• Mike Ghazaleh

6 features in vSphere 7 you NEED to use!

One of my favorite things is identifying features that are super cool in the VMware portfolio. It's sometimes surprising that although VMware puts a lot of work into these features, they often times go unused. In today's post, I want to discuss 6 of the most underutilized features in vSphere other words, if you're managing a VMware environment, you should at the very least be considering implementing these!

Let's get into it!

#6: VMware HCX

I know, I know - VMware Hybrid Extension (HCX) is technically a separate product, but I had to mention it. Why? Well, HCX allows you to migrate waves of VMs between vCenters, to the cloud (to VMC on AWS, or Azure VMware Solutions), or just between datacenters. That alone may not sound super impressive, after all, you can now do Cross-vCenter vMotion in vSphere 7. The things that make HCX worth a look include the ability to do Hyper-V/KVM to vSphere conversion, scheduling of migrations, and bulk vMotions! In addition to all of this, HCX can stretch networks between your sites without physical network changes required.

It is worth mentioning that HCX does require NSX at the target site, and you cannot purchase it without NSX.

#5: Host Profiles

Host Profiles are, in my opinion, one of the best features in vSphere. They allow you to standardize your vSphere/ESXi host configuration by creating a host profile - which is based on one of your "known good" hosts. This means things like enabled services, virtual switch config, enabled features, NTP/logging configuration - can be checked at the cluster level, so that if any host deviates, you're notified and can remediate (or put the deviated host back into check).

If you want to learn more about host profiles, or see the implementation of them, check out my YouTube video below:

#4: vSphere HA

I really hope everyone is running vSphere HA, but unfortunately, I know there's still some people out there not doing High Availability in vSphere. If you're not familiar with vSphere HA, in a nutshell - it allows you to protect against physical host failures, by restarting VMs on your remaining hosts after a failure. If you decide to implement vSphere HA, just make sure to also configure a VM startup order as by default, ALL of your VMs have the same priority, and will startup simultaneously following a failure.

#3: VMware NSX

NSX-T is a game-changer as it relates to security. For those who don't know, a long time ago you could only purchase NSX as one bundle - which included the security (distributed firewalling) and network virtualization (routing/switching) - all for one very hefty price. VMware eventually released a new SKU, called Service-Defined Firewall, which allows you to enable microsegmentation between your VMs - without re-architecting your network. This is huge. Without NSX, your options are extremely limited for actually protecting those VM-to-VM flows - which is a big deal considering 80%+ of datacenter traffic is east-west in nature.

It's probably worth mentioning that even if you don't care about security, NSX-T does bring a lot of enhancements to your environment, especially if you have multiple locations! One of the biggest ones - is the ability to stretch networks between locations, so that you can freely move VMs between sites without re-IPing them. This makes things like active/active datacenters and Disaster Recovery a lot easier. If you're interested in this feature, it's called NSX-T Federation, and I actually created a course dedicated to it as well, here at Techbytes.

#2: Distributed Power Management (DPM)

I think DPM may be one of the most unused features in this list. This feature, if you're not familiar, is turned on in your Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) config, and allows you to automate the powering on/off of hosts, based on the needs of your virtual infrastructure. Considering the cost of power, if you have more than 50 vSphere hosts, I'm sure there are significant savings to be had if you care to calculate the usage of your servers, and what that cost comes out to be. Either way - it's certainly worth exploring.

#1: vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS)

I have quite literally talked to thousands of customers over the past 10 years, and it still shocks me how many are not running the Distributed Switch, or VDS. If you're not familiar, the VDS is just a virtual switch that allows you to connect VMs to it. By default, vSphere comes with what is called the Standard Switch, or VSS. The VDS brings a LOT of additional benefits, such as simplified management (no having to re-create config on every host), easier troubleshooting through port mirroring, and highly granular control over individual ports!

In many cases, the reason people don't implement the VDS is due to licensing, but I can definitely say - the time spent managing per-host networking is easily saved if you have even a moderate number of vSphere hosts. Add to that the ability to see traffic coming in/out of your VMs easily with features like port mirroring - and I think you can quantify the savings. Oh, and by the way - if you ever want to run NSX, or vRealize Network Insight, or HCX - you need to be using the VDS anyway!

It's probably worth mentioning that Techbytes has a vSphere Networking Crash Course specifically designed to cover both the VSS and VDS in a high level of depth - with tons of hands-on examples, and whiteboards. You can check that out here if you'd like.

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