DISCLAIMER: I wrote these “What’s New” blogposts back in April. But had to sit on them until recent announcements. So the screengrabs can/may/will differ from the product when it GAs. But in effort to get you the lastest information in the shortest possible of time it seemed best to spend time writing these ready to be published.
There’s a number of improvements around vCD5.5, so lets start with a quickly high-level overview before we see them in action as it were!
Firstly the “Content Catalog” has been enhanced in a number of ways. It now allows you to share and synch content between sites, and allows you to share the catalog between specific Organizations. Changes that occur to the catalog and the objects within them are automagically “versioned” so you will see numbers increment as changes take place – both to the catalog and the items within in it. Content Catalogs are no longer restricted to merely holding vApp Templates and Media (iso/flp files) – although I suspect they may mainly continue to hold this sort of data. There’s also an “Update Catalog Item” option that allows you to keep your vApp Template up-to-date with new versions – its not quite like the Convert to Template/Covert to VM option you see in vSphere vCenter – but its close. I will look at this in the “Hot vApp” part of this blogpost because you really need running vApp in an Organization to see this properly…
Secondly, an even more Hot vApp – so its is possible to clone a vApp which are running and have an active memory state – call it extending hot-clone from vSphere up into the vCloud Director layer if you like. Additionally, its possible do the hot configuration of disks and NICs for those running VMs. Again, this extending functionality that’s being in vSphere for a while up into vCloud Director. Lastly customization of resources and Guest OS settings is possible during the provisioning of a VM within a vApp itself – this customization is of the hardware resources towards the end of adding a VM from a catalog…
Thirdly, improved vApp Import and Download – so you can directly upload/download OVFs to and from the vCloud Director portal, and the transfer service now supports resume feature – which will pick up on imports/exports if there was a network outage during the time of the upload/download.
Of course, there’s a whole host of smaller incremental changes – and hope to draw your attention to these during this blogpost. I’ve been working with the beta for 5.5 for sometime (since April), and having worked with the 5.1.1 release I’ve been playing that game of “spot the differences”. As ever we tend to flag up the big big changes, but there’s plenty “the sum is greater than the parts” stuff that might be missed if you were new to the product.
The new sharing options are optional – and enabled when you create a new Organization or modify the properties of an existing one:
When you create a catalog for the first time you’ll be asked for the standard name, after which your able to control what storage is used by the catalog itself. You can allow it to use any storage in the Organization or else using a Storage Profile designate a particular class of storage to be used by the catalog itself.
This catalog can be shared in a number of ways – either via “external publishing” (using an RSS Feed like subscription) or by the conventional publishing/sharing methods. The difference is you can now share with specific users, groups and organizations. Previously publishing made the catalog available to all Organizations within the vCloud instance. So here my catalog called “vCATALOG” which resides in the “vCATALOG” Organization/vDC is being shared with my Organization called “vINCEPTION”. Once an Organization has been added, you can set the privileges on it.
Another method of sharing the catalog both internally, and potentially externally is using a feed. You can find out the feed URL (and set a password for it) on the “External Publishing” tab on the properties of a catalog.
At the “subscribing” catalog we need the “External Publishing” URL together with the password, and when you click next you will receive a message about verifying the authenticity of the subscription host.
A subscribed catalog still consumes space at the subscribing catalog (unlike merely sharing the catalog), and when you finish this should trigger a synchronization process like so:
For me this new “subscription” process reminds me very much of the “content sync” feature I first used with the vCloud Connector 2.0. You can force a sync with a right-click on the subscribing catalog – and interestingly it maintains the catalog versioning that we will be looking at next.
As I said earlier is part and parcel of the new release – and you will see this in two places mainly. On the status of the catalog itself and on the items in the catalog. It worth saying that at the moment even relatively “trivial” changes to a vApp Template will cause the version number to automatically increment – I guess much depends on what you regard as “trivial”. For example I accidentally named my template “TTY Linux WeApp Template” correcting that to “TTY Linux WebApp Template” caused the number to increment.
One of the challenges of previous releases of vCloud Director and the vApp is that you had to power off all the VMs in the vApp before you could make changes. There are number of improvements in vCloud Director which means that’s no longer the case. Firstly, Hot Add to Catalog and Update Catalog Item – now when a vApp is power on you can right-click it and add it to the catalog…
You might notice the option below “Update Catalog Item” this allows you take an existing vApp and use it to refresh an item in the catalog. Let say I add a second TTY Linux VM to my WebApp:
I can then right-click the same vApp, and use the “Update Catalog Item” option:
Once complete the vApp Template is updated with an additional VM:
Finally, on this subject there is a “Upload New Version” option on the right-click of a vApp Template in the catalog – this an OVF upload to update an existing vApp Template. So say BigSoftwareVendorX issue a WebTemplateV1.1 you could download their new version WebTemplateV1.2 and overwrite the the previous version.
Secondly, we can Hot Add Disks and NICs to the VM within the vApp when its powered on. So in this case I opened the properties of VM called webapp01, and add another hard-disk (TTY Linux uses IDE) and second NIC, at the same time I added a vApp Network to the VM too!
Note: I found this actually failed with TTY Linux. So I think the old adage applies – whilst the virtualization layer maybe able to hot add devices – much depends on the guest operating system supporting that functionality.
Thirdly, we can now customize how the VM within the vApp is deployed – when you deploy a new vApp from the catalog – the last page now allows you modify the original hardware resources allocated to the VMs – such as increasing the CPU, Memory and virtual disk size.
This functionality for customization also extends itself into VMs within a vApp Template in the catalog – you can enable guest customizations right inside to the VMs with the template itself:
and finally… with a new release of vSphere comes a new VM compatibility level which you will see when creating a new Provider vDC or modifying an existing one:
vApp Import and Download:
There import/export options a-go-go in the new vCloud Director 5.5 release. The most noticeable is the addition of an “Add vApp from OVF” option on the main home screens for the tenants Organization. This uses the Transfer Service configured during the installation of vCloud Director 5.5 as the method uploading the .OVF into the Organization.
A vApp can be “downloaded” from vCloud Director by right-clicking it and selecting “Download“
All that needs to be done is to the set the Destination to download using the browse button, set the format, description and whether you want to preserve BIOS UUIDs, Mac Addresses and vCloud Network configuration.
These downloads of vApps from vCloud Director can be imported into vSphere if you wish, and deployed as normal – including the option to map the networks from vCloud Director back to standard portgroup on an cluster:
Of course, there’s a whole host of smaller improvements that probably won’t make headline news – that’s always a shame I think. I think about the developer who spent time adding that polish to product which sometimes gets lost in the release notes or in the marketing campaign. One of my personal favourites which I came across whilst using vCloud Director 5.5 over the last couple of months.
Media Connected to VM indicator:
A small blue circle appears on any VM in a vApp that is connected to something within the catalog – neat!
As you can see there are lots of new features and functions in vCloud Director 5.5, much of it extending functionality previously only available in the vSphere layer – but also at the same time extending the useability of the product that are unique to it – most notably an easier to manage catalog.