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Enabling a full virtualised infrastructure

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Kathy Gibson reports from VMworld in Barcelona – Tens of thousands of companies around the word use vSphere to drive their software-defined data centres, and their businesses.
“But digital transformation is not without challenges,” says Ray O’Farrell, chief technology officer of VMware.
“It creates an ever more complex environment. And, because the whole organisation is dependent on the infrastructure, you have to be more cognisant of threats.
“And you need a universal infrastructure that can support both existing applications and new apps, services and frameworks.
“So you need some of the best infrastructure software in the world.”
vSphere 6.5 helps to dramatically simplify the user experience, offering comprehensive built-in security and a universal apps platform.
“It meets the challenges of the SDDC head-on,” says O’Farrell.
At the core of vSphere 6.5 is the vCenter Server Appliance, creating a simplified architecture and streamlined operations to enable a simpler user experience.
High availability is now native, so return to operation is less than five minutes; and it has simplified patching for operating system, application and database – all with a single patch.
New REST APIs are enabled because infrastructure is offered as code, while the Windows to appliance model offers a simple migration service.
vSphere 6.5 can run six-times more operations per second as vSphere 6.0; and a single vCenter now supports up 120 000 machines.
The user experience is topped off with a new user interface, HTML5 vSphere client that is modern, responsive and easy to use.
Security in vSphere 6.5 is built-in and comprehensive, spanning access, infrastructure and data.
With vSphere 6.5, VMware has enabled a universal app platform. This includes all the big application vendors, cloud-native in inhouse-development software.
A big move is the ability to handle big in-memory databases like SAP Hana.
vSphere 6.5 includes integrated containers, and has announced support for various container technologies and management systems.
“This is among the most important infrastructure out there because of its unparalleled value to enterprise teams. Over the years we have created an ecosystem around vSphere.
In this release, VMware has focused on the best TCO and ease of use, as well as on security and the ease of running any application.”
Storage virtualisation
To truly enable a software defined data centre, infrastructure beyond the server has to transform.
VMware has been working Virtual SAN to enable integration and management, while opening up to support many different workloads that can be run across multiple platforms.
Yanbing Li, senior vice-president and GM of the storage and availability business unit at VMware, explains that these facilities al extend into the Cross-Cloud Architecture.
VMware has released VSAN 6.5 to add iSCSI access for physical workloads as well as Direct Connect for two-node deployments.
Coming soon, Li says, is a next-generation VSAN that will include a software-encrypted capability, and multi-layer protection for stretched clusters.
In just two and a half years, more than 5 000 customers have bought into VSAN, making it the most widely-adopted storage management technology.
Importantly, VSAN is ready to take advantage of the Cross-Cloud Architecture.

Network virtualisation
Network virtualisation is relevant and critical for every CIO and needs to be part of their planning going forward.
“We know that the data centre is moving from a hardware infrastructure to a software infrastructure,” says Rajiv Ramaswami, executive vice-president and GM: networking and security at VMware.
With NSX, the opportunity for CIOs is massive, he adds. In the past 18 months, VMware has grown its customer by 400% to more than 17 000 customers.
Among the challenges today are concerns about security, automation and application continuity.
In terms of security, says Ramaswami, a data breach can cost as much as $4-million.
VMware has addressed this issue with micro-segmentation, where every data package effectively gets its own firewall
App provisioning can create delays, but automating the process can greatly reduce this, says Ramaswami. And, while downtime results in both revenue loss and reputation damage, because NSX is always-on it helps to alleviate the problem.
CIO’s goals won’t change in the future, Ramaswami says. But a lot things are changing around the CIO: user behaviours, infrastructure and architecture are changing all the time.
“The vision for NSX is to help you manage this environment.”

Container support
Modern applications are increasingly being built using containers, says Kit Colbert, chief technology officer: cloud platform business unit at VMware.
However, IT has a problem trying to build an integrated stack of applications when they are working both on-premise and in the cloud. “They need to manage the whole stack, and deliver it as a service,” Colbert says.
VMware’s Photon Platform is an end-to–end app development stack that offers highly scalable compute, network and storage fabric; and adds a scale-out plane.
The company offers a couple of versions of Photon Platform, including both a free edition that lets users try it out; and a version that is integrated with Pivotal’s cloudFoundry.
But users want more, says Colbert. “And users are talking about Kubernetes, which handles the deployment and management of containers.
“So we are announcing a new version of Photon Platform that offers Kubernetes as a service, enhanced with all the benefits of the Photon platform.”
Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerised applications. It groups containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery.
The VMware Photon Platform will also add networking and storage services powered by VMware NSX and VMware Virtual SAN, respectively.
With these new services, Photon Platform offers an end-to-end enterprise cloud-native infrastructure platform for running modern, containerised applications in production, with support provided by VMware.
As developers adopt cloud-native application methodologies, architectures and technologies to reduce application development lifecycles. The VMware Photon Platform will deliver access to the services needed to build and run modern applications, including Kubernetes as an on-demand service in customers’ data centres.
The Photon Platform, announced in August 2015, automates IT infrastructure provisioning and allows businesses to focus on their development efforts versus building, operating and supporting a custom solution.
The new services include:
* Kubernetes as a service – VMware Photon Platform will enable IT operations teams to deliver Kubernetes as a service to developers in a multi-tenant fashion for workload isolation and security. Kubernetes clusters – which can be sized from single node clusters to hundreds of nodes – can be provisioned in minutes with developers being able to scale up their clusters as needed with no down time.
* Virtual networks powered by VMware NSX – Photon Platform will introduce network services based on the industry leading VMware NSX. Initially, the platform will provide switching and routing services. Over time, the platform will offer a complete set of logical networking elements and services.
* Hyperconverged storage powered by VMware Virtual SAN – Photon Platform will introduce block storage services featuring VMware Virtual SAN, offering flexible, programmable and proven persistent storage for containerized and cloud-native applications. The service will deliver elastic storage that scales up and out to enable rapid application deployment. Workloads will benefit from robust data services such as deduplication, stretched clusters, erasure coding and more. Built using a hyperconverged infrastructure model, Photon Platform offers customers a simplified hardware architecture that enables customers to scale-out their server and storage resources incrementally. Photon Platform will also connect to external NAS and SAN arrays.