VMware plans to deprecate the vmkLinux APIs and associated driver ecosystem with the next numbered release (not an update release) of VMware vSphere.  The next version of vSphere will be the terminal release for which vmkLinux APIs and its associated driver ecosystem will be available.

VMware vSphere leverages a vast vSphere driver ecosystem to run various I/O stacks like networking and storage on server platforms.  This ecosystem is built out with technologies from many I/O partners. To better address the need to build software-defined infrastructure (SDI) based on vSphere, VMware introduced the vSphere kernel native API and associated native I/O driver ecosystem back in vSphere 5.5. Since then VMware has consistently worked with a broad set of OEM and I/O partners to build best of breed solutions on the new interface. For example, in vSphere 6.5 we introduced additional support for many devices and drivers, and we plan to continue that work in future releases of vSphere.

Top 5 Benefits of Native Driver Model:

  1. Reduced time spent at interrupt level (to an absolute minimum); reduces processing when accessing shared resources. Less time spent in waiting for the resources.
  2. Ability to leverage the scheduler to move as many cycles as possible into the scheduler’s realm. e.g. task completion handling is moved to a high priority kernel under scheduler’s control.
  3. The native driver model has been designed to be compatible with kernel preemption.
  4. Better support, management and debugging capabilities
    • Enables long term binary compatibility.
    • A single point-device manager manages the hierarchical device objects inside kernel for a given physical device.
    • The native driver API enables the flexibility to develop debugging tools for ESXi more naturally and effectively.
  5. Improved performance and CPU savings.

VMware’s “native” vSphere driver ecosystem has already been adapted by the majority of I/O vendors and used in a vast number of customer deployments from vSphere 6.0 onwards. VMware plans to continue to broaden its ecosystem based on the native driver model to address market needs. After the deprecation of vmkLinux, the vSphere kernel native API will be the only interface to integrate drivers with vSphere. Most customers won’t need to do anything as they adapt to the vSphere release after deprecation since most of the current and all future hardware will be compatible with the “native” vSphere driver ecosystem. For a small percentage of hardware, which are based on very old I/O technologies, it is possible that future vSphere releases may not be compatible after deprecation.

Additional Resources