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A wish list of dream features for a vSphere 6.5 deployment

With VMworld 2016 mere months away and a vSphere beta program underway, check out this list of features we'd like to see in a new version of vSphere.

Those in the know are aware there is a vSphere beta program underway. VMware's gone to lengths to keep the features of this program under wraps -- one might even say the first rule of beta club is don't talk about beta club. Luckily, since I am not a member of vSphere beta, this rule does not apply to me. A brief disclaimer: I don't know what is in the beta, or what will make the release. This article is a merely a collection of some of the features I'd like to see in a vSphere 6.5.  

Make scale-out vCenter a reality

Years ago, VMware showcased architecture for the vCenter Server that moved away from the traditional single server with a single database model. In this proposed model, vCenter used a distributed database and distributed its functions across multiple virtual machines. The idea behind this was you could use multiple VMs together to run vCenter and provide a highly available management platform. I would really like to see this concept become a reality.

I also hope to see VMware introduce the capability to update a running vCenter cluster without losing the ability to manage the platform in a vSphere 6.5. VCenter is a critical piece of infrastructure in View environments, so we can't afford to lose View functionality during vCenter upgrades. The best chance for a scale-out vCenter is the Photon Controller. This new VMware product manages containers running inside VMs on a modified ESXi server. Photon Controller is not meant to be a VM management tool, but it is similar to the scale-out vCenter I want.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure we'll ever see a truly scale-out vCenter, as this kind of distributed system is very difficult to program. It also seems as though the VMware product management doesn't see an issue with vCenter going down during the time it takes high availability to restart a VM.

Integrate VUM into vCenter

The VMware vSphere Update Manager (VUM) lost the ability to patch guest operating systems a long time ago. It's since been relegated to updating ESXi and triggering VMware Tools and virtual hardware upgrades. We've been waiting for some time now for VUM to be integrated into the core vCenter service; this goes double for customers who have deployed the vCenter Appliance, which is Linux-based. We don't want to have a Windows Server just to deploy patches to ESXi servers and update virtual appliances. Updating ESXi should be a core part of the vCenter Server and Appliance.

Offer a polished vSphere release

The past few vSphere releases have been quickly followed by updates to fix significant issues. I hope the next vSphere release, whether if it's vSphere 6.5 or not, is tested enough that there is no need for an A or B update in the first few months after release.

Dreaming of open source ESXi

If hypervisors are a commodity, how about open-sourcing ESXi? I suspect any employee who suggested this would be sacked. A less extreme option would be to make ESXi free for all users, which would eliminate some of the cost of choosing VMware's hypervisor. Dialling it back even further, how about including all ESXi features in a single, low-cost edition of a vSphere 6.5? 

Create a unified VM management tool

It would be ideal if vCenter included multi-hypervisor management, because it would create a unified VM management tool. This would be perfect for environments in which IT management has been sold on the lower purchase cost of alternative hypervisors. The operations teams at such organizations are often left with higher ongoing costs due to less efficient management models. Also, imagine using other VMware products without having to use ESXi -- for example, Horizon View with Hyper-V. Fortunately, we're beginning to see movement in this direction with the HotLink Hybrid Express, which presents multiple hypervisor types in a vSphere interface.

The devil's in the vSphere details

There are a few gaps a vSphere 6.5 release could fill that would make life much easier for businesses, starting with faster real-time performance information in the GUI client. Rather than update statistics every 20 seconds, why not give users the option to see updates every two seconds? We can do this using the command line, how about letting us have it in the GUI?

VSphere should also offer support to cleanly recover from full site shutdowns. Smaller vSphere clusters are capable of cleanly shutting down every VM and host for planned maintenance -- especially in the event of power outages -- so why not make it the standard for the entire environment? The way things currently stand, returning the entire environment to a fully running state is a painfully manual process.

Since vSphere is a fairly mature product, the days of major new features in the core product are probably behind us. Also, VMware has stated vSphere revenues have peaked and the majority of the company's growth comes from other products. This likely means VMware will be turning its focus toward developing newer products, like VSAN, NSX and modern applications, rather than continuing to innovate vSphere.

Next Steps

With vSphere in decline, what's next for VMware?

VMware vSphere 6 fails to make an impression

VSphere 6 Update 1 introduces new vCenter features

VMworld and 2016 IT conferences to attend

How well do you know VMware vSphere 6.5?

This was last published in June 2016

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