Greg Stuart In this special guest post, Greg Stuart writes about his favorite vSphere 5 features. This guest post is in Greg’s own words.

By now, you’ve likely heard about VMware’s latest release of its industry-leading vSphere virtualization suite, vSphere 5. If you are a blogger or technical person, I’m sure you have some level of deep dive with the product or were even a beta tester. Either way, it’s an exciting release, and one that has generated plenty of chatter around the globe. So much has already been said about vSphere 5, good and bad, but I want to focus on what I think are the coolest new features of the Cloud Infrastructure Suite release. (I promise this article won’t have anything to do with licensing; I think enough has been said about that.) There are so many top ten and top five lists out there; I thought I would be unconventional and share my two favorite vSphere 5 features. Frankly, there are so many cool features of vSphere 5; it’s hard to pick! Here are my two favorite features of vSphere 5.

#1 vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA)

With the release of vSphere 5, VMware has included the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA). Up to this point, in our virtual datacenters, we’ve had to create a virtual machine dedicated to vCenter Server. This virtual machine had to have a Windows Server operating system installed so that it could host the vCenter Server. Along with the vCenter Server, you also needed to have a separate database server (VMware best practice). That being said, vCenter Server came with SQL Server Express, which only works in very limited situations due to its limit of 50 virtual machines. Since your datacenter has or will have more than 50 VMs, you would need to have a licensed copy of SQL Server 2005 or 2008 (sorry I can’t mention Oracle) to go along with your licensed copy of a Windows Server OS. Unfortunately, the vCenter Server been a necessary evil to get your vSphere environment off the ground and to be in control of management. With vSphere 5, you can simply install the vCSA and have your vCenter up and running in just a few minutes. With vCSA, there’s no longer a need to rely on a Windows Server OS license to install vCenter. You can save a lot of time that otherwise would be spent on installing a Windows Server, a database server, and then having to install vCenter. Further, vCSA comes prepared out of the box with a local database capable of storing your vCenter data; I’m stoked about this development, as I hate configuring SQL Server. Once you have the vCSA in place, you download the vSphere Client, which allows you access to vCenter Server’s full inventory of clusters, hosts, VMs, datastores, and resource pools.

#2 vSphere Web Client

With the release of the vSphere Web Client, you can effectively manage your virtual environment via the web. The key word here is effectively. The Windows-based vSphere Client is currently written on C#, while the new vSphere Web Client is written on Adobe Flex, which makes things much nicer and more presentable to the end user. What’s even more convenient for the end user is simply that it’s a web based client that can be accessed remotely without sacrificing functionality or presentation. With the vSphere Web Client, you get enhanced accessibility to the vCenter Server by providing the virtualization administrator with the ability to carry on with his or her familiar user experience; only now, from his or her platform of choice by delivering it via a web browser.

The user interface is very similar to that of the Windows client. There are three columns, or panels, that you see when you log in. As you select objects from the left panel, the center panel screen changes to display informational panels called portlets. These portlets will display the object’s details and configuration information, and they are fully customizable. You can collapse them as needed and re-order them to see only the information that you want to see. At the top of the client, there is a search box that you can use to search your entire vCenter inventory. You can use the advanced search to specify more detailed search criteria, such as virtual machines, resource pools, and clusters. It’s important to note that getting started with the Web Client requires the installation of the vSphere Client Web (Server), which is an install done on vCenter Server. When the install is complete, the next step is to allow vCenter to connect with your Web Client, which is also a simple procedure. Once the install is complete and vCenter is talking to the Web Client, you simply point your browser towards the server with your new vSphere Web Client URL. The full installable version of the vSphere Client is still available with the installation of ESXi, but it’s more likely that the vSphere Web Client will reign supreme in the months to come. Here’s a great demo video from VMware that you will help acquaint you with the vSphere Web Client. Check out this YouTube video of the vSphere Web Client.

About Greg Stuart

Greg Stuart lives in Mesa, Arizona and writes the vDestination blog. Greg can be followed on Twitter @vDestination.

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