Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's new in vSphere 6.7

VMware vSphere 6.7 has been released and all famous VMware bloggers released their blog posts about new features and capabilities. It is worth to read all of these blog posts as each blogger is focused on a different area of SDDC so it can give you a broader context to newly available product features and capabilities. Anyway, industry veterans should start reading product Release Notes and official VMware blog posts first.

Please note, that this blog post is just an aggregation of information published in other places. All used sources are listed below.

Release Notes:
vSphere 6.7 Release Notes

VMware KB:
Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.7 

VMware official blog posts:
Introducing VMware vSphere 6.7!
Introducing vCenter Server 6.7
Introducing Faster Lifecycle Management Operations in VMware vSphere 6.7
Introducing vSphere 6.7 Security
What’s new with vSphere 6.7 Core Storage
vSphere 6.7 Videos

Community blog posts:
Emad Younis : vCenter Server 6.7 What’s New Rundown
Duncan Epping : vSphere 6.7 announced!
Cormac Hogan : What's new in vSphere and vSAN 6.7 release?
Cody Hosterman : What's new in core storage in vSphere 6.7 part I: in-guest unmap and snapshots
William Lam : All vSphere 6.7 release notes & download links
Florian Greh (Virten) : VMware vSphere 6.7 introduces Skylake EVC Mode
Florian Greh (Virten) : New ESXCLI Commands in vSphere 6.7

So after reading all resources above let's aggregate and document interesting features area by area.

vSphere Management

vCenter with embedded platform services controller in enhanced linked mode. This is nice because you can leverage "vCenter Server High Availability" to achieve higher availability for PSC without the external load balancer. All benefits listed below.
  • No load balancer required for high availability and fully supports native vCenter Server High Availability.
  • SSO Site boundary removal provides flexibility of placement.
  • Supports vSphere scale maximums.
  • Allows for 15 deployments in a vSphere Single Sign-On Domain.
  • Reduces the number of nodes to manage and maintain.

vSphere 6.7 introduces vCenter Server Hybrid Linked Mode, which makes it easy and simple for customers to have unified visibility and manageability across an on-premises vSphere environment running on one version and a vSphere-based public cloud environment, such as VMware Cloud on AWS, running on a different version of vSphere.

vSphere 6.7 also introduces Cross-Cloud Cold and Hot Migration, further enhancing the ease of management across and enabling a seamless and non-disruptive hybrid cloud experience for customers.

vSphere 6.7 enables customers to use different vCenter versions while allowing cross-vCenter, mixed-version provisioning operations (vMotion, Full Clone and cold migrate) to continue seamlessly.

vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) Syslog now supports up to three syslog forwarding targets.

The HTML5-based vSphere Client provides a modern user interface experience that is both responsive and easy to use and includes 95% of functionality available in Flash Client. Some of the newer workflows in the updated vSphere Client release include:
  • vSphere Update Manager
  • Content Library
  • vSAN
  • Storage Policies
  • Host Profiles
  • vDS Topology Diagram
  • Licensing
PSC/SSO CLI (cmsso-util) has some improvements. Repointing an external vCenter Server Appliance across SSO Sites within a vSphere SSO domain is supported. Repoint of vCenter Server Appliance across vSphere SSO domains is also supported. This is huge! It seems that SSO domain consolidation is now possible. The domain repoint feature only supports external deployments running vSphere 6.7. The repoint tool can migrate licenses, tags, categories, and permissions from one vSphere SSO Domain to another.

Brand-new Update Manager interface that is part of the HTML5 Web Client. The new UI provides a much more streamlined remediation process. 


New vROps plugin for the vSphere Client. This plugin is available out-of-the-box and provides some great new functionality. When interacting with this plugin, you will be greeted with 6 vRealize Operations Manager (vROps) dashboards directly in the vSphere client! 


Compute

vSphere 6.7 delivers a new capability that is key for the hybrid cloud, called Per-VM EVC. Per-VM EVC enables the EVC (Enhanced vMotion Compatibility) mode to become an attribute of the VM rather than the specific processor generation it happens to be booted on in the cluster. This allows for seamless migration across different CPUs by persisting the EVC mode per-VM during migrations across clusters and during power cycles.

A new EVC mode (Intel Skylake Generation) has been introduced.  Compared to Intel "Broadwell " EVC mode, the Skylake EVC mode exposes following additional CPU features:
  • Advanced Vector Extensions 512
  • Persistent Memory Support Instructions
  • Protection Key Rights
  • Save Processor Extended States with Compaction
  • Save Processor Extended States Supervisor

Single Reboot when updating ESXi hosts. It is reducing maintenance time by eliminating one of two reboots normally required for major version upgrades.

vSphere Quick Boot is a new innovation that restarts the ESXi hypervisor without rebooting the physical host, skipping time-consuming hardware initialization (aka POST, Power-On Self Tests).

New ESXCLI Commands. In vSphere 6.7 the command line interface esxcli has been extended with new features. vSphere 6.7 introduced 62 new ESXCLI commands including:
  • 3 Device
  • 6 Hardware
  • 1 iSCSI
  • 14 Network
  • 14 NVMe
  • 2 RDMA
  • 9 Storage
  • 6 System
  • 7 vSAN
for more information look here.

Fault Tolerance maximums increased. Up to 8 Virtual CPUs per virtual machine and up to 128 vRAM per FT VM. For more info look at https://configmax.vmware.com/ (ESXi Host Maximums)

Storage

Support for 4K native HDD. Customers may now deploy ESXi on servers with 4Kn HDDs used for local storage (SSD and NVMe drives are currently not supported). ESXi providing a software read-modify-write layer within the storage stack allowing the emulation of 512B sector drives. ESXi continues to expose 512B sector VMDKs to the guest OS. Servers having UEFI BIOS can boot from 4Kn drives.

XCOPY enhancement. XCOPY is used to offload storage-intensive operations such as copying, cloning, and zeroing to the storage array instead of the ESXi host. With the release of vSphere 6.7, XCOPY will now work with specific vendor VAAI primitives and any vendor supporting the SCSI T10 standard. Additionally, XCOPY segments and transfer sizes are now configurable. By default, the Maximum Transfer Size of an XCOPY ranges between 4MB-16MB. In vSphere 6.7, through the use of PSA claim-rules, this functionality is extended to additional storage arrays. Further details should be documented by particular storage vendor.

Configurable Automatic UNMAP. Automatic UNMAP was released with vSphere 6.5 with a selectable priority of none or low. Storage vendors and customers have requested higher, configurable rates rather than a fixed 25MBps. With vSphere 6.7 we’ve added a new method, “fixed” which allows you to configure an automatic UNMAP rate between 100MBps and 2000MBps, configurable both in the UI and CLI.

UNMAP for SESparse. SESparse is a sparse virtual disk format used for snapshots in vSphere as a default for VMFS-6. In this release, automatic space reclamation for VM’s with SESparse snapshots on VMFS-6 is provided. This only works when the VM is powered on and only affect the top-most snapshot.

VVols enhancements. As VMware continues the development of Virtual Volumes, in this release is added support for IPv6 and SCSI-3 persistent reservations. With end-to-end support of IPv6, this enables organizations, including government, to implement VVols using IPv6. With SCSI-3 reservations, this substantial feature allows shared disks/volumes between virtual machines across nodes/hosts. Often used for Microsoft WSFC clusters, with this new enhancement it allows for the removal of RDMs!

Increased maximum number of LUNs/Paths (1K/4K LUN/Path). The maximum number of LUNs per host is now 1024 instead of 512 and the maximum number of paths per host is 4096 instead of 2048. Customers may now deploy virtual machines with up to 256 disks using PVSCSI adapters. Each PVSCSI adapter can support up to 64 devices. Devices can be virtual disks or RDMs. A major change in 6.7 is the increased number of LUNs supported for Microsoft WSFC clusters. The number increased from 15 disks to 64 disks per adapter, PVSCSI only. This changes the number of LUNs available for a VM running MICROSOFT WSFC from 45 to 192 LUNs.

The increased maximums for Virtual SCSI adapter (PVSCSI only). Up to 64 Virtual SCSI Targets Per Virtual SCSI Adapter and up to 256 Virtual SCSI Targets Per Virtual Machine.

VMFS-3 EOL. Starting with vSphere 6.7, VMFS-3 will no longer be supported. Any volume/datastore still using VMFS-3 will automatically be upgraded to VMFS-5 during the installation or upgrade to vSphere 6.7. Any new volume/datastore created going forward will use VMFS-6 as the default.

Support for PMEM /NVDIMMs. Persistent Memory or PMem is a type of non-volatile DRAM (NVDIMM) that has the speed of DRAM but retains contents through power cycles. It’s a new layer that sits between NAND flash and DRAM providing faster performance and it’s non-volatile unlink DRAM.

Intel VMD (Volume Management Device). With vSphere 6.7, there is now native support for Intel VMD technology to enable the management of NMVe drives. This technology was introduced as an installable option in vSphere 6.5. Intel VMD currently enables hot-swap management, as well as NVMe drive, LED control allowing similar control used for SAS and SATA drives.

RDMA (Remote Direct Memory Access) over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). This release introduces RDMA using RoCE v2 support for ESXi hosts. RDMA provides low latency, and higher-throughput interconnects with CPU offloads between the end-points. If a host has RoCE capable network adaptor(s), this feature is automatically enabled.

Para-virtualized RDMA (PV-RDMA). In this release, ESXi introduces the PV-RDMA for Linux guest OS with RoCE v2 support. PV-RDMA enables customers to run RDMA capable applications in the virtualized environments. PV-RDMA enabled VMs can also be live migrated.

iSER (iSCSI Extension for RDMA). Customers may now deploy ESXi with external storage systems supporting iSER targets. iSER takes advantage of faster interconnects and CPU offload using RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). We are providing iSER initiator function, which allows ESXi storage stack to connect with iSER capable target storage systems.

SW-FCoE (Software Fiber Channel over Ethernet). In this release, ESXi introduces software-based FCoE (SW-FCoE) initiator than can create FCoE connection over Ethernet controllers. The VMware FCoE initiator works on lossless Ethernet fabric using Priority-based Flow Control (PFC). It can work in Fabric and VN2VN modes. Please check VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for supported NICs.

Performance

vSphere 6.7 VCSA delivers phenomenal performance improvements (all metrics compared at cluster scale limits, versus vSphere 6.5):
  • 2X faster performance in vCenter operations per second
  • 3X reduction in memory usage
  • 3X faster DRS-related operations (e.g. power-on virtual machine)

Security

vSphere 6.7 adds support for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 hardware devices and also introduces Virtual TPM 2.0, significantly enhancing protection and assuring integrity for both the hypervisor and the guest operating system.

vSphere 6.7 introduces support for the entire range of Microsoft’s Virtualization Based Security technologies aka “Credential Guard” support.

Recoverability

vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) File-Based Backup introduced in vSphere 6.5 now has a scheduler. Now customers can schedule the backups of their vCenter Server Appliances and select how many backups to retain. Another new section for File-Based backup is Activities. Once the backup job is complete it will be logged in the activity section with detailed information. The Restore workflow now includes a backup archive browser. The browser displays all your backups without having to know the entire backup path.

Conclusion

It seems that vSphere 6.7 is the continuous evolution of the best x86 virtualization platform with a lot of interesting improvements, features, and capabilities. Keep in mind, that this is just a list of features and capabilities which have to be very carefully planned, designed and tested before implementation into production.

Just FYI, I did not finish the reading of all vSphere 6.7 documents so I will update this blog post when find something interesting.

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