vSphere 6.7 is here! and the vCenter Server Appliance is now the default deployment. This release is full of new enhancements for the vCenter Server Appliance in all areas. Now customers have more tooling to help with monitoring. The vSphere Client (HTML5) is full of new workflows and closer to feature parity. The vCenter Server Appliance architecture is moving to a simpler deployment model. Did I mention the built-in File-Based backup now includes a scheduler? And the vCenter Server Appliance UI is sporting the Clarity theme? These are only a few of the new enhancements in the vCenter Server Appliance 6.7. This blog post will go into more details of the enhancements mentioned above and more.
One significant change for the vCenter Server Appliance is around simplifying the architecture. Going back to running all vCenter Server services on a single instance with all the benefits. We can now do exactly that with the vCenter Server Appliance 6.7. Introducing vCenter Server with Embedded PSC with Enhanced Linked Mode. Let’s take a look at the benefits this deployment model brings:
- No load balancer required for high availability and fully supports native vCenter Server High Availability.
- SSO Site boundary removal provides flexibility of placement.
- Supports vSphere scale maximums.
- Allows for 15 deployments in a vSphere Single Sign-On Domain.
- Reduces the number of nodes to manage and maintain.
vSphere 6.7 is also the last release to include vCenter Server for Windows, which has been deprecated. Customers can migrate to the vCenter Server Appliance with the built-in Migration Tool. In vSphere 6.7 we can now select how to import the historical and performance data during a migration:
- Deploy & import all data
- Deploy & import data in the background
Customers will also get an estimated time of how long each option will take when migrating. Estimated time will vary based on historical and performance data size in your environment. While importing data in the background customers have the option to pause and resume. This new ability is available in the vSphere Appliance Management Interface. Another improvement to the migration process is support of custom ports. Customers who changed the default Windows vCenter Server ports are no longer blocked.
vSphere 6.7. will support upgrades and migrations only from vSphere 6.0 or 6.5. vSphere 5.5 does not have a direct upgrade path to vSphere 6.7. Customers still on vSphere 5.5 will need to upgrade to vSphere 6.0 or 6.5 first and then to vSphere 6.7. Also, a vCenter Server 6.0 or 6.5 managing ESXi 5.5 hosts cannot be upgraded or migrated until the hosts have been upgraded to at least ESXi 6.0.
Monitoring & Management
A lot of investment went into improving monitoring for the vCenter Server Appliance. We saw these improvements starting in vSphere 6.5, and vSphere 6.7 is adding several new enhancements. Let’s first log in to the vSphere Appliance Management Interface (VAMI) on port 5480. The first thing we notice is the VAMI has received an update to the Clarity UI. We also notice there are several new tabs on the left-hand side compared to vSphere 6.5. There is now a tab dedicated to monitoring. Here we can see CPU, memory, network, and database utilization. A new section of the monitoring tab called disks is now available. Customers can now see each of the disk partitions for the vCenter Server Appliance, space available, and utilization.
File-Based Backup was first introduced in vSphere 6.5 under the summary tab and now it has its own backup tab. The first available option front and center when going to the backup tab is a scheduler. Now customers can schedule the backups of their vCenter Server Appliances and select how many backups to retain. Another new section for File-Based backup is Activities. Once the backup job is complete it will be logged in the activity section with detailed information. We can’t talk backup without mentioning restore. The Restore workflow now includes a backup archive browser. The browser displays all your backups without having to know the entire backup path.
Another new tab called Services is also within the VAMI. Once located within the vSphere Web Client and now in VAMI for out of band troubleshooting. All the services that make up the vCenter Server Appliance, their startup type, health, and state are visible here. We are also given the option to start, stop, and restart services if needed.
While the Syslog and Update tabs are not new to the VAMI, there are improvements in these areas as well. Syslog now supports up to three syslog forwarding targets. Prior, vSphere 6.5 only supported forwarding to only one. There is now more flexibility in patching and updating. From the Update tab, we will now have the option to select which patch or update to apply. Customers will also have more information including type, severity, and if a reboot is necessary. Expanding a patch or update in the view will display more information about what is included. Finally, we can now stage and install a patch or update from the VAMI. This capability was previously only available from the CLI.
vSphere Client (HTML5)
Another area where there has been significant investment in the vSphere Client. With vSphere 6.5 VMware introduced a supported version of the vSphere Client (HTML5). Included in the vCenter Server Appliance it only had partial functionality. The vSphere team has been working hard on getting the vSphere Client to feature parity. Based on customer feedback, the team has been optimizing and improving workflows. The release of vSphere 6.7 also marks the final release of the vSphere Web Client (Flash). Some of the newer workflows in the updated vSphere Client release include:
- vSphere Update Manager
- Content Library
- Storage Policies
- Host Profiles
- vDS Topology Diagram
Some of the workflows mentioned above are not all feature complete. VMware will continue updating the vSphere Client in future vSphere maintenance (patch/update) releases. We are almost there!
There is also one less client, The Platform Services Controller (PSC) UI (/psc) functionality is now part of the vSphere Client. Now located under the Administration menu, the PSC options are divided between two tabs. Certificate management has its own tab and all other management is under the configuration tab.
The vCenter Server Appliance 6.7 CLI also has some new enhancements. The first is the repointing enhancements using cmsso-util. While not a new feature, it was not available in vSphere 6.5 and makes a return in vSphere 6.7. We are talking about repointing an external vCenter Server Appliance across SSO Sites within a vSphere SSO domain. That’s not all you can do with repointing.
Customers can now repoint their vCenter Server Appliance across vSphere SSO domains. Can you say consolidation? The domain repoint feature only supports external deployments running vSphere 6.7. Built-in the domain repoint feature has a pre-check option, which I cannot stress enough to use. The pre-check compares the two vSphere SSO domains and lists any discrepancies in a conflict JSON file. This is your opportunity resolve any of the discrepancies before running the domain repoint tool. The repoint tool can migrate licenses, tags, categories, and permissions from one vSphere SSO Domain to another.
Another CLI enhancement is around using the cli installer to manage the vCenter Server Appliance lifecycle. The vCenter Server Appliance ISO comes with JSON template examples. These JSON templates are a way to ensure consistency across installs, upgrades, and migrations. Usually, we would have to run one JSON template from the cli installer at a time in the correct order. This manual per-node deployment is now a thing of the past with batch operations. With batch operations, several JSON templates can be run in sequence from a single directory without intervention. Before running use pre-checks option on the directory to verify the templates including sequence.
There you have it, the vCenter Server Appliance 6.7 is the new standard for running vCenter Server. This blog post highlights several of the new features in this release. I will also have more detailed posts on the features mentioned above and more, stay tuned. Please post questions in the comments section or reach out to me @emad_younis via Twitter.