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VMware Explore 2022: What’s new in vSphere 8 & vSAN 8

VMware Explore 2022 kicked off this week. There are of course many announcements taking place across the whole suite of VMware products. In this post, I will focus primarily on the announcements related to the products that I work with on a regular basis. Those products are vSphere 8, vSphere Tanzu Standard (vSphere with Tanzu), and vSAN 8.

vSphere 8

In the vSphere 8 space, the most significant announcement in my opinion is the fact that we are delivering on Project Monterey. We got our first technical preview of Project Monterey back in 2020 by the VMware CTO, Kit Colbert. There were a considerable number of updates on Project Monterey at VMworld 2021, including the announcement of an early access program. This year, with the release of vSphere 8, VMware are announcing that there is now full support for DPUs (Data Processing Units), also known as SmartNICs, in the vSphere platform. vSphere 8 now provides a heterogeneous computing platform with support for CPUs, GPUs and DPUs. The official title for Project Monterey is vSphere Distributed Services Engine, which is basically an instance of ESXi running on ARM in the DPU.. This now gives us the ability to offload tasks to the DPU that have been historically associated with CPUs, e.g. I/O processing and the processing of network related infrastructure services. This should avoid CPU contention between application workloads and infrastructure workloads going forward, providing even more CPU resources to the applications. This should also facilitate a higher workload consolidation as well as a performance boost. This is because applications can now consume the CPU cores which are no longer needed to do infrastructure tasks. Another key take-away is the fact that these workloads, although they are offloading to DPUs, can continue to leverage core vSphere features such as DRS and vMotion for load balancing and availability purposes. This is achieved via support for the Universal Pass-Thru (UPT) feature available in vSphere 8. And the nice thing for a vSphere administrator is that the management and monitoring of the DPUs is built into the vSphere client. Speaking of DRS, the Distributed Resource Scheduler built into vSphere, it now takes into account memory bandwidth and latency requirements when doing workload placement. I’ll leave you with one final cool feature from an operational / lifecycle management perspective, and that is that vSphere administrators now have the ability to initiate ESXi upgrades across multiple hosts simultaneously in vSphere 8.

VMware Tanzu Standard (aka vSphere with Tanzu)

There are some significant updates to VMware Tanzu Standard (aka vSphere with Tanzu) platform and the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Service for deploying Kubernetes clusters. The first major enhancement is Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 2.0. This release introduces support for highly available, multi-AZ deployments in VMware Tanzu Standard, and subsequent deployments of Kubernetes clusters. This allows Kubernetes clusters, including the Supervisor Cluster, to be deployed across different vSphere clusters in your infrastructure, providing high availability in the event of site failures. The second major enhancement is a new API version for TanzuKubernetesCluster (v1alpha3) to support multi-AZ deployments, as well as a brand new API for Kubernetes clusters to align with ClusterAPI (v1beta1). This is the first step on our journey to unify all Tanzu Kubernetes offerings on the vSphere platform. What this means is that for those customers who are familiar with the tanzu CLI to create Kubernetes clusters, you can now use the same tanzu CLI commands to build Kubernetes clusters using the TKG Service on the Supervisor cluster as an endpoint. There is also a new Harbor Image Registry Service coming in this release, replacing the earlier embedded Harbor Image Registry. This will allow vSphere with Tanzu customers to use more up-to-date Harbor Registry features. I will be following up with additional posts highlighting these enhancements in more detail over the coming days & weeks.

Before leaving vSphere 8, it is worth mentioned some of the additional announcements around vSphere+, the new infrastructure platform that VMware is building to offer the benefits of cloud to on-premises deployments. I’ve already published a write-up of vSphere+ and vSAN+ on this site to coincide with the original announcement, but at VMware Explore 2022 reveals details about the integration of VMware Aria Operations (formerly vRealize Operations or vROps) as a new service available in the Cloud Console. This is very interesting as you can now have a single management entity overseeing all of the performance, security, capacity and costs associated with your on-premises deployments. I ‘borrowed’ a screenshot from the VMware Explore 2022 demonstration to give you an idea of how the interface looks from the Cloud Console. Expect to see more services added regularly as we go forward as we build out ways to simplify all on-premises operations, from inventory overviews, lifecycle management, security hardening, etc. You can read more about VMware Aria Operations here.

vSAN 8 / Express Storage Architecture

Let’s switch focus to vSAN 8, where there are some major enhancements to talk about. Not only is there a range of improvements to the original storage architecture (OSA) of vSAN, but there is also a brand new next-gen storage architecture called the Express Storage Architecture (ESA). It is the vSAN ESA that will be the focus of this post.

The most significant enhancement to the ESA is the new, efficient data path. vSAN ESA introduces a new architecture that is optimized for NAND Flash with NVME as a protocol bus. This allows vSAN to improve its flash storage features, such as writing data more efficiently. The important thing to highlight is that the user experience is the same as before. If you are already one of the existing 30,000 vSAN customers, then the management, monitoring and life-cycle management via the vSphere client remains the same for vSAN ESA. However, this new architecture introduces quite a few significant enhancements which I will attempt to highlight here.

That is only a snippet of the features introduced with the new vSAN ESA. Checks out Duncan’s excellent blog post on vSAN ESA for further details. Overall I think it is a very compelling story and a huge amount of engineering effort went into delivering this new architecture for vSAN. There are some requirements around device compatibility, CPU, memory and networking, so please check the vSAN ESA Ready Nodes compatibility list for supported servers.

I want to close this section by also mentioning vSAN+. This provides similar functionality to vSphere+. Check out my previous blog post for more details.

VMware Cloud Foundation+

Finally we come to VMware Cloud Foundation+ which is also extending the advantages of vSphere+ and vSAN+ to VCF. VCF+ is available with VCF v4.5, and presents all of the same benefits seen with the other cloud connected offerings. These benefits include a single cloud console to display the global inventory, as well as manage and monitor all of the on-premises VCF deployments. There are the added benefits of the new, streamlined upgrade mechanisms for vCenter Server. There is also access to cloud connected services such as VMware Cloud Disaster Recover for DRaaS and Ransomware Recovery. And of course, there is the new subscription model which simplifies license management.

As you can see, there are some very interesting announcements here for those customers with an interest in vSphere management, hyper-converged infrastructure. It should also be of interest to those customers responsible providing developer infrastructure such as Kubernetes on vSphere. Check out the VMware Explore 2022 site for further details and access to breakout recordings and solution keynotes.

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