VSphere features: Top 10 tips

These top 10 tips on vSphere features include advice on upgrading to vSphere, optimizing performance, creating vSphere virtual machines and comparing it with other hypervisors.

These top 10 VMware vSphere tips delve into important topics for solutions providers, including new vSphere features such as the Virtual Machine Communication Interface (VMCI). You'll also find out the best practices for vSphere upgrades and learn how to handle different deployment scenarios.

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By using these resources, you'll have the answers when your customers ask you which hypervisor -- Microsoft Hyper-V R2, vSphere or Citrix Systems XenServer -- will best fit their environment. These tips also provide information on creating and configuring virtual machines (VM) in vSphere, maximizing and tuning vSphere performance and understanding vSphere hardware requirements for different editions.

1. Comparing Hyper-V R2, vSphere and XenServer 5.5 pros and cons

When comparing the market-leading hypervisors, solutions providers need to know the pros and cons of Hyper-V R2, vSphere and XenServer 5.5 before they can make an informed recommendation to their customers. It's your job to help your customers decide whether the much-talked-about vSphere features outweigh VMware's high costs. You should also be aware of each hypervisor's hardware compatibility. This tip provides information on the features and support available for each vendor's product.

2. Tuning vSphere 4 hardware for optimal performance

To ensure your customers are maximizing their hypervisor investment, you need to learn the best practices for tuning vSphere 4 hardware. This tip offers information on vSphere hardware requirements and limitations for processors, RAM and disk controllers. You will also find out about the role that networking plays in tuning vSphere hardware and learn how to choose between networking cards or network trunking for your customer's guests.

3. Upgrading to VMware vSphere 4

The first thing you should do before recommending a vSphere upgrade to your customer is to analyze their current hardware and needs. From there, you can determine whether upgrading to vSphere or implementing vSphere from scratch is the right choice. You can also use this tip to answer questions your enterprise customers may have about vSphere upgrades.

4. Maximizing VMware vSphere 4 performance

Several tools are available to help solutions providers maximize vSphere performance. One such tool, VMware's Distributed Resource Scheduler, uses a weighted system to assign resources to guest systems. Another significant task for maximizing vSphere performance is monitoring activities, such as antivirus and backups, in the guest OS, because they can affect the whole virtualization stack. Solutions providers should know that activities that are happening in the guest OS can also have an impact on the hosts and the cluster.

5. Big vSphere features that don't get much attention

It's important that solutions providers are aware of the valuable, but less-publicized, vSphere features that can benefit their customers and make their own jobs easier, such as the VMCI and Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS). The VMCI is important to your customers because it permits a pair of VMs on the same host to communicate without having to go through the network. DVFS allows your customers' servers to switch CPU frequencies and voltages according to workload demands, which can save money on power and cooling costs.

6. Creating a virtual machine and VM configuration in VMware vSphere

Creating a virtual machine (VM) for vSphere is a very different process than creating a VM for VMware Infrastructure 3. The necessary steps for creating a virtual machine in vSphere include identifying the VM's hardware version and selecting disk format when creating a VM virtual disk. Deciding which guest OS to use and ensuring that the guest OS setting matches the guest OS and that is installed on the VM are also crucial steps.

7. Upgrading virtual machines for vSphere implementation

The final steps for upgrading virtual machines for vSphere implementation include manually upgrading VMware tools and virtual hardware. To avoid a manual upgrade, you need to know how to use the Upgrade Manager from the vCenter console to facilitate the process and ways to prepare for VM downtime.

8. VMware virtual machines in vSphere: Options and hardware

After creating VMware virtual machines in vSphere, solutions providers can add and removing hardware and edit the VMs' settings. Using features such as hot-add memory and hot-plug CPU allows you to add additional memory and CPU to the VM while it is powered on. Take a look at the other features and settings you should take advantage of after creating vSphere VMs in this tip.

9. Cisco Unified Computing System vs. VMware vSphere 4

Two of the major players in the private cloud market are Cisco Systems and VMware, but which of the two companies' offerings represents the best virtualization option for your customers' data centers? The two vendors have different goals in mind for the cloud, and this tip offers information on the benefits of using both companies' products. Cisco's Unified Computing System is meant to simplify cloud management and places an emphasis on the networking aspect of the cloud, while VMware vSphere 4 allows solutions providers to build internal private clouds or external clouds as needed. Find out where you stand in the Cisco Unified Computing System vs. VMware vSphere 4 debate with this tip.

10. Understanding VMware vSphere products and features

Using new VMware vSphere products and features, including Fault Tolerance and VMotion, can help solutions providers to more effectively manage vSphere performance. But first, you must learn about the various editions, such as vSphere Essentials or Enterprise Plus, and be able to recommend to your customers which edition is the best fit for their environment. Knowing about vSphere installation, pricing and its role in building internal or external cloud infrastructures is also vital to being a vSphere expert.

This was first published in June 2010

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