On 2nd June VMware announced the End of Availability of VMware vCenter Heartbeat. It is no longer available for sale after this date, but existing customers are supported through to 2018. This marks a turning point for availability when it comes to vCenter. Is this another in a line of cases where VMware has killed a product before there is a suitable replacement or alternative? With vCenter Server Heartbeat gone, your options for availability of vCenter are now limited to VMware HA. But is it really gone?
“This is very odd. There is no other product to replace Heartbeat. I know VMware is working on stuff, but this makes no sense to me. But as of June 2, VMware does not sell Heartbeat any longer. If you own it already it will be supported to 2018. But in the meantime, what do you do? Aside from backups, and HA, there is not much if you want to really have good up-time. I guess there is quite a back-story here since VMware has put people into a very awkward spot and I don’t think they do that lightly.”
I agree with Michael. This is odd. I’m sure VMware is working on something. The availability of vCenter is critical as more and more products are integrated into it. It’s critical for backups (and more importantly restores) to function, it’s critical for VDI workloads (which are an important business critical app when adopted widely), for monitoring tools and provisioning tools and cloud environments. If you manage a critical environment that must be available 24/7 and have reliable analytics, then vCenter is important and needs to be protected. But availability for vCenter hasn’t been easy for a long time (accept when using heartbeat), and there is a lot of dependence on it. It was never really architected for availability in the first place. It is essentially a single point of failure. We really can’t afford that in the world of the Software-Defined Datacenter. Another good article that explains this is Julian Wood‘s article titled What VMware’s EOL of vCenter Server Heartbeat means for availability?
vCenter Server Heartbeat was the solution of choice when you needed to protect not just against infrastructure failure, but also application service failure and application performance degradation, and have options to protect vCenter across a datacenters or across a WAN environment. I had architected a number of solutions for business critical apps environments or cloud environments that included Heartbeat. I’d also written about it on this blog such as in these articles:
But vCenter is evolving and eventually something had to change. There was a presentation at VMworld some time ago about vCenters evolution to become much more of a federated solution, much more scalable and much more highly available. So it was inevitable that the availability options would change too. This is still something for the future though and the plans have not yet been announced. For the here and now we still need to protect the vital SDDC management infrastructure. So what are your options for vCenter availability now that vCenter Heartbeat is not available?
1. Virtualize vCenter! If you don’t have vCenter Virtualized you’re missing out on the easiest way to increase availability. If you create a management cluster for your management VM’s including your vCenters, then you will be able to easily protect them with things such as item 2.
2. vSphere HA. This is how you protect your other VM’s and it works great for vCenter as well. At least up to about 99.9% availability. You can potentially increase availability further by using VM Monitoring and potentially App HA.
3. Backups of vCenter and/or a clone of vCenter or cold stand by.
In truth, none of the above solutions fully replace the functionality of heartbeat that made it valuable and important for critical environments that needed high availability and high availability of their management infrastructure. But vCenter Server Heartbeat didn’t protect all of the tools in VMware’s rapidly growing portfolio of products either. For example there was no support for vCAC, SRM, vCD, VCM, vCOps etc. All of the other tools that you’d like high availability for also. So perhaps that they now don’t have to worry about development of vCenter Server Heartbeat the availability and architecture of some of these other products will improve? Perhaps all of these products will integrate much more easily with each other, be more easily architected in a highly available manner? Maybe this will be one of the big talking points at VMworld in 2014.
But is vCenter Heartbeat Really Gone for Good?
The answer is NO! It’s just gone back to its roots. vCenter Server Heartbeat was always a product that VMware had OEM’d from Neverfail. So now that VMware has dropped vCenter Server Heartbeat Neverfail has taken it back and you can purchase the Neverfail IT Continuity Engine. The good news is that Neverfail’s IT Continuity Engine isn’t just limited to vCenter. It works with a whole host of other products. So while vCenter Server Heartbeat is dead from a VMware perspective, it is not gone, and certainly not forgotten.
I don’t agree with removing a product from sale prior to an alternative that is of equal or better functionality being available. This is not the first time it’s happened, it’s happened to other products. How can anyone make sensible product investment decisions when you don’t know what the shelf life is of a product? In this case VMware HA really isn’t equivalent, but it’s the alternative that is included in the price and it’s what’s available from VMware today. Everybody should have their vCenters virtualized in any case. But in this case at least you can still get the additional level of vCenter high availability if required by going to Neverfail, who were the original makers of vCenter Server Heartbeat in any case.
You can have your say and give your feedback directly to the VMware Product Managers for vCenter availability and performance. They have started a survey and they want you to let them know about your environments. They are collecting the requirements around performance, availability and scaleability that will shape the future of vCenter. So have your say in the VMware vCenter Performance Survey.
This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com. By Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – 2014 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.