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The hottest VMware tips and tricks in 2015

From containerization to hyper-converged infrastructure, 2015 was an interesting year for VMware. Check out these top SVM tips for 2015.

It may be hard to believe, but we're only a few short weeks away from the start of 2016, and with it come promises of exciting new developments in the world of virtualization. Tempting though it may be to immediately look to the future and make predictions for releases in 2016, it's important to remember what major developments brought us to where we now stand. In the interest of this, let's take a moment to look back over the biggest news stories and best VMware tips and tricks of 2015.

EVO:RAIL creates a suite of software defined services

Last year at VMworld 2014, VMware unveiled plans for a hyper-converged infrastructure system to great fanfare. As VMware's first official foray into the world of hyper-converged infrastructure, EVO:RAIL -- formerly known as MARVIN, and later Mystic -- drew a great deal of attention and praise, particularly for its simplicity, but not everyone was on board. When VMware released its list of partners, many big-name hardware companies were notably absent, leading some IT professionals to remain skeptical of EVO:RAIL's efficacy. Fortunately, VMware's partners came through on the hardware end, and, in 2015, it was full steam ahead for EVO:RAIL.

Once EVO:RAIL was officially up and running, its appeal became increasingly apparent. EVO:RAIL's primary focus is the VMware software stack, compiled to create a suite of software-defined services, including EVO:RAIL engine and vCenter Server. On the hardware side, EVO:RAIL appliances, built by partners such as Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, offer four independent servers with dual Intel Xeon E5 processors and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. As an additional bonus, EVO:RAIL platforms are typically sold with three years' worth of software and hardware support.

Since its release, many comparisons have been drawn between EVO:RAIL and VMware's Virtual SAN (VSAN), indicating a fundamental misunderstanding of their core capabilities. Though both programs are linked -- VSAN comes as a part of EVO:RAIL's software stack -- they take highly different approaches to shared storage. When looking for shared storage offerings, it's essential for users to know what sets VSAN and EVO:RAIL apart, as well as EVO:RAIL's advantages over VSAN, in order to make an informed decision.

vSphere 6 virtualization platform update boasts 650 new features

A piece of VMware tips and tricks from 2015 wouldn't be complete without vSphere 6. When VMware released vSphere 6 in February of this year -- the first major update to its server virtualization platform in years -- the excitement in the IT industry was palpable. Beta testing, which began in June of 2014, suggested a bevy of new features, and February's release did not disappoint. In total, vSphere 6 boasts a whopping 650 new features, including Virtual Volumes and long distance vMotion, as well as improvements to preexisting software like VMware's polarizing Web Client.

Now, with the help of Mastering VMware vSphere 6, users can dive deep into VMware's most recent vSphere release and learn how to execute advanced procedures and utilize the full capability of VMware's server virtualization platform.

Changes to VMware Certifications

IT administrators are well aware that the world of IT is in a constant state of flux. The release of new technologies and updates to existing software and hardware necessitate new certifications, which individuals must complete to prove the legitimacy of their qualifications. Many IT pros view certifications as a necessary evil, as they require an investment of time, energy and money, but are usually worth the personal and financial cost, as they can significantly increase job security.

VMware is no exception to the rule when it comes to the relationship between change and certifications in IT. Shortly after the release of vSphere 6, VMware announced multiple changes in its certification tracks, replacing the VMware Certified Advanced Professional certification with VMware Certified Implementation Expert certification and introducing the vSphere 6 Foundations Exam as a requisite for the VMware Certified Professional  (VCP) certification. The VCP, a relatively new certification in its own right, serves as a basic assessment of candidates' knowledge of essential vSphere skills; it is intended to function as a lower level certification to put would-be VMware pros on the path toward high level -- and, eventually, expert level -- certifications. Ultimately, the alterations to VMware's certification requirements indicates a renewed dedication from the company to making certification worthwhile for candidates, as they are more affordable and showcase a broader skill set than ever before.

vSphere Integrated Containers part of the containerization trend

This past year saw a veritable container revolution, as the IT industry began to trend more towards the technology. Major vendors reacted accordingly, working quickly to deploy their own versions of container technology. Docker led the initial charge into container-based virtualization, and VMware soon followed suit; at VMworld 2015, VMware debuted its own container technology with vSphere Integrated Containers.   

Simply stated, vSphere Integrated Containers establish an environment in which containers can be deployed and managed within lightweight VMs. The end result of this type of VM environment is increased flexibility and scalability, two of the qualities that make container-based virtualization so appealing. VMware has further customized their container technology by allowing users to manage vSphere Integrated Containers through the existing vSphere Web Client. As an added element, vSphere Integrated Containers employs Instant Clone technology to supply a base Linux OS to each of its containers running within the virtual container host. This, in effect, prohibits containers from cross-communicating, thus preventing malware and crashes and eliminating the risk of limited scalability. VSphere Integrated Containers were certainly among the top VMware tips and tricks of 2015.

 vRealize Orchestrator manages multi-cloud workloads but is it practical?

Over the past year, orchestration and automation have become a major focus of IT, with software giants working hard to satisfy administrators' demands for efficient hybrid cloud management tools. This tech boom stems from the need for a simplified VM provisioning process; by utilizing orchestration and automation, administrators can streamline this process and focus the efforts of IT departments on organization through innovation.

VRealize Suite, released at VMworld 2014, is VMware's response to this need and was created in the interest of enabling companies to manage workloads from multiple cloud providers. However, the complexity of VMware's vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), which was designed to expedite the deployment process, had many administrators questioning vRealize's practicality. Fortunately, VMware rolled out updates to the vRealize Suite at VMworld 2015, including an update to vCenter Orchestrator, now known as vRealize Orchestrator (vRO).

VRO is appealing for a number of reasons. First and foremost, its graphical nature of designing workflows makes the automation process more convenient and accessible for administrators who may lack scripting knowledge. VRO also offers new features including linked clone technology and the ability to create a snapshot based on an existing snapshot, which may then be cloned by executing a "Clone from Snapshot" workflow. It's easy to see why so many administrators are drawn to vRO, as its stable of new features have produced more robust documentation and stabilized workflow environments.

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