You may have heard that vSphere 5 has officially launched today (well last night ~7pm-ish PST), but you may not know, that there are over 140 new features introduced in this release. Duncan Epping shared a blog post vSphere 5.0 Features detailing a list that was generated internally from VMware on the 140 features. Duncan also provided a challenge to the readers:

Now before we will give you the full list we want to challenge you... Who will be the first one to show 50 of the below listed features in an article? We will give a "vSphere 5.0 Clustering Technical Deepdive" book signed by both authors to the first 5 people who manage to write a single article detailing 50 of the below features with short paragraph about what this feature brings including a screenshot.

Even though I had already purchased the colored copy of vSphere 5.0: Clustering and Technical Deepdive which I am still trying to finish (only half way done), I decided to accept Duncan's challenge and here is my list of the 50 features I decided to write about.

Note: I personally have not worked with all 50 features listed below, some of these were selected due to ease of capturing a screenshot.

1. Storage DRS in my opinion one of the coolest features in vSphere 5, in which you now are able to aggregate your datastores into a single logical datastore cluster just like a DRS cluster with CPU and Memory. Storage DRS will be able to load balance your virtual machines for both capacity and I/O to ensure optimal performance. To learn more about Storage DRS, take a look at this blog post by Duncan Epping here

2. VMFS-5 is VMware's new filesystem version for vSphere 5 and it does not disappoint with the huge list of features. One of the most notable feature is the seamless online upgrade from VMFS3 to VMFS5 without any impact to running virtual machines. Some other great features of VMFS5 has been enhanced around scalbility by supporting up 64TB volumes, up to 2TB RDM pass through and unified block size (only 1 MB) to just name a few. To get more details on changes in VMFS5, take a look at Duncan Epping's blog post here

3. ESXi Firewall is finally here, a full fledge firewall similar to classic ESX Service Console iptables firewall. You are now able to enable and disable well defined services and control access from certain IP ranges, ports, protocol, direction, etc. On top of default services, you can also create your own custom firewall rules. For more details take a look blog post: How to Create Custom Firewall Rules in ESXi 5.0

4. Storage APIs -- VAAI Offloads for NAS is a new feature in VAAI (vStorage API for Array Integration) in which NAS arrays will now be able to offload certain IO operations from the data mover of the VMkernel to the storage arrays. The VAAI offload first became available for block based storage in vSphere 4.1 and now with vSphere 5, you can enjoy this feature for both block and file based arrays. To be able to leverage the NAS offload, plugins from NAS vendors must be loaded onto the ESXi 5 host along with VAAI  capable NAS arrays.

5. Storage APIs -- Storage Awareness/Discovery also known as VASA (vSphere Storage API - Storage Awareness) is a feature in which characteristics of a given storage volume (RAID,Replication/Non-Replication,Disk Type, etc) can now be presented from the array up into the vSphere platform to be able to intelligently place virtual machines based on the business requirements. By leveraging the new Storage-Driven  Profiles, you can create different tiers of datastores and based on the requirements, properly provision a virtual machine to match the expected level of performance and/or SLA. To learn more about VASA, take a look here

Screenshot courtesy of

6. iSCSI Enablement: iSCSI UI Support has been enhanced to allow you to perform all iSCSI related operations within the vSphere Client and to be able to clearly see your configurations. In vSphere 4.1, if you wanted to bind an individual iSCSI port to a VMkernel, you had to go into the CLI and use esxcli to do so. Now you'll be able to do it with just a few clicks through the vSphere Client.

7. Increase NFSv3 Max Share Count to 256, this feature is pretty straight forward, the maximum has now been increased to 256 from 64 in vSphere 4.1 This allows you to present even more NFS volumes to ESXi 5 hosts.

8. Enhanced logging support is one of the most useful features in ESXi 5 from a troubleshooting and support standpoint. Prior to ESXi 5, there were only several logs (hostd, messages, vpxa,etc) that contain all events within an ESXi host and it would require you to manually parse out the components you cared about. With ESXi 5, the logging has been enhanced to include several additional logs to their respective components such as vmkernel, vmkwarning, shell, esxupdate and most importantly a single consolidated HA log now known as FDM. On top of the log enhancements, there have been several syslog enhancements that allow you to control the number of rotation for each log type, support for multiple syslog servers and support for syslog transfer over tcp, udp and ssl. To learn how to configure syslog in ESXi 5, take a look at this post here

9. Enhanced Storage metrics in vSphere 5 allows you to see new performance metrics relating to storage DRS, host swap to cache, and vSphere Replication to just name a few.

10. Profile-Driven Storage is a new feature in which you can create a profile to associate the characteristics of a datastore (can leverage VASA or user defined characteristics) and easily use these profiles to intelligently deploy virtual machines based on business requirements. One example is creating three storage profiles named gold, silver and bronze and underneath these profiles, there are three tiers of datastores (SSD, FC, SATA). Now you can deploy a virtual machine and be able to provision on the correct type of storage and ensure that this policy is always compliant just like host profiles for an ESX(i) host. To get more information about how Profile-Drive Storage works, take a look at this blog post here

11. SSD Detection and Enablement allows ESXi to detect whether a disk is an SSD device and is displayed in the vSphere Client UI as a new property. This is useful for the new feature swap to host cache that leverages SSD based datastores and this property allows users to easily identify which datatores are backed by an SSD device.

12. vSphere Replication was formally known as Host based replication (HBR) which is a new feature in the upcoming SRM 5.0 which gives user the ability to replicate VM’s between dissimilar storage. Traditionally, SRM mainly relied on array-based replication to backup and recover virtual machines residing on set of LUN(s). This required all virtual machines to be backed up to be in a set of protected and common LUN(s). With HBR, you now have the ability to target specific VM and their respective VMDK(s) and backup to different storage type at the destination such as local storage, iSCSI/FC LUN or NFS datastores 

13. NIOC -- User Defined Resource Pools allows users to now create resource pools for their network resources just like you did for cpu, memory and storage. You have seven pre-defined system resource pools for common traffic type such as vMotion and Storage vMotion or you can create your own network resource pools and configure QOS settings. For more details regarding NIOC resource pools, take a look at this blog post here

14. NIOC -- HBR traffic type is one of the new seven pre-defined NIOC network resource pools that classifies vSphere Replication (HBR) traffic for an ESXi 5 host. This is to be used in conjunction when using the new SRM5 and the new vSphere Replication feature to ensure that replication traffic is prioritized correctly and it will not accidentally impact an ESXi 5 host while replication is being performed.

15. vDS support for Port mirror, LLDP and NetFlow V5 are just a few of the new networking features in vSphere 5. Port mirror allows a user to mirror the traffic for a particular port (not able to do so for entire portgroup/vDS) that can be used for analysis/troubleshooting or for IPS (Intrusion Protection Systems). LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol) is now supported to allows administrators to get information about the physical switches just like CDP does for Cisco only devices. Netflow has been supported in vSphere for awhile now as an experimental feature, but with vSphere 5 it is now officially supported to inspect inner-VM communication. For more details take a look at the blog post here and here

16. Metro vMotion is a new feature that is included in the Entperise Plus licensing package that allows a virtual machinen to be vMotion across a properly configured and supported vSphere stretched cluster. For more details on this, check out Scott Lowe's presentation on this topic here

17. vSphere 5.0 HA aka "FDM / Fault Domain Manager" has been completely re-written from the ground up from the legacy Legato AAM technology used for HA prior to vSphere 5. FDM no longer has the concept of a primary and secondary node nor does the 5 primary node limitation exists any longer. Instead, FDM uses a master and slave concept with an automated election process. Enabling HA (FDM) is no longer an hour task, as it literally takes minutes to get an entire cluster completely configured without any issues. I am not doing justice to FDM with this quick summary and would highly recommend you take a look at Duncan Epping's detailed architectural posts on FDM here

18. vSphere HA - Heartbeat Datastores is another new enhancement in the newly re-written vSphere HA (FDM) in which datastores can now be used in addition to the management network to detect whether a host has failed, is isolated or partitioned. This additional check helps reduce false positives if just the management network was isolated and virtual machines would not need to be restarted. For more details about heatbeat datastores, check out Duncan Epping's blog post here

19. vSphere HA - New Status information in UI now displays the status of vSphere HA on a per host basis and you're able to quickly get a sense of the current state by using the vSphere Client.

20. vSphere HA - Application Awareness API publicly available in vSphere 5, prior to this, it was only available as a private API for ISV and partners. Application Awareness API allows vSphere HA to monitor heartbeats generated from an application monitor within the guestOS and reboot the virtual machine. For more details check this blog post here

21. ESX Agent Management is part of the new vSphere Management SDK that provides users the ability to create and deploy an ESXi agent virtual machine to manage a custom solution such as a distributed firewall to extend the existing firewall of an ESXi host. Currently this is provided as a SOAP API that you can integrate into vCenter and make solution aware of features such as vSphere DRS, DPM and HA to ensure these agents stay within their respective ESXi host. For more details, take a look at the release notes here

22. Solution Management Plugin provides a way to build custom extensions that registers with vCenter Server and uses some or all the features of the vSphere API. The new vCenter Solution Manager allows you to view all the custom extensions installed, their configuration and health of each custom solution. For more details, take a look at the release notes here

23. Next-Gen vSphere Client is the new flex based browser client that will eventually replace the full C# vSphere Client. In it's first release, the web client's main use case is for virtual management, you will be able to perform all virtual machine operation as you would using the vSphere Client including provisioning new virtual machines. In a future release, the vSphere Web Client will be parity complete with the full C# client and will be the only client available. For now, users can now manage their virtual machines across variety of OS platforms including Windows, Linux and Mac OSX!

24. vCenter Server Appliance is now a reality from VMware after an initial tech preview for 2 years on vCenter 2.5. The VCSA / VCVA as it is known is available as a SLES virtual appliance which provides support for embedded DB2 or remote Oracle/DB2 database. This is 1.0 product, so it does not provide feature parity with it's Windows cousin such as VUM support, Heartbeat, Linked Mode to name a few. VMware is definitely headed in the right direction and this will help shops that are not predominately Windows or do not use Windows at all and hopefully in the next release, we'll get closer to parity completness with the Windows version. For more details about the vCenter virtual appliance, take a look at Duncan Epping's blog here

25. vCenter: Support for FileManager and VirtualDiskManager APIs is now available through vCenter where as prior to vSphere 5, to use the fileManager and virtualDiskManager, you had to directly connect to an ESX(i) host to perform these type of operations. This is great to be able to perform these operations centrally within vCenter without having to go out to each ESX(i) host.

26. Virtual Hardware Version 8 is the new version in vSphere 5 and it includes so many new features, it is hard to name them all. Some notable ones are the new configuration maximums supported on a hardware 8 virtual machine such as the support for 32-way virtual SMP CPUs and 1TB of virtual memory. There are also new OS support including Mac OSX

27. Virtual HW v8 -- EFI Virtual BIOS is now supported for virtual machines, including Apple OSX

28. Virtual HW v8 -- HD Audio is now available as another type of virtual audio device, one interesting thing to note is to add HD Audio, you will need to mux with the virtual machine's .vmx configuration file or use the vSphere API. You currently can not add an HD Audio device through the vSphere Client. For more details on HD Audio, take a look Kendrick Coleman's blog post here

29. Virtual Hw v8 -- Multi-core Virtual CPU Support UI now allows you to control both the number of virtual sockets and cores per socket within the vSphere Client. This feature can be helpful for application that are licensed in a particular CPU configuration.

30. Virtual HW v8 -- New virtual E1000 NIC is now supported as new type of ethernet adapter type. Another interesting thing about this feature is it is currently not exposed in the vSphere Client, you will need to manuall edit the virtual machine's .vmx configuration file or using the vSphere API to add this new adapter type. For more details on adding E1000e network adapter, take a look at this blog post here

31. Virtual HW v8 -- xHCI USB controller is now support to allow virtual machines to connected to USB 3.0, 2.0 and 1.1 devices.

32. Support SMP for Mac OS X guest OS, this is pretty straight forward.

33. Guest Management Operations (VIX API) is one of most exciting features I have been looking forward to in the vSphere API. Prior to vSphere 5, the VIX API was a separate API which allows users to perform operations within the guestOS via VMware Tools. With vSphere 5, it has now been merged into vSphere 5 API and you can perform guest operations through a single interface versus going through two separate APIs. For more details on how to use the new guest operations in vSphere API, take a look at this post here

34. Guest OS Support -- Mac OS X Server 10.7 (Lion), 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and 10.5 (Leopard) is now officially supported guestOSes running on vSphere 5. A big caveat to get this working is the physical hardware that is running ESXi 5 must be Apple hardware and specifically XServer 3.1. For more details on getting Mac OSX to run on vSphere 5, take a look at this blog post here

35. VMRC Concurrent Connections enhancements is a new feature that helps control the maximum number of remote console sessions for a given virtual machine. Unfortunately this useful feature is not exposed in the vSphere Client and you would need to manually edit the virtual machine's .vmx configuration file or use the vSphere API to make this change.

36. ESXCLI enhancements have been greatly improved in vSphere 5. With latest vSphere 5 release, esxcli now includes a total of 10 namespaces and 251 commands! You will notice some of the updated namespaces from vSphere 4.1, such as corestorage which is under the namespace storage and it also contains other sub-namespaces dealing with the storage stack. For more details on esxcli in vSphere 5, take a look at this blog post here

37. Hardware -- SandyBridge-DT,EN,EP Processor Enablement is now supported with vSphere 5. Sandy Bridge CPUs are right around the corner, so you will be able to leverage the latest CPUs from Intel

38. Platform -- ESX i18n supports 6 languages in total including: English, French, German, Japanese, Korean and simplified Chinese. To change the language on the vSphere Client, you can pass in the following param to command line "-local [LOCALE]" (e.g. -locale de) and when you launch the vSphere Client, the text will be fully translated to the language of choice. 

39. Host Power Management Enhancements includes percentage of idle power consumed by memory, tracking of energy consumed by virtual machines to just name a few. You can control these new options by going into the Advanced Settings of an ESXi host under "Power" section.

40. Swap to host cache is a new feature in which virtual machine swap can swap pages into an SSD device versus going to a slow disk under memory pressure. To learn more about this feature take a look at Duncan Epping's blog post here and if you would like to automate the configuration of host cache, take a look at the blog post here
41. API enhancements to configure VM boot order. This feature does not actually change the BIOS boot order device but provides the ability to create an ordered list of preferred boot order devices. Once this list has been exhausted, then it will default to the BIOS list of boot order devices. This feature also requires the virtual machine to be running virtual hardware 8. For more details on configuring this, take a look at blog post here

42. Stateless -- Auto Deploy is not a completely new feature in vSphere 5, it was first introduced as a VMware Fling earlier last year as a Linux virtual appliance. In vSphere 5, some enhancements and de-enhancements have been made. First off it can now run on both a Windows and Linux system (bundled in VCVA) and it is now officially supported by VMware. One enhancement is the ability to manage this using PowerCLI, the de-enhancement of course is that VMware decided to remove the CLI utility from the Linux appliance, rendering non-Window users helpless. With this exception, it's a great way to deploy and manage stateless ESXi host in conjunction with host profiles which is a per-requistite requirement. To learn more about Auto Deploy and stateless ESXi configuration, take a look at this awesome guide by Gabe found here

43. Support for ESXi On Apple XServe is now officially supported, users must use Apple XServer 3.1 as it is the only hardware that is officially on the VMware HCL. I've heard users being able to run this on Macbook Pro, Mac Mini and Macbook, YMMV

44. Host profiles enhancements for storage configuration now include configurations for iSCSI and FCoE. In the past, not all configurations related to iSCSI were present and with vSphere 5, majority if not all options are available now.

45. Root password entry screen in interactive installer is now present during an interactive installation and forces users to set a root password. Prior to ESXi 5, user would need to manually go into the DCUI after installation to set the root password. During this period, no password would be configured and for this duration, a security hole is left open in the environment.

46. vCenter Dump Collector is a new feature with vCenter for both Windows version and virtual appliance (installed by default) in which a remote dump server can be configured for when an ESXi host core dumps. If the ESXi host still has network access it can forward the core file to the Dump Collector for analysis by VMware support. For more details on setting up Dump Collector, take a look at this blog post here

47. vCenter Syslog Collector is a new feature with vCenter for both Windows version and virtual appliance (installed by default) in which a syslog server can be installed to help aggregate logs from your ESX(i) hosts. In addition to centralizing the syslogs on either a local or remote system, the utility can also be registered as a vCenter plugin to be displayed in vSphere Client. For more details on configuring Syslog Collector, take a look at this blog post here

48. vCLI enhancements includes new utilities such vicfg-iscsi, vicfg-snmp and enhanced options in the remote vmkfstools utility to remotely manage and configure your ESX(i) environment. It also provides the same exact parameters and options to local version of esxcli, this makes it extremely easy to script and automate against several ESX(i) host to several thousand ESX(i) hosts. For more details on the new vCLI commands, take a look here

49. PowerCLI enhancements includes but is not limited to additional OS support, integration with native VIX operations in vSphere API, creating virtual machines on a storage DRS cluster (pod) and cmdlets to manage auto-deploy and image builder operations. There are so much more that I'm not covering here, but PowerCLI folks should be very happy! For more details on what's new, take a look here

50. VProbes -- ESX Platform Observability provides a safe way of instrumenting a running VM at any level: from user-level processes down to the kernel, and even into VMware's VMM and hypervisor. This level of inspection allows users to see what is going on within the virtual machine and the processes running inside of it.

If you made it this far and would like to learn more about vSphere 5 and around automation and scripting, check out my vSphere 5 Summary Page and I promise you the content is 100% unique!

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