I’ve been away for a long time (almost two months), but with a good excuse, I think. I’ve been in the process of buying a house, so I’ve gone through the financial and administrative bureaucracy, bought new furniture, a new kitchen and have been packing and cleaning up my current place. Besides that, I’ve been incredibly busy at work, creating many documents for standard workflows for project implementations of VMware vSphere and a reference architecture for coworkers so they know what they need to think of when implementing VMware vSphere. And lastly, I rediscovered my passion to go sailing, which takes up a couple of my evenings and weekends, especially with the good summer weather in the Netherlands lately.

But a couple of documents on VMware’s Partner Central caught my eye. I found loads of PDFs and Powerpoint presentations demonstrating vSphere 4.1’s new features and improvements. I just couldn’t let this one slip by. It even seemed I was right on time, forbidding publication until only a couple of hours later. So, What’s New and Improved? Quite a lot, actually:

Hypervisor (ESX / ESXi) Improvements

  • Memory Compression (accelerates swap files, among other things);
  • Host-connected USB Device Pass through (uses networking for inter-host connectivity!);
  • Host AD Integration;
  • Boot from SAN for ESXi is fully supported;
  • ESXi scripted installation like ESX;
  • ESXi Local and Remote Tech Support fully functional from vSphere Client;
  • Couple of new vCLI commands (like esxcli swiscsi session, nic, vmknic, vmnic, vaai device, corestorage device).

Network and Storage Improvements

  • Storage I/O Control (Set quality of service priorities to guarantee access to a storage resource, works with the limits and shares we know);
  • Network I/O Control (only for Enterprise Plus with a dvSwitch, works with the limits and shares we know);
  • vStorage API for Array Integration (Full Copy, xcopy-like function to offload work to array, atomic test and set). EqualLogic already has support for this, as does EMC, among four or five others. This has huge implications for Storage vMotion, provisioning VMs from Templates, thin provisioned disk performance and VMFS scalability. Supports only block-based storage in this release;
  • Load based teaming (only for Enterprise Plus with a dvSwitch, avoids congestion by balancing load on the team);
  • Full IPv6 NIST Compliance;
  • Performance improvements in vNetwork (UDP and inter- and intra-host VM to VM performance improvements with Tx Worldlet and Large Receive Offload);
  • VMkernel TCP/IP Stack performance improvements (vMotion, NFS, FT Logging, iSCSI by as much as 90% with Broadcom iSCSI HW offload);
  • dvSwitch scales to more than 350 hosts per dvSwitch;
  • Cisco Nexus 1000v new and improved (easier software upgrade with ISSU and binary compatibility, Weighted Fair Queueing, VLAN pinning to pNIC, Scale Port Profiles beyond 512).

Cluster Improvements

  • HA Diagnostics and Health check, HA Operational Status;
  • DPM improvements: turn on or off with scheduled tasks. Disabling DPM brings hosts out of standby;
  • EVC improvements to support latest generation of processors (AMD NextGen without 3DNow!) and a couple of usability improvements like a better ‘add host’ workflow which checks for more errors;
  • DRS Host Affinity (strict/required and preferential affinity rules, enables you to segregate VMs based on blade-enclosure, for instance);
  • DRS Anti-affinity rules can now contain more than two hosts;
  • HA and DRS Cluster Limits: 32 hosts/cluster, 320 VMs/host (regardless of number of hosts/cluster), 3000 VMs/cluster. These are Post-Failover limits;
  • Improved HA-DRS interoperability during HA failover, reduce slot fragmentation and improve HA’s ability to restart failed VMs;
  • Improved vMotion performance and scale by a factor of five, 8 live vMotions simultaneously on 10Gbit/s, max 8Gbit per vMotion. 128 vMotions per datastore;
  • Fault Tolerance is now fully integrated with DRS (DRS load balances FT Primary and Secondary VMs, although EVC is required);
  • Host profiles will include Cisco Nexus 1000v, PCI device ordering, iSCSI Support, root password, PSA configuration.

Managementplatform Improvements

  • 64-bit-only vCenter (migration tool included) to enable scalability;
  • Virtual Serial Port Concentrator to connect to traditional, secure, low-bandwidth remote consoles, usually for Linux VMs;
  • Import Hyper-V VMs (powered-off VMs only at this time);
  • New performance monitoring metrics (amongst others for NFS, datastore activity per host and per VM. Even virtual disk activity per VM!);
  • Patch recall support for VMware vCenter Update Manager;
  • Support for 3rd Party modules patching (EMC PowerPath is one of them).

Data Protection

  • vDR support management for up to 10 appliances and 1000 VMs per vCenter Server;
  • File Level Restore for Linux VMs;
  • Improved VSS support for Microsoft Windows 2008 and 7 in the form of application level quiescing;
  • Extended support for DAS, CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and FC Storage;
  • Improved deduplication performance;
  • Better GUI and usability by improving the vSphere Client Plugin-in.

Naming Changes

  • VMotion if now vMotion. Also applies to Storage vMotion;
  • ESXi (Free Edition) is now called vSphere Hypervisor.

Shifting features between editions and kits

  • vMotion moved downstream to Standard Edition and Essentials Plus kit;
  • vSphere Storage APIs for Multipathing and vStorage API for Array Integration are moved downstream to Advanced;

Pricing

  • VMware vSphere Essentials Kit, $495 per 6 processors (includes VMware vCenter for Essentials);
  • VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kit, $3,495 per 6 processors (includes VMware vCenter for Essentials);
  • VMware vSphere Standard, $995 per processor;
  • VMware vSphere Advanced, $2,245 per processor;
  • VMware vSphere Enterprise, $2,875 per processor;
  • VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus, $3,495 per processor;
  • VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus and Cisco Nexus 1000v bundle, $3,895 per processor;
  • VMware vCenter Server Foundation, $1,495;
  • VMware vCenter Server Standard $4,995;
  • VMware vSphere Advanced Acceleration Kit for 6 Processors, $10,495;
  • VMware vSphere Midsize Acceleration Kit for 6 Processors, $17,795;
  • VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus Kit for 8 Processors, $26,395.