be removed.

New Storage Features

On the storage front, vSphere 6.5 now supports the industry standard Advanced Format drives, where sector size is 4,096 bytes. vSphere 6.5 supports 512e mode for VMFS datastores, allowing it to work with legacy OSes while benefiting from large-capacity drives.

LUN performance improved with vSphere 6.5 and has significant scalability increases. With vSphere 6.5, you can now have 512 LUNs per host and 2,000 paths, which is an exponential increase from 6.0 limits.

NFS 4.1 support has improved, allowing for IPv6 support, host profile integration and Kerberos integrity checking. Although NFS 4.1 has been supported since vSphere 6.0, the new enhancements allow administrators to take advantage of the security features of NFS 4.1.

Dedicated Gateways

One of the biggest changes to vSphere 6.5 networking is the ability to use multiple gateways for different services. Rather than dealing with host-level static routes, data can now use multiple gateways for the different types of network traffic (vSphere DRS, vMotion, iSCSI, etc.). This makes network administration easier and allows for greater network scalability.

Improvements were also made with SR-IOV devices, allowing for easy VM addition. vSphere 6.5 supports ERSPAN protocol for port mirroring and DATAPATH.

The Foundation of SDDC Environments

As shown, VMware vSphere 6.5 has improved in every facet. Improvements to the core functions, the UI and application development allow for easier administration. Storage, network and security enhancements define vSphere as the key player in the virtualization market.

vSphere is the building block for VMware software-defined data center, and is integral to the modern data center. Your CDW team consists of experts on SDDC and VMware, and can help take your vSphere environment to the next level.

Learn more about how CDW can help you meet your software-defined data center objectives.

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