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The x64 Push Continues with vSphere 4.1

A lot of chatter on vSphere 4.1 is flying through the blogosphere, and rightfully so. Aside from running lots of features into the enterprise-class virtualization suite, a number of requirement changes are being rolled in as well.

When VMware released vSphere, we saw for the first time that ESX and ESXi had hard requirements for x64 processors. It was really to be expected, as enterprise virtualization would not be well served on equipment that cannot support x64 at this time. I encourage each administrator to read through the vSphere Compatibility Matrix (PDF here) as well as the Hardware Compatibility Guide.

One observation is that many of the infrastructure components are being updated, rather significantly, when going from vSphere 4.0 to 4.1. Here is a list of some of the requirements that may catch administrators off guard:

  • vCenter Server must be installed on an x64 system. This means that the days of Windows Server 2003 (x86 installs) as a vCenter Server are over. The best bet, of course, is to install it on Windows Server 2008 R2, which is only one available on x64 installations.
  • There are a number of database engine landmines to navigate. For example, in the compatibility matrix SQL Server 2005 for the vCenter Server Update Manager database can run on SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition with SP2, but cannot run on SQL 2005 SE 64-bit with SP2. It's an example of where an infrastructure administrator trying to get ahead of the curve implementing a database server or cluster may be stuck. The vCenter Server database works on both of those SQL Server 2005 platforms, however.
  • Windows 2000 cannot run the vSphere Client. This isn't so much of a stopping point but somewhat expected, as the platform has now fallen off of Microsoft extended support.

While I don't think x86 is entirely dead, it is falling quickly from the infrastructure footprint in terms of servers. While ISV support of x64 server applications is an entirely different, emotionally charged discussion, the end of the line will likely come when x86 clients fall off the roadmap. VMware is nudging us along swiftly, and rightfully so at this point in technology. Like many administrators, this may be the release where the process is more of a new install instead of an over-top upgrade.

How do the vSphere 4.1 requirements impact your infrastructure configuration? Share your comments here.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 07/27/2010 at 12:47 PM


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