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Oct 21 2013

Top 10 things you must read about vSphere 5.5

There has been so many documents, white papers, videos and blog posts posted about the vSphere 5.5 release that it’s hard to keep up with them all. I have almost 500 links gathered in my vSphere 5.5 Link-O-Rama and it is still growing. With so many links it’s easy to miss some of the really good ones so I thought I would put together a top 10 list that highlights the ones that you don’t want to miss.

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1 – The official VMware What’s New in vSphere 5.5 white paper series

Traditionally VMware releases a slew of What’s New white papers to support a new vSphere release that cover specific areas (i.e. storage, platform, networking, etc.). These white papers cover the new features and enhancements in a lot more detail than their standard one page overview document that covers them at a high level. With the vSphere 5.5 release they only released one initially (platform), then followed up with two more that cover specific storage features. Despite not having as many white papers for this release you should still give these a read as they provide good in depth information written by the VMware technical experts that will help you better understand the changes and new things in vSphere 5.5:

2 – Duncan’s VSAN & vFRC posts

Despite being released as a beta feature, Virtual SAN (VSAN) is still one of the most popular features in vSphere 5.5. VSAN has attracted a lot of interest and people are hungry to know everything they can about it. Well Duncan Epping over at Yellow Bricks has written 14 blog posts on VSAN to help feed that appetite. Another great new storage feature (that you can use now) in vSphere 5.5 is vSphere Flash Read Cache (vFRC), Duncan has also written some must read posts on that as well. So if you want to benefit from Duncan’s inside knowledge and experience with VSAN & vFRC make sure you follow the Yellow Brick road and give these a read:

3 – Chris Wahl’s vSphere 5.5 Improvements series

Chris Wahl has been rising fast in the blogosphere rankings (currently #12) by creating tons of great high quality content and he doesn’t disappoint when it comes to writing about vSphere 5.5. Chris has written a nice detailed multi-part series that covers many different topics in vSphere 5.5 and will give you a great overview of the many improvements in vSphere 5.5:

4 – Derek Seaman’s Installing vSphere 5.5 series

Derek Seaman is another blogger that has been quickly climbing the blogging ladder and made it into the top 25 last year. Derek appears to be trying to out do himself from last years epic 13-part blog series on installing vSphere 5.1 with a new 16 part (and counting?) series on installing vSphere 5.5. This series will guide you through all the different steps of installing vCenter Server and it’s various components and help you avoid any gotchas that you might encounter. Derek spends a lot of time covering SSL & SSO which can always be very challenging and frustrating to implement properly so I highly recommend you give it a read before trying to install or upgrade to vSphere 5.5 yourself:

5 – Cormac Hogan’s VSAN series

If you don’t know Cormac Hogan, you should, he’s a senior technical marketing architect at VMware and his focus is on storage which he knows a lot about. He produces a lot of great content for VMware on the vSphere Blog and also writes on his own personal blog as well which you should definitely bookmark. With each new vSphere release Cormac does a series focused on what’s new with storage and he’s back at it again with vSphere 5.5 with a multi-part series on VSAN. Cormac also started a series on what’s new in storage in vSphere 5.5, but has only posted part 1 so hopefully he continues it. By the time you’ve finished reading through his 10 blog posts on VSAN you’ll probably know as much about it as Cormac does, well probably not but you’ll still learn a lot.

6 – VMware’s Performance Best Practices for vSphere 5.5 white paper

Who doesn’t want to optimize their vSphere environment to gain the best performance possible. Well VMware has published a white paper on performance best practices for vSphere 5.5 that is full of great advice that will help ensure that your vSphere environment is running at top speed. This 90 page white paper is a collection of best practices that covers all parts of vSphere from hosts, to VM’s to vCenter Server and is a definite must read even if you think you know it all.

For example did you know that Windows guest operating systems poll optical drives (that is, CD or DVD drives) quite frequently and that unused or unnecessary virtual hardware devices can impact performance and should be disabled? Or did you know that the more vCPUs a virtual machine has, the more interrupts it requires and that delivering many virtual timer interrupts negatively impacts virtual machine performance and increases host CPU consumption? These are all things you should know if you want to keep your application owners happy, so give this paper a read, I guarantee you will learn something from it.

7 – Michael Webster & Jason Boche’s Storage Deep Dives

I love deep dives that are full of lots of technical details that can help you really gain a better understanding of a particular topic or feature. Michael Webster has a published a great deep dive on the new larger virtual disk size that is a very good read with a lot of great information and considerations for pumping up your virtual disk size. Jason Boche has published a great deep dive on the details of the changes to the UNMAP command in vSphere 5.5 including how to use it and the performance impacts. So if you want to take a deep dive into the pool of storage knowledge get your swimming trunks on and dive in.

8 – VMware licensing

Another year, another vSphere release, another licensing change, another headache.  What you know about VMware’s licensing has probably all changed so it’s time to study up on it again and figure it all out. Be sure and hurry up and learn it before it all changes again.

9 – RTFM

I shouldn’t have to tell you this but I will, reading the fricking manuals can really be helpful. I know most of us don’t like to read manuals and just want to dive into playing with the products but VMware actually makes some really good documentation that is more than just your typical step-by-step instructions. I think the document I always read first for every new vSphere release is the Maximum Configuration doc to see what has changed with scalability, you can read my write up on the changes from vSphere 5.1 to vSphere 5.5. I highly encourage you to checkout the separate documentation on Networking, Storage, Security, Availability and Resource Management. These are great guides for learning about the technology and getting some deep dive information on it.

VMware even makes it easier for you by putting it in multiple formats such as html, pdf, epub and mobi so you can download it to your device of choice and carry it around with you. Maybe some day they’ll even put it in audio book format so you can listen to James Earl Jones tell you how to configure Storage DRS while driving to work, how cool would that be. Also don’t forget to read the release notes as well, you can often find some great nuggets in there. Don’t have time for it, don’t worry, Maish over at Technodrone has done it for you and provided a great write-up on what he found.

10 – VMware Knowledgebase Articles

The VMware Knowledgebase has more than just solutions to problems, it also has a lot of great information and how-to articles as well. Quite literally the VMware KB is a fountain of information that contains dozens of great informative articles specific to vSphere 5.5. This includes articles that will help you with upgrading and installing vSphere 5.5 as well as tons of great tips, gotchas and solutions to issues. So before you even touch vSphere 5.5 save yourself some frustration by reading through the VMware KB and I guarantee your journey to vSphere 5.5 will be much smoother.

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So there you have it, the top 10 things you should read about vSphere 5.5, I’m sure I missed some other great ones as well so feel free to shout out in the comments some additional links that you feel people must read. Also be sure and bookmark my vSphere 5.5 Link-O-Rama, new links are added daily and you will find almost everything you need there to get you going with vSphere 5.5.


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