VMware ESX Server 3.1.0 / VirtualCenter 2.1.0 features list – Updated with full details

With maximum secrecy VMware is preparing next minor version of its flagship platform: VMware Infrastructure 3.1.

Despite numbering this release will bring on the table remarkable features to further increase the gap between virtualization leader and its competitors.

virtualization.info has discovered the whole feature set:

  • AMD Rapid Virtualization Indexing (formerly Nested Page Tables or NPT) support
    ESX Server 3.1 will be first virtualization product on the market to introduce support for a nested page tables (NPT) technology, which is recognized as second generation CPUs virtualization extensions.
    VMware will start supporting new AMD Rapid Virtualization Indexing, included in new quad-core codenamed Barcellona.
  • Solid State Drive (SSD) boot support
    As initially discovered last month, VMware will make available a special version of ESX Server (mentioned with terms like ESX Lite and Embedded ESX) for OEM vendors, to be installed into bootable Solid State storage devices (flash drives, etc.). This option will allow creation of ESX Server hardware appliances for easy jumpstart, granting smaller form-factors and improved reliability.
    Dell, IBM and possibly other vendors will offer this option at announcement time in Q3 2007.
  • Storage VMotion (formerly DMotion)
    Unofficially introduced with ESX Server 3.0.1, in its first version DMotion is a special VMotion operation only capable of moving running virtual machines from an ESX Server 2.5.x host to a new ESX Server 3.x., without shared SAN LUN mandatory requirement.
    In ESX Server 3.1 this capability will be extended, allowing hot migration of running virtual machines between ESX 3.1 hosts through the Ethernet cable.
  • Patch management system for host and virtual machines (Update Manager 1.0)
    ESX Server 3.1 will finally introduce an automated patch management system called Update Manager. This solution will be able to update both host itself and virtual machines (both Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux).
    Update Manager will look for available updates from Shavlik Technologies website (a possible acquisition after IPO), and will allow VI administrators to decide which patches to deliver to virtual machines.
    Before applying them, Update Manager will take a snapshot and will even rollback automatically if something goes wrong.

    (this product was originally codenamed VM Integrity and its developement started more than one year ago, when virtualization.info discovered it in June 2006)

  • VMware Consolidate Backup (VCB) and VMware Converter 4.0 integration
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will now allow restoring VCB images with an integrated version of VMware Converter, which reaches 4.0 release number.
  • Server consolidation advisor
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will expose a server consolidation assistant able to analyze which physical machines should be converted in virtual ones, and where to move existing VMs among available hosts.
    (note that with this feature VMware is further extending competition with PlateSpin, covering both features with PowerRecon and PowerConvert)
  • Guest OS disaster recovery capability
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will be able to recognize a failure inside a virtual machine and restart it through VMware HA module.
  • Support for VMware Server 2.0
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will be finally able to seamless manage both ESX Server and VMware Server 2.0 hosts.
  • Lockdown Mode
    ESX Server 3.1 will expose a new security feature to completely disable local administrative account after a VirtualCenter 2.1 takes remote control.
  • Power saving capability (Distributed Power Management)
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will introduce a new resources utilization analysis feature, able to verify when a physical host can be powered off, VMotion-ing its virtual machines on other hosts without impacting performances.
  • Support for Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP)
    VirtualCenter 2.1 will be able to recognize and use CDP to discover physical and virtual network topologies.
    It stays unconfirmed if ESX Server 3.1 will already expose new virtual network architecture, allowing 3rd party virtual switches, as it will be announced by Cisco CEO at VMworld 2007.
  • Support for InfiniBand network cards
  • Support for 10Gbit Ethernet network cards
  • Support for TCP/IP Offload Engine (TOE) network cards
  • Support for network load balancing algorithms
  • Support for 200 hosts and 2000 virtual machines
  • Support for 128GB RAM per host and for 64GB RAM per virtual machine
  • Support for SATA storage devices
  • Support for N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV)
  • Support for VCB over iSCSI SANs
  • Support for IPv6 in virtual networking
  • Support for Para-virtualization guest OSes

Beta program is currently private and available only for selected VMware customers. Enrollment form is available here.

With this release VMware will start addressing many problems early virtualization adopters are facing today. Mainly in Capacity Planning and Scalability areas.

The virtualization.info Virtualization Industry Challenges report has been updated accordingly.

Stay tuned for further updates on this post.