vSphere 6.5 GA and EMC Dell VMAX

VMware vSphere 6.5 is now GA and available for download here. vSphere 6.5 offers lots of new features and capabilities that you can take advantage of in a VMAX environment and is fully supported running on all models in these array types:

  • VMAX1 or VMAX2 (Symmetrix)
  • VMAX3
  • VMAX All Flash

If you have any concern – say if you are running an older Enginuity version on Symmetrix, feel free to check VMware’s compatibility matrix. Note that for Partner Name you should still use EMC and not Dell as these changes take some time and VMware has not updated anything following the merger.

VMware has a 34 page document that discusses the new features, so here are just some I find particularly interesting/useful. In the coming days I will follow with more detailed posts on those features which are most pertinent to Dell EMC and VMAX.

  • VMFS 6 – yep a new VMFS.  Better than ever – really.
  • VCSA and Update Manager – VMware continues the march toward the vCenter Appliance and away from Windows (which is still supported for now). VCSA now has Update Manager integrated into it which saves so much time (and grief). Unfortunately if you use Windows you still have to install Update Manager separately. Also there is a migration assistant that is part of VCSA to get you from Windows to the appliance if you so desire.
  • HTML5 client – well it’s about time we have some sort of replacement for the vSphere Web Client which, well, no one likes. The new vSphere Client, as they call it, is not yet fully functional, however it is far and away a step in the right direction. VMware started the HTML5 client as a lab project named VMware Fling if you had a chance to play with it previously. Here is a screenshot.

html5_2Click to enlarge – use browser back button to return to post

When you access the vCenter you’ll see links to both the vSphere Web Client (Flash) and the HTML5 client. Be aware that the vSphere thick Client (C#) is now defunct.  You can still use the 6.0 version to get to the host itself, but I don’t believe that is supported and I only did it when I was having vCenter issues.

html5

  • Automated UNMAP – this topic will definitely get its own post, but VMware has re-enabled (yes it used to be) automatic unmapping of VMFS 6 (not 5) datastores. So if you clear out VMs or vmdks from a datastore, VMware, over time, will reclaim the space on the VMAX array for you. It is a background process that runs infrequently and there are some quirks about it, but it works. In my lab I usually got back the space in 24 hours. You can still run a manual reclaim if you want it done immediately. Also UNMAP is now available from within the Linux GuestOS when using thin vmdks, so you can save space that way too. This feature is asynchronous in nature so issuing an unmap, or having a mount with discard enabled, doesn’t mean you delete a file and it reclaims immediately. More on this in another post.
  • Device/LUN limit – the dreaded 256 devices/1024 paths issue has been addressed (a little). VMware doubled the limit to 512 devices and 2000 paths. VMware’s real answer to this of course is VVols which do not count against the device limit, but many customers will never use VVols so this change to the limit is good news for them.
  • HA/DRS/FT – a number of changes here including a new algorithm for load balancing, admission control improvements, and the ability to do an orchestrated restart with HA. I’ll cover this in a post to relate it to SRDF/Metro configurations in particular.

One feature/topic I did not include above is Virtual Volumes or VVols, though there is a new version available with vSphere 6.5 which is VVol 2.0. The reason for that is the VMAX does not currently support VVol 2.0 or VASA 3; however you can use our existing VVol 1.0 and VASA 2 (VASA Provider 8.3) implementation with vSphere 6.5. It works the same way as it does in vSphere 6.0. I don’t think VMware has updated the compatibility matrix yet, but it is supported.

Right now I’m concentrating on the future posts on some of these features to get into the weeds and explain how it works with VMAX storage. I will be updating my docs too – whitepapers, TechBook, etc. but as I just finished them for the Q3 SR, look for a December update. In the meantime if you have any specific question vis-a-vis VMAX and vSphere 6.5 just drop a comment here.

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5 thoughts on “vSphere 6.5 GA and EMC Dell VMAX

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    1. We don’t support SRM 6.5 yet. It will be available in the next SRA release. The SRA always lags VMware GA due to the testing requirements around certification.

      1. Nice post Drew, thanks.

        I’ve deployed vSphere 6.5 and now only waiting on the SRDF adapter (SRA) for VMAX to support Site Recovery Manager 6.5 before I can take this into production. Can’t wait.

        Any ETA on this SRA?
        How long do they usually need to release a new SRA?

        Thanks,
        Peter.

      2. Hi Peter,

        Thanks. Our SRAs are tied to our releases, not VMware’s, so on occasion this can be problematic. The current SRA development is being built against the next HYPERMAX OS release on the VMAX3/VMAX All Flash which is slated for the first half of next year. At that point SRM 6.5 will be supported. If this is problematic you can feel free to raise the issue with your Dell EMC sales team who can at the very least make a request for the current SRA to support SRM 6.5. Speaking from experience I don’t find it likely to happen but there is the avenue.

        Drew

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