What's New in vSphere 5.0

With this release, the VMware virtual datacenter operating system continues to transform x86 IT infrastructure into the most efficient, shared, on-demand utility, with built-in availability, scalability, and security services for all applications and simple, proactive automated management. The new and enhanced features in vSphere 5.0 are listed below.

Platform Enhancements

  • Convergence. vSphere 5.0 is the first vSphere release built exclusively on the vSphere ESXi 5.0 hypervisor architecture as the host platform. The ESX hypervisor is no longer included in vSphere. The vSphere 5.0 management platform, vCenter Server 5.0, supports ESXi 5.0 hosts as well as ESX/ESXi 4.x and ESX/ESXi 3.5 hosts.

  • VMware vSphere Auto Deploy. VMware vSphere Auto Deploy simplifies the task of managing ESXi installation and upgrade for hundreds of machines. New hosts are provisioned based on rules that the administrator defines. Rebuilding a server to a clean slate requires only a reboot. To move between ESXi versions, you create a new rule using the Auto Deploy PowerCLI and perform a test and repair compliance operation.

  • Unified CLI Framework. The expanded ESXCLI framework offers an extensible command set, including new commands to facilitate on-host troubleshooting and maintenance. The framework allows consistency of authentication, roles, and auditing, using the same methods as other management frameworks such as vCenter Server and PowerCLI. You can use the ESXCLI framework both remotely as part of vSphere CLI and locally on the ESXi Shell (formerly Tech Support Mode).

  • New virtual machine capabilities. ESXi 5.0 introduces a new generation of virtual hardware with virtual machine hardware version 8, which includes the following new features:

    • 32-way virtual SMP. ESXi 5.0 supports virtual machines with up to 32 virtual CPUs, which lets you run larger CPU-intensive workloads on the VMware ESXi platform.

    • 1TB of virtual machine RAM. You can assign up to 1TB of RAM to ESXi 5.0 virtual machines.

    • Software support for 3D graphics to run Windows Aero. ESXi 5.0 supports nonhardware accelerated 3D graphics to run Windows Aero and Basic 3D applications in virtual machines.

    • USB 3.0 device support. ESXi 5.0 features support for USB 3.0 devices in virtual machines with Linux guest operating systems. USB 3.0 devices attached to the client computer running the vSphere Web Client or the vSphere Client can be connected to a virtual machine and accessed in it. USB 3.0 devices connected to the ESXi host are not supported.

    • UEFI virtual BIOS. Virtual machines running on ESXi 5.0 can boot from and use the Unified Extended Firmware Interface (UEFI).

  • Graphical User Interface to configure multicore virtual CPUs. You can now configure the number of virtual CPU cores per socket in the Virtual Machine Properties view in the vSphere Web Client and the vSphere client. Previously this feature was only configurable through advanced settings.

  • Client-connected USB devices. USB devices attached to the client computer running the vSphere Web Client or the vSphere Client can be connected to a virtual machine and accessed within it.

  • Smart card reader support for virtual machines. Smart card readers attached to the client computer running the vSphere Web Client or the vSphere Client can be connected to one or more virtual machines and accessed in them. The virtual machine remote console, available in the vSphere Web Client and the vSphere Client, supports connecting smart card readers to multiple virtual machines, which can then be used for smart card authentication.

  • Expanded support for VMware Tools versions. VMware Tools from vSphere 4.x is supported in virtual machines running on vSphere 5.0 hosts. Additionally, the version of VMware Tools supplied with vSphere 5.0 is also compatible with ESX/ESXi 4.x.

  • Apple Mac OS X Server guest operating system support. VMware vSphere 5.0 adds support for the Apple Mac OS X Server 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") as a guest operating system. Support is restricted to Apple Xserve model Xserve3,1 systems.

  • Host UEFI boot support. vSphere 5.0 supports booting ESXi hosts from the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). With UEFI you can boot systems from hard drives, CD/DVD drives, or USB media. Booting over the network requires the legacy BIOS firmware and is not available with UEFI.

  • Support for up to 512 virtual machines per host. vSphere 5.0 supports up to 512 virtual machines totaling a maximum of 2048 virtual CPUs per host.

  • Support for larger systems. vSphere 5.0 supports systems with up to 160 logical CPUs and up to 2TB of RAM.

  • Improved SNMP support. With vSphere 5.0, you can convert CIM indications to SNMP traps. Check with your hardware vendor to see whether their CIM provider supports this functionality. In addition, vSphere 5.0 now supports the Host Resources MIB (RFC 2790) and allows for finer control over the types of traps sent by the SNMP agent.

  • Memory fault isolation. On supported platforms, ESXi 5.0 detects and quarantines physical memory regions that exhibit frequent correctable errors. This preemptive action reduces the risk of uncorrectable errors that result in VM or host downtime. Should an uncorrectable memory error occur, ESXi 5.0 quarantines the failed memory region and restarts the affected virtual machines. ESXi halts with a purple diagnostic screen only if the memory error affects the hypervisor itself. These enhancements deliver improved VM and host availability.

  • Image Builder. A new set of PowerCLI cmdlets lets administrators create custom ESXi images that include third-party components required for specialized hardware, such as drivers and CIM providers. You can use Image Builder to create images suitable for different types of deployment, such as ISO-based installation, PXE-based installation, and Auto Deploy.

  • Host Profiles Enhancements. Using an Answer File, you can configure host-specific settings to use with the common settings in the Host Profile, which removes the need to add host-specific parameters. This feature enables the use of Host Profiles to fully configure a host during an automated deployment. In addition, Host Profiles includes support for an expanded set of configurations, including iSCSI, FCoE, Native Multipathing, Device Claiming and PSP Device Settings, and Kernel Module Settings.

  • Metro vMotion. Ability to use vMotion to move a running virtual machine when the source and destination ESX hosts are more than 5ms round trip time latency apart. The maximum supported round trip time latency between the two hosts is now 10ms.

  • Enablement of Trusted Execution Technology (TXT). ESXi 5.0 can be configured to boot with Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT). This boot option can protect ESXi in some cases where system binaries are corrupt or were tampered with.

  • Improvement in scalability. ESXi 5.0 supports up to 160 logical processors.


  • Storage DRS. This feature delivers the DRS benefits of resource aggregation, automated initial placement, and bottleneck avoidance to storage. You can group and manage similar datastores as a single load-balanced storage resource called a datastore cluster. Storage DRS makes disk (VMDK) placement and migration recommendations to avoid I/O and space utilization bottlenecks on the datastores in the cluster.

  • Profile-driven storage. This solution allows you to have greater control and insight into characteristics of your storage resources. It also enables virtual machine storage provisioning to become independent of specific storage available in the environment. You can define virtual machine placement rules in terms of storage characteristics and monitor a virtual machine's storage placement based on these administrator-defined rules. The solution delivers these benefits by taking advantage of the following items:

    • Integrating with Storage APIs - Storage Awareness to deliver storage characterization supplied by storage vendors.

    • Enabling the vSphere administrator to tag storage based on customer-specific descriptions.

    • Using storage characterizations to create virtual machine placement rules in the form of storage profiles.

    • Providing easy means to check a virtual machine's compliance against these rules.

    As a result, managing storage usage and choice in vSphere deployments is more efficient and user-friendly.

  • vStorage APIs - Storage Awareness. A new set of APIs that allows vCenter Server to detect capabilities of a storage device, making it easier to select the appropriate storage disk for virtual machine placement. Storage capabilities, such as RAID level, thin or thick provisioning, replication state, and so on, can now be made visible with vCenter Server.

  • VMFS5. VMFS5 is a new version of vSphere Virtual Machine File System that offers improved scalability and performance, and provides internationalization support. With VMFS5, you can create a 64TB datastore on a single extent. RDMs in physical compatibility mode with the size larger than 2TB can now be presented to a virtual machine. In addition, on SAN storage hardware that supports vStorage APIs - Array Integration (also known as VAAI), ESXi 5.0 uses the atomic test and set (ATS) locking mechanism for VMFS5 datastores. Using this mechanism can improve performance, although the degree of improvement depends on the underlying storage hardware.

  • iSCSI UI support. Configure dependent hardware iSCSI and software iSCSI adapters along with the network configurations and port binding in a single dialog box using the vSphere Client. Full SDK access is also available for these configurations.

  • Storage I/O Control NFS support. vSphere 5.0 extends Storage I/O Control to provide cluster-wide I/O shares and limits for NFS datastores.

  • Storage APIs - Array Integration: Thin Provisioning. Reclaim blocks of a thin-provisioned LUN when a virtual disk is deleted or migrated. You can also preallocate space on thin-provisioned LUNs and receive advanced warnings and error messages when a datastore on a thin-provisioned LUN starts to fill up. The behavior of a full thin-provisioned disk is also improved. Only virtual machines that are trying to allocate new blocks on a full thin-provisioned datastore are paused. Virtual machines that do not require additional blocks on the thin-provisioned disk continue to run.

  • Swap to Host Cache. The VMkernel scheduler is modified to allow ESXi swap to extend to local or network SSD devices, which enables memory overcommitment and minimizes performance impact. The VMkernel automatically recognizes and tags SSD devices that are local to ESXi or are on the network.

  • 2TB+ LUN support. vSphere 5.0 provides support for 2TB+ VMFS datastores. Very large VMFS5 datastores with the size of up to 64TB can be created on a singe storage device without additional extents.

  • Storage vMotion snapshot support. Allows you to use Storage vMotion for a virtual machine in snapshot mode with associated snapshots. You can better manage storage capacity and performance by using flexibility of migrating a virtual machine along with its snapshots to a different datastore. A new Storage vMotion mechanism uses a mirror driver, which synchronizes the source disk to the destination disk, making the migration quicker.

  • Software FCoE. vSphere 5.0 introduces support for a software Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) driver. To enable this driver on an ESXi host, you must have a NIC that can support some FCoE offload capabilities.

  • Snapshot commitments. If a snapshot commit operation fails, this feature enables the vSphere Client to warn users that a consolidate operation is still required on the virtual machine.


  • Enhanced Network I/O Control. vSphere 5.0 builds on network I/O control to allow user-defined network resource pools, enabling multitenancy deployment, and to bridge virtual and physical infrastructure QoS with per resource pool 802.1 tagging.

  • vSphere Distributed Switch Improvements. vSphere 5.0 provides a deeper view into virtual machine traffic through Netflow and enhances monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities through SPAN and LLDP.

  • ESXi Firewall. The ESXi 5.0 management interface is protected by a service-oriented and stateless firewall, which you can configure using the vSphere Client or at the command line with esxcli interfaces. A new firewall engine eliminates the use of iptables and rule sets define port rules for each service. For remote hosts, you can specify the IP addresses or range of IP addresses that are allowed to access each service.

VMware vCenter Server

  • vSphere Web Client. A new browser-based user interface that is supported across Linux and Windows platforms. In the 5.0 release, the vSphere Web Client is a replacement for the Web Access product. The client is suitable for all console and virtual machine use cases, allowing administrators to manage their environments.

  • vCenter Server Appliance. A vCenter Server implementation running on a preconfigured virtual appliance. This appliance significantly reduces the time required to deploy vCenter Server and associated services and provides a low-cost alternative to the traditional Windows-based vCenter Server.

  • Inventory Extensibility. VMware customers and partners can extend vCenter Server in multiple ways, including the inventory, graphical user interface, and agents. vCenter Server includes a manager to monitor the extensions. By deploying extensions created by VMware partners, you can use vCenter Server as a unified console to manage your virtualized datacenter.

  • Enhanced logging support. All log messages are now generated by syslog, and messages can now be logged on either local or one or more remote log servers. A given server can log messages from more than one host. Log messages can be remotely logged using either the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or TCP connections. The vSphere syslog listener is available as an optional plug-in to vCenter on Windows. In the vCenter Virtual Appliance (VCVA), logging is accomplished using the native syslog-ng facility. With vSphere 5.0, log messages from different sources can be configured to go into different logs for more convenience. Configuration of message logging can also be accomplished using ESXCLI in addition to the vSphere Client.


  • vSphere HA. vSphere High Availability is now a cloud-optimized availability platform. Enhancements such as the elimination of the primary and secondary roles and removal of the dependence on DNS make configuration easier. New features, such as the ability to use shared storage as a backup communication channel ensure higher reliability of host failure detection.

  • vSphere Data Recovery 2.0. VMware increases the speed and reliability of backups expands with the release of Data Recovery 2.0. This release improves integration with vCenter and provides new manageability features including:

    • Automated generation and emailing of backup job reports.

    • Improved backup, integrity check, and reclaim operation performance.

    • Increased resiliency against transient network failures provides improved CIFS support.

    • Increased flexibility to schedule, pause, and cancel integrity check operations.

Partner Ecosystem

  • Expanded List of Supported Processors. The list of supported processors has been expanded for ESXi 5.0. To determine which processors are compatible with this release, use the Hardware Compatibility Guide. Among the supported processors are the the Intel Xeon E7-2800, E7-4800, and E7-8800 processor series, code-named Westmere-EX, and the Intel Xeon E3-1200 and i3-2100 processor series, code-named Sandy Bridge.

  • Support for Multi-queue Storage Adapters. The vSphere storage stack is enhanced to discover multi-queue capabilities of adapters and distribute the incoming I/O on these queues based on CPU affinity. This results in reduced CPU cost per I/O.