Virtualized environments are now more than half of all server usage, and growing rapidly – with VMware as the recognized leader.
In spite of the hoopla around the new vSphere 5 offerings, there are some real things you’ll need to consider before deciding to make the investment to upgrade to the new environment. The short story is that it can make sense if the new functionality is needed to support your initiatives, and that a phased approach is probably required for existing implementations.
In fact, you may want to start thinking about transitions in virtualization technology the way that you think about OS upgrades –
- Do it first in areas that would benefit from the change and for new initiatives
- And only transition existing infrastructure use when either support policies or technology transitions require it.
There were some great stats given at last month’s VMworld conference about the adoption and use of VMs –
- 59% of all server workloads are virtualized (total – existing and new combined)
- A new VM is created every 6 seconds
- 20 million VMs are in use today
- Today – more VMs are in flight with vMotion at any given instant, then there are airplanes in the air
And at the Gartner ITOM conference earlier this year more stats were reported about the growth of VM usage (numbers were for Gartner customers)
- 85% of customers plan to have a private cloud initiative underway by the end of next year
- 80% of cloud initiative money is headed for private clouds
- 5x growth in the virtualization market from 2010 to 2015
These stats show that were all clearly headed towards a more “virtual world” – And VMware is the recognized leader, with a very high percentage of global and mid-market companies already VMware customers.
But should you move to vSphere 5?
With all of this increasing use, many of you are likely managing VMware environments already today and thinking about what to do about the newly release vSphere 5 offerings.
There are some critical things you need to think about before making the investment in time, training and financial commitments to the new infrastructure VMware announced.
Make sure to consider the following 4 things:
- Key new functionality
- Tool compatibility
- Cost comparison to vSphere 4
- End of life policies
Key new functionality
If the initiatives you have underway (or for MSP’s initiatives you are supporting for your customers) truly require some of the new functionality in vSphere 5, a transition for those initiatives could make a lot of sense. Consider the following:
- Building or transition Mission critical applications (like production web environments, enterprise ERP solutions, email, etc.) to VMware environments
- Implementing virtual desktop solutions
VMware has added significant functionality that will allow you to better support these types of initiatives.
- Larger, more powerful VMs with more memory and CPU available
- Improved virtual desktop support – 3D graphics, USB 3.0 support
- Auto-deploy /patch for VMware hosts (they’ve added an integrated PXE server to the platform – If you’ve already solved this problem you probably don’t need it)
- Many improvements to Storage support – Storage DRS, better storage I/O control, storage profiles and more
- Network – more granular control and improved visibility into traffic
- High latency vMotion (anyone interested in moving servers to a remote location has been waiting for this for a long time)
- Improved HA
If you’ve invested significant dollars in tool sets built to work with vSphere 4 (either home grown or commercial). There is a cost for transition. At a minimum, you’ll need to re-certify, pilot and re-test before implementation. But there may also be a need for upgrades to new versions and the costs of that transition. This can include:
- Re-writes of customizations
- Upgrade fees
- Infrastructure changes
- Deployment costs
- Training costs
- And for anything home grown, a full development/bug/fix, QA and implementation cycle
By the way … Nimsoft has already done the work for our VMware probe. Available now for existing Nimsoft customers. It works exactly as the previous version without any transition requirements.
Cost Comparison to vSphere 4
Especially if you are upgrading your datacenter VMware environment physical servers, vSphere 5 can cost significantly more to run than vSphere 4 – especially if you are running with lots of vRAM. The previous licensing model was a mix of CPU and vRAM – with the higher licensing levels having unlimited vRAM at no charge. vSphere 5 strictly limits vRAM usage per license. Some comments in forums are that this will increase costs between 50% and 100% for existing environments.
Make sure to check the details of your agreement with VMware, and compare how your licensing costs will change.
End of life policies
VMware typically offers 7 years of support for an old release from the GA of a new release – With phased support reductions at 2 and 5 years. This gives you some time to think about the transition, plan, and execute. There isn’t extreme urgency to transition existing implementations; you’ll have the time needed for any required transitions.
You may even want to migrate from older hardware to newer, lower power consumption hardware for your VMware environments and keep the existing environment – This gives you the best of both worlds – new lower costs and no support and tool transition.
So should you move to vSphere 5?
In terms of how you should think about your use, VMware is becoming more like an OS environment.
For instance – Think about your transitions for servers and desktops from older versions of Linux or Windows to more recent releases – Typically it is phased (some of you may even still be using Windows XP as a desktop standard in some areas for instance), and starts with new applications and users – upgrading and consolidating older servers and desktops only when it makes sense, or there is an EOL transition point.
The best approach will likely be to implement new initiatives that require the enhanced functionality of vSphere 5 in “islands” as a first step – mission critical application implementation and virtual desktops seem obvious areas that could benefit from the changes, and there are certainly others where you’ll also find a similar need.
This approach insulates you from the transition costs of moving existing environments and allows you to take advantage of vSphere 5’s new functionality where needed.