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New vSphere 6.5 features put spotlight on security

VM Encryption is one of many vSphere 6.5 features that focus on security, while Automated Space Reclamation is a feature that highlights the updates to storage.

The amount of updates and new features in vSphere 6.5 might have surprised some. The fact is, it wasn't a whole number upgrade, and the company waited to unveil the update until VMworld Europe rather than its larger show in Las Vegas.

But, since VMware made vSphere 6.5 generally available, it's clear there's a lot in this update. VSphere 6.5 places a heavy emphasis on security with three new features: Secure Boot, VM Encryption and Enhanced Logging. While the main focus is on security, VM Encryption offers management flexibility. Automation can be very useful if you want to securely manage a large data center.

While many new features revolved around security, the storage side saw updates to existing options. The Space Reclamation feature -- originally introduced in vSphere 5.0, before VMware suggested users disable it because of performance issues -- is back, but this time as Automated Space Reclamation.

Read these five tips to learn more about some of the top new vSphere 6.5 features and updates.

Automated Space Reclamation

Automation is a hot topic in the data center, so it's no surprise it was a focus of new vSphere 6.5 features. VMware originally introduced Space Reclamation in vSphere 5.0, but VMware eventually suggested users disable the feature because of performance issues. Space Reclamation was based on UNMAP commands -- users would enter the command to reclaim space from deleted VMs. The new Automated Space Reclamation feature eliminates the need for a command or a manual prompt and automatically reclaims the space left behind by deleted or moved VMs.

VMware also introduced a new Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) as one of the new vSphere 6.5 features. VMFS 6 added support for 4K native drives in 512e mode and changed the default snapshot type to SEsparse, which is more space-efficient. In VMFS 5, SEsparse was used strictly for virtual disks 2 TB or larger.

HTML5 officially replaces the C# client
Users have anticipated the change to the HTML5 Web Client for some time now. VMware announced the death of the C# client nearly six months before vSphere 6.5 debuted at VMworld Europe 2016 with HTML5. It's now simply called the vSphere Client.

The HTML5 Web Client began as a VMware Fling, but after just two months, VMware announced it would replace the C# client in vSphere 6.5.

One perk of the new vSphere Client, which is built into the vCenter Server Appliance, is Live Refresh. Administrators can check on the current status of alarms, VM power, current tasks and more, without having to constantly hit the refresh button.

DRS and HA get a boost

Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) has been around for a long time now, but it got a makeover in vSphere 6.5. This version of vSphere introduces Predictive DRS, a feature that integrates DRS with vRealize Operations Manager (vROps). Although it's just in tech preview, vROps collects historical server data -- such as memory utilization and CPU power info -- and uses that to predict what future usage might look like. DRS is network-aware in vSphere 6.5, which means DRS looks at the network usage and network requirements of VMs in addition to CPU and memory usage. This helps prevent VMs from being placed on a host with a saturated network.

Updated features for High Availability (HA) include Proactive HA, HA Orchestrated Restart and a simplified admission control. Proactive HA works with DRS, and allows administrators manually or automatically put the workloads into Maintenance Mode or Quarantine Mode, depending on your situation.

New choices with Fault Tolerance

Fault Tolerance (FT) is an important feature if you experience some sort of failure in your data center. If FT protected VMs fail, a secondary VM will take its place.

One of the biggest obstacles that prevented people from using FT was latency-sensitive applications. VMware made a move to correct that in vSphere 6.0 and reduced latency even more in vSphere 6.5. Another change is that FT received a new engine, replacing vLockstep technology with Fast Checkpointing, which keeps the VMs in sync with snapshots.

Along with a new licensing limit, another change in FT is the ability to choose the location of the second VM. One way to choose the location for the second VM is ranking ESXi hosts based on available network bandwidth.

VM Encryption puts twist on a known security feature

Encryption is nothing new to the security game, but, because of performance issues, it wasn't widely used to secure VM data. To try to erase the issues, VMware's VM Encryption completes the encryption process at the hypervisor level, instead of in the VM.

VM Encryption is managed via a storage policy and can be enabled per VM. Users create policies that define storage requirements for virtual disks, as well as the configuration files of a VM.

Now that you've caught up on some of the new vSphere 6.5 features, test how much you've learned. Take our vSphere 6.5 features quiz to see how much you picked up.

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