Reporting from the Field Issue #3: It’s not just about vCenter….


Typically i’m sent to customers to implement and configure VMware products, both Greenfield deployments as well as upgrades…with the latter becoming more commonplace.  Usually, the first part of the first day is spent on talking about the latest features and advancements in the version of vSphere I am upgrading or deploying, right now, 5.5 (Update 1 is bit early in release still).  What I notice is the lack of understanding of what the overall vSphere “Solution” delivers with supporting features and functionality.

The customers really are surprised when I start breaking down the additional infrastructure capabilities and supporting products.  Yes, some of this depends on the Editions, but lets face it, we don’t implement a ton of Essentials these days.

While vCenter is the centralized core management product for you vSphere environment, additional products are included to provide Operational Management, Disaster Protection, Support Assistance, and Backup/Recovery.  All this in one complete product!  Let me first point out that, in some cases, you will not be getting the “Advanced” version functionality, however, you are gaining functionality that will help in Managing, Troubleshooting, Protecting, your vSphere Infrastructure in a Proactive Manner.  This is what IT has been asking for for years.  Tools that will allow them to move away from the reactive days of troubleshooting, and recovering, and now, proactively providing a robust and stable platform to their customers.

Let’s break down some of the supporting products that come with all editions of vSphere with the exception of Essentials:

1. vCenter Operations Management Foundation: Provides operations management for health and performance with proactive smart alerts, operations groups, health learning, and self-learning performance analytics.  One of the features that I love about this product is that there is some integration into the WebcCient which allows you to see the health throughout the different tiers, ie DataCenter, Cluster, Host, VM, etc.  Since a vSphere Admin would spend most of his/her time in the WebClient, it provides that “single pane of glass” management to also view analytical health and performance data.  This is provided as a easy to install/configure vApp with two Virtual Appliances.

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2. vSphere Data Protection: vDP provides a backup solution built on EMC’s Avamar technology.  Once again, it’s another product natively managed through the WebClient interface and provides one step recovery of full virtual machines or file level restores.  By combining industry leading technologies like de-duplication and Change Block Tracking, vDP reduces network congestion by only backing up the changes and only one copy of the data. This functionality is also provided in an easy to install/configure Virtual Appliance.

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3. vSphere Replication:  VMware’s Replication Engine provides a robust protection platform for your virtual machines.  It copies only the changed blocks to the recovery site, decreasing bandwidth requirements, in turn, providing agressive RPO’s (Recovery Point Objectives).  vSphere Replication is a Host based replication solution that operates at the VMDK level which allows the replication of datastores on any storage, local, VSAN, Array based, etc.  Again, an easy to install/configure set of Virtual Appliances is provided for you.

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4. vShield Enpoint: This Security feature that’s included with vSphere changes the way we look at Malware management.  Previously, you were required to install an intrusive set of software on each server to provide protection against Viruses.  This caused overhead on the sever especially during scans and updates.  vShield Endpoint allows the offload of this protection with cooperation of supported Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware products to the virtual appliances provided by the product such as Trend Micro Deep Security.  vShield is delivered, you guessed it, by a Virtual Appliance.  This appliance manages the kernel level module communication with each Host in your vSphere Cluster with Endpoint installed.

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5. vCenter Support Assistant: Last but not least we come to the vCenter Support Assistant which I find as an valuable tool.  vCSA is a free plugin that enhances the support experience by accelerating support request resolution, and by providing proactive notifications of known issues and resolutions by uploading log data regularly to VMware which is matched against a dynamic list of known issues.  Integrated into the WebClient, you can open support requests, and monitor existing SR’s, and even generate diagnostic support bundles that can be uploaded to VMware.  Again, provided in a easy to install/configure Virtual Appliance.

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As you can see, vSphere is not just about vCenter, though the supporting products are integrated within the WebClient, but it’s a complete solution that provides the best Virtualization platform in the business, just ask our customers, Operations Management, Backup/Recovery, DR Protection, Security & Malware protection, and an easy to use Proactive Support solution.

I encourage all Engineers to Educate your customers on these supporting products as they provide useful functionality that can make their lives easier.

Remember, it’s not just about vCenter/ESXi, it’s the capabilities that are provided in a total SOLUTION.

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