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The Lightest Sides of vSphere

(To mark the end of the year we are posting every day through January 1 with lighter vSphere and VMware topics. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. See them all via the “2019 Wrap Up” tag!)

Calendar IconWhether it’s a calendar year, a fiscal year, or even a year of life in the form of a birthday, the end of a year-long period of time naturally brings retrospection and introspection. With the concentration of holidays at the end of the calendar year retrospection is sometimes forced upon us, as family and friends we see and talk to remind us of old times and who we used to be. From there comes often comes introspection, creeping in as we let our brains and bodies relax. How does the person I used to be and the person I am relate? What do I want to accomplish in the next year, personally and professionally, to become the person I think I’d like to be? What is my plan to accomplish this, beyond just thinking it’s a good idea? How will I know if I’m on the right track?

As we’ve been writing this blog series it’s been fun to be both retrospective and introspective about VMware, too, because we can ask all those same questions. Playing on the recent astronomical turning point in our year – generally considered a positive event in the northern hemisphere but sadder news for our friends in the southern hemisphere as their days get shorter now – we asked some folks what the best feature of vSphere is. What is something about vSphere that has gotten them out of trouble, or made life a lot easier for them? Here’s what they said.

“vSphere [High Availability] saved many of my environments over the years.” – David S.

I, too, enjoy vSphere HA. It was always interesting to get a call from our operations center noting that it looks like something bad happened to a host, but all the workloads appear to be up again. This is especially true given that some of the most intensive (I/O- and CPU-intensive, with compression and deduplication) work done by a virtual infrastructure is at night during backup windows. If there’s an unstable piece of hardware (and it happens, moving parts wear out) the stress of the backup cycle will sometimes push it over the edge. Infrastructure that helps speed you towards recovery is extremely helpful, especially in the middle of the night.

Helpful tip: now is a good time to make sure your HA settings are set correctly. The defaults are conservative and might not be what you want. You can find great information about those settings in our documentation!

“Shared-nothing vMotion has really freed us from many barriers [we] faced.” – Anoop J.

At the beginning of this post I talked about retrospection & looking back on the past. There’s often a tendency to get nostalgic, but it’s a feature like vMotion that reminds me that there really weren’t “the good old days.” It’s easy to take vMotion for granted now but it was a game changer when it first shipped, and the improvements to it have enabled a flexibility in vSphere, and subsequently in our data centers, that is unmatched. It’s a wonderful thing being able to seamlessly move workloads around to enable patching and upgrades and outage avoidance, especially during the day when vSphere Admins are at work, properly caffeinated, and have teammates to help. Put simply, vMotion has been a real improvement to vSphere Admins’ work-life balance.

Helpful tip: there is a great VMware Fling called the “Cross vCenter Workload Migration Utility” that can really help if you’re thinking about vMotioning, cloning, or migrating more than a few virtual machines. Our own Niels Hagoort has written several in-depth posts on how vMotion works which are perfect for end-of-year reading. And yes, vMotion is both a noun and a verb!

“EVC was a gift to future me.” – Sharon J.

EVC is Enhanced vMotion Compatibility and it is an amazing feature. Have you ever noticed that you can only get a certain model of CPU for 18 months or so? If you build a cluster and later need to expand it, but can’t get the same CPUs, how will you vMotion between the servers? That’s where EVC comes in. It’ll make the CPUs compatible with each other so that running VMs can move back & forth between the old and new servers. It’s an option that you need to turn on early in the life of a vSphere cluster (or during other maintenance), but by doing that you give your future self a gift of easy expandability, migrations, and hardware replacement.

Helpful tip: Two tips. First, people sometimes say that EVC decreases performance but that isn’t generally true, or the answer is very nuanced depending on the applications and systems. Most enterprise workloads don’t take advantage of the CPU features that EVC might mask, and if you have a workload that does you can fix it with per-VM EVC, which enables more flexibility to handle these situations. Second, Niels Hagoort has also written an in-depth post on Enhanced vMotion Compatibility, which is an excellent read because it explains all of this very well. Niels is the vSphere Technical Marketing team’s hardware-focused person and, along with two coauthors, he has quite literally written the book on these topics.

Have another candidate for the best vSphere feature ever? Leave it in the comments!

(Come back tomorrow and help us examine the most underrated features of vSphere! For more posts in this series visit the “2019 Wrap Up” tag.)

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