One of the less touted features of vSphere 5 is the improvements in virtual networking. The visibility into virtual networking has traditional been a enigma in virtual environments. This was significantly improved due to the partnership with CISCO and the introduction of the distributed and managed switch options into the vSphere 4 environment.
With vSphere 5, VMware has started to support standard discovery protocols to allow more interaction between physical and virtual switching environments. In addition it is now possible to 'tag' and prioritize traffic in the virtual environment through QoS support.
VMware did not stop there in beefing up the transparency in the networking stack. You can enable NetFlow on a distributed to switch and pass it to a collector. This provides the opportunity to understand network traffic flow and bandwidth utilization between vms located on the same hosts, different hosts and between the vms and the physical environment.
Why is this significant? Many customers are now dealing with internal multi-tenancy issues in which virtual clusters are often the demarcation points between business units that are reluctant to 'share' resources. The visibility and prioritization allows the IT team to make policy based decisions to logically separate the environment and then demonstrate it through granular reporting all the way down to traffic flow. This allows them to collapse clusters of 'parked' resources that could be better utilized.
This is the same problem that cloud providers often struggle with. It is difficult to provide visibility into traffic flow down to the vm level. This in turn leads to issues in deriving SLA's that can be measured in real terms. Interestingly these features and the pain points they address are not well represented in the promotional material from VMware. I find this unusual as it clearly distinguishes the vSphere 5 platform from their competitors.
If you have not looked at these features yet, it is a good idea to give them a thorough review. As your environment scales, these technologies become increasingly important in ensuring you have end-to-end visibility and manageability of your virtual environment.
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