vSphere 6: Reasons to learn it right now

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Here's a fun fact: VMware vSphere is the leading hypervisor in the world today. That's undoubtedly due to its trailing list of advanced features, comprehensive offering, strong eco-system and over 100,000 certified experts. VMware has a history of releasing a fairly steady cadence of major and minor releases, all with new innovations in enterprise virtualization and the software defined datacenter.

Not surprisingly, the release of vSphere 6 on March 12, 2015 was an exciting day for IT Pros around the world. Heck, I was so excited that I created an entire course about it. So, why exactly should you be just as thrilled about a new hypervisor? And why should you invest your time in learning vSphere 6? The answer lies in these six reasons.

No. 1: New usability

There's a lot of enterprise tech out there but, in many cases, most are painful to learn and use on a daily basis. VMware is in the process of moving its primary management interface from its Windows client to its Web-based administrative client for greater usability, flexibility and compatibility. While previous versions of the vSphere Web Client have been a great step in the right direction, they haven't always been fast or fun to use.

In fact, VMware admins have been slow to adopt the Web client for these reasons. With the new vSphere 6 Web Client, usability and performance issues have been resolved. I don't usually put usability as the first most exciting feature of a new product but, to be honest, I'm enjoying the new vSphere 6 Web client so much that it was the first thing that came to mind when I wrote this list. Listen, just try it -- you'll see what I mean.

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No. 2: Improved vCenter architecture and easy install

In vSphere 6, the PSC makes administering a large and distributed vSphere infrastructure much easier. You'll notice that the architecture of vCenter has been redesigned with a new Platform Services Controller at the highest level. The role of the PSC is to provide identity management for vSphere and any application that interacts with it. In other words, it provides single single on (SSO), storing and generation of SSL certificates, centralized VMware license repository, and basically anything that needs to be shared across a large or distributed virtual infrastructure (things like permissions, tags, categories, and more). As a bonus, the PSC very easy to install, especially in lab and small environments where you can use the vCenter Server Appliance and install the PSC along with vCenter.

Speaking of the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA), it's now just as scalable as vCenter for Windows, as it supports up to 1,000 hosts per vCenter, 10,000 powered on VMs, 64 hosts per cluster, 8,000 VMs per cluster, as well as vCenter Linked Mode.

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No. 3: Performance and scale

Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere have been trying to leapfrog one another when it comes to their scalability (configuration maximums) for some time now. So, it's no big surprise that vSphere 6 now offers greater scale than ever before. Will you ever create a VM that has 128 vCPUs, 4TB of RAM? Probably not. However, it's good to know that your hypervisor can scale far beyond the needs of today. Here's how vSphere 5.5 compares to vSphere 6, with almost every scalability statistic being double that of the previous version:

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No. 4: VSAN 6 and VVOLs

VMware VSAN (Virtual SAN) is still relatively new, but it's gaining traction. VSAN allows you to eliminate your SAN or NAS and distributes the storage of your virtual machines across your ESXi hosts, using local flash and HD storage. It does this while still providing support for advanced vSphere functionality, such as high availability and distributed resource scheduler (DRS). With the release of vSphere 6, VMware's VSAN has upped its game with some massive performance improvements:

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Additionally, vSphere 6 means that the VMware Virtual Volume (VVOL) standard is now generally available and, for those who have a storage array that can support it, VVOLs enable per-VM management of storage from vSphere (something that VSAN offers inherently). This will allow you to define per-VM level performance, availability and data protection policies to ensure that the applications inside the VM receive the storage functionality they require.

No. 5: VMotion and fault tolerance enhancements

vSphere 6 lets you do some very cool things with vMotion including cross-vSwitch vMotion, cross-vCenter vMotion and long distance vMotion. It also supports fault tolerance (this protects VMs from ever going down, even if a host or storage fails) with up to four vCPUs and 64GB of RAM (previously it was limited to just two vCPUs, and storage wasn't fault tolerant).

No. 6: Certification, the new VCP6 and VCA6

Finally, for those interested in certification (and you should be if you have any interest at all in vSphere), vSphere 6 brings a whole new suite of associated certifications and the well-known VMware certified professional (VCP) is now broken into two different courses (a vSphere 6 Foundations exam and a specialty exam). VMware now offers a certification for the entry-level IT worker (the VMware Certified Associate / VCA) all the way up to the advanced design architect (the VMware Certified Design Expert / VCDX). However, VMware's flagship certification is still the VMware Certified Professional (VCP), which now comes in four areas of specialization.

Stay tuned

If you're interested in obtaining a VCP6-DCV or upgrading your VCP to a VCP6-DCV, we have some courses in the pipeline you won't want to miss. For one, I'm working on a course covering the VMware VCP6 foundations exam (slated for July 2015 release), and Greg Shields will follow that with a VCP6-DCV specialization course. In the meantime, you can start learning the new features of vSphere 6 with my new Pluralsight vSphere 6 What's New course.

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Contributor

David Davis

David has authored over 50 courses for Pluralsight around enterprise data center technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and (especially) VMware vSphere. He is a partner at ActualTechMedia.com where he creates compelling enterprise technology content, moderates online events, and helps to connect some of the best-known technology companies in the industry with the end user community. With over 20 years in enterprise technology, he has served as an IT Manager, administrator, and instructor. David is an 11x VMWare vExpert, VCP, VCAP, & CCIE# 9369.