(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!)
We at VMware take a lot of pride in what our platforms enable our customers to build and achieve. We have hundreds of thousands of customers across all seven continents, with deployments ranging in size from tiny to enormous. Our customers run vSphere and vSAN on thousands of different hardware platforms (as of this writing there are 2805 that are certified for ESXi 6.7 U3), providing a stable and secure platform for 242 supported Guest OSes (on ESXi 6.7 U3, as of this post). That doesn’t even count the guest OSes that aren’t supported but are still being run, such as Windows NT 4.0 and Novell Netware!
Every year VMware surveys our customers to see what they’re thinking and how we can help them with their work. Here are three big areas that have our customers’ attention.
AI & ML is interesting to a lot of people in a lot of areas, and it appears to us as interest in GPUs and BitFusion.
Graphics Processing Units, or GPUs, are specialized processors that have a lot in common with early supercomputers. They use a vector instruction set, versus the scalar instruction set found in general purpose Central Processing Units, or CPUs. Vector instructions were originally used to improve graphics capabilities on PCs, but it wasn’t long before people adapted other problems to them as well. Raw computing power can be measured in many ways, but GPUs are often measured in the same manner as their supercomputer predecessors, in Floating Point Operations per Second or FLOPS. A single $1500 GPU and its 15+ teraFLOPS of processing power would have made it one of the fastest supercomputers in the world in 2007. It isn’t surprising that so many people are interested in bringing that type of computing power to bear on corporate computing problems.
What does VMware bring to the table here? First, there’s growing support for GPUs in vSphere, both in terms of the ability to use them as well as smoothing out operational issues with GPUs (such as enabling vMotion). If you’re interested in GPUs we have a guide to Using GPUs for Machine Learning on VMware vSphere, which includes step-by-step instructions and insights for vSphere Admins.
Second, BitFusion technology allows GPUs to be virtualized, partitioned, shared, and managed as a pooled resource for workloads, in public clouds and on-premises. It’s very interesting technology, doing to GPUs what vSphere does to server hardware, allowing applications using standards-based OpenCL and NVIDIA CUDA frameworks to interact with virtualized GPUs without any modifications to the applications. The GPU the application is using could be somewhere else in the data center and being shared among other workloads and nobody is the wiser.
Attention to security and compliance is growing.
One of our messages is always that security should come first, because good security will lead to good compliance. vSphere is a wonderfully secure platform, with third-party international validation to back it up. There are lots of great security resources out there, and two great starting points are the vSphere Security Configuration Guide and the vSphere Central web site. Something people are increasingly interested in is the ability to script security controls, and the vSphere Security Configuration Guide has sample PowerCLI code for each & every control present. Not only is that helpful for securing infrastructure, it’s also helpful for learning PowerCLI & PowerShell, too.
Beyond infrastructure security there’s a massive realization that security is everybody’s job, and that workloads that aren’t as secure as the infrastructure mean that everybody is vulnerable, especially with the newest CPU vulnerabilities. This is where products like VMware’s CB Defense comes in. CB Defense has been tested and shown to defend applications against everything in the MITRE ATT&CK framework, and its ability to scan workloads for vulnerabilities and help prioritize remediation is a massive help for vSphere Admins.
When it comes to compliance there’s no better platform out there than vSphere, again with official, published, legitimate US Department of Defense STIGs. VMware has also published guides to securing and auditing the products included in the VMware Validated Designs (VVDs). If you’re interested in NIST 800-53 compliance there is a compliance kit available publicly, as part of the VVD documentation (look on the left in the menu!), that will guide you and your risk auditors. The nice thing about NIST 800-53 is that it maps to other compliance frameworks, too, so PCI, HIPAA, CJIS, CIS, and others can follow the same guidance.
Last, the new Skyline Health collaborations between VMware Support and vSphere bring security monitoring to the table. Skyline will tell you proactively about issues in your environment so you can act before it becomes a problem. vSphere Admins, like most sysadmins and network admins, often operate in a “no news is good news” manner, and this helps preserve this! Similarly, customers that have discovered the amazing capabilities of vRealize Operations Manager both for monitoring and rightsizing also have seen all the new work that has gone into the compliance and security monitoring there. Monitoring speaks directly to availability, which is a key part of information security (confidentiality, integrity, AND availability!), so you can frame that vRealize Operations Manager purchase in your next Enterprise License Agreement as a security move (don’t laugh — I’m serious!).
It isn’t a surprise that containers are on people’s minds.
You might have heard the news about VMware’s Project Pacific, building native Kubernetes functionality directly into vSphere to support containers and container orchestration. I can’t tell the story better here than Kit Colbert already did, so I direct you to his introduction. This is exciting news because direct, open-source Kubernetes installations are very daunting, so VMware bringing it into vSphere so vSphere Admins can use all the skills they have already to deliver this functionality to their enterprises is huge. Plus, it brings all the security and operational controls and governance that you’ve had for decades in vSphere.
Help Us Help You
If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to participate in a survey, a beta, or a focus group I urge you to do it. Those are helpful to us because they let us know what you’re thinking, and they’re helpful to you because you will get products that better address your organization’s needs. Similarly, if you have product feedback, let your account team know. I often tell people to help us help you and it’s much appreciated by us as a way to learn how to better serve you.
As always, thank you for being our customers.
(Come back tomorrow for a look into the work that VMware is doing to enable virtualization in Africa! For more posts in this series visit the “2019 Wrap Up” tag.)