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vSphere 5.5 EOGS - vSphere 6.5 Features Part 1 - vCenter

With vSphere/vSAN 5.5 reaching EOGS by September 19th 2018 there is good reason to prepare for upgrading your environment to vSphere 6.5. September 15th 2016 marked the GA date of 6.5 with 6.5 patch 02 the current version.

I wanted to cover some of the major additions 6.5 brings and also some of the not so spoken about features and benefits. When combined this makes 6.5 a very important upgrade for adding security and availability. It also provides a platform that is future ready for VMC on AWS and AppDefense.

vCenter 6.5

vCenter 6.5 provides a modern installer with the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) surpassing the vCenter windows install. VCSA is becoming the de-facto choice. This is due to the VCSA being a pre-bundled and tested virtual appliance. It runs VMware's Photon OS. With the OS being a minimal linux container host optimized to run on VMware. This makes lifecycle, patch management and troubleshooting much more efficient and standardized.

vCenter 6.5 VCSA provides the traditional vSphere Web Client and also the new HTML5 based vSphere Client. It also includes a migration tool, native HA and native backup and restore capabilities.

Migration Tool - The migration tool can be launched from the vCenter ISO image under the "migration-assistant" folder. This will do the migration copying the config from the old vCenter into the new deployment. It will migrate from Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 to VCSA 6.5. First the migration assistant is run to do pre-check's on the source vCenter, there is also a check against extensions. Once all looks good a prompt to start the migration will be presented. Then the vCenter "installer" is launched from the same ISO. In here we can choose Migrate.

Deploy the appliance specifying the source vCenter SSO username and password. Specify the ESXi host to deploy on along with ESXi username and password (e.g. root). Finally give the new appliance a name and root password. The rest is the same as deploying any appliance - give a deployment size, datastore, default gateway etc. Once deployed we can decide what to import as per screenshot.

Once the network configuration is enabled on the new vCenter the source will be shut down.

A walkthrough of the steps and can be found here

vCenter HA

Providing HA capabilities to vCenter is something that has been asked for quite some time. This is now possible with 6.5. It consists of an active, passive, witness nodes that are cloned from the existing vCenter. It can be added/removed at any time and there is a maintenance mode option that controls taking a node offline without a HA initiation. 2 types of replication are used with PostgreSQL synchronous replication for the active - passive DB. asynchronous is used for data outside of the DB between active - passive.

There are 2 types of workflows, basic and advanced. Basic runs the 3 nodes in the same cluster, automatically creating the passive and witness nodes along with DRS anti-affinity rules. The advanced option is when you want to deploy the active, passive and witness nodes across different clusters, vCenter's or DC's. This involves manually cloning the vCenter and deploying in remote sites.

*Note - A single vCenter license is needed to configure VCHA, not 3 as some customers have asked me

Backup & Restore

Native backup and restore is now out of the box, it can backup the vCenter Server and PSC directly with the virtual appliance management interface or API's. The backup files can be directed to SCP, HTTP(S) or FTP. When a restore is required the vCenter ISO can be launched and a restore initiated.

vSphere Update Manager

VUM is now fully integrated with vCenter Server, there is no requirement for a separate VM to host VUM. Instead VUM uses vPostgres that installed as part of VCSA. VUM is enabled by default. Baselines can be created and hosts upgraded to vSphere 6.5 or thereafter.

vCenter Appliance Management

You can connect to the appliance via https://appliance-IP-address-or-FQDN:5480 from a VCSA or PSC. Along with CPU and memory statistics it now also includes network and data statistics, disk usage and health. It will show a detailed view of the DB. The vSphere web client has OOTB alerts with auto shut down at 95% full, helping avoid DB corruption.

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