vSphere 4.1 Released!

I am sure by now you have heard the news that VMware released vSphere 4.1. This announcement comes just over a month after the release of vSphere 4.0 Update 2 and exactly as predicted by Virtualization.info. The vSphere minor update brings many new and exciting as well as enhanced features to the server-class product. Instead of discussing everything that is new (e.g., VAAI) or improved (e.g., vMotion and HA) and instead of highlighting what people may consider the most important touch points (e.g., memory compression, storage I/O control and network I/O control), I would like to talk about several details of the announcement that I believe will be overlooked and their significance.

In there announcement, VMware warned people running ESX that they need to start planning and begin migrating to ESXi. As early as the end of the year VMware may remove on-going support of ESX. While there are plenty of reasons why VMware would want to do this, the transition will not be easy for all and will require significant changes for many (more on this in a later post). From VMware’s What’s New in vSphere 4.1:

  • VMware ESX. VMware vSphere 4.1 and its subsequent update and patch releases are the last releases to include both ESX and ESXi hypervisor architectures. Future major releases of VMware vSphere will include only the VMware ESXi architecture.
    • VMware recommends that customers start transitioning to the ESXi architecture when deploying VMware vSphere 4.1.
    • VMware will continue to provide technical support for VMware ESX according to the VMware vSphere support policy.
    • To learn more about the ESXi architecture and how to migrate from ESX to ESXi, go to the VMware ESX to ESXi Upgrade Center.

Another important item in the aforementioned link is that the vSphere Client is no longer included with the ESX/ESXi builds:

The reason for this is because web access will no longer be supported after 4.1. From the VMware vSphere 4.1 Release Notes – ESXi Edition:

  • vSphere Web Access. vSphere 4.1 is the last product release for vSphere Web Access. As a best practice, VMware recommends that you use the vSphere Client, which contains all the functionality of Web Access. Because vSphere Web Access is no longer being developed, support for this product is provided on a best effort basis.

Another significant change mentioned in the release notes is that as of 4.1 vCenter Server now requires a 64-bit OS:

vCenter Server Upgrades
vCenter Server 4.1 must be installed on a 64-bit system. You can upgrade from vCenter Server 4.0 to vCenter Server 4.1 on the same system if it is 64 bit. To upgrade, first confirm that your database is supported with vCenter Server 4.1, and back up your supported database, SSL certificates, and vCenter Server configuration. Then run the vCenter Server installer. The installer informs you that an earlier version of vCenter Server is on the computer and will be upgraded.

The primary reasons for this change include performance and scalability. While not everyone has had the experience of maxing out a vCenter Server instance (I have!) many people, particularly in large companies or working for a Cloud ISP, will be happy about the greatly increased capacity (see the Configurations Maximums for VMware vSphere 4.1 for more information). In addition, I am sure everyone can attest to the slow and sometimes unresponsive vCenter Server client of which this upgrade should help address.
I hope you find this announcement as exciting as I do. I encourage you to read up on all the literature and to ensure your virtualization environment is ready for the upcoming VMware changes.

© 2010, Steve Flanders. All rights reserved.

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