Quoting from the official VMware support page:
1. What server products did VMware announce at VMworld?
VMware announced ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 at its VMworld user conference. These releases will be major upgrades to the current ESX Server and VirtualCenter releases.
2. Are ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 available now?
No, ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 are currently in limited beta testing. A public beta program will begin later this year and general release will follow in the first quarter of 2006.
3. What is new in these releases?
- NAS and iSCSI Support
By supporting lower-cost, more easily managed shared storage, ESX Server 3 lowers the barrier to entry for deploying virtual infrastructure and further reduces total cost of ownership (TCO). Advanced ESX Server features like VMotion and Distributed availability services are fully supported with NAS and iSCSI environments. Virtual machines see identical virtual storage containers regardless of the underlying physical setup, ensuring hardware independence.
- 4-Way Virtual SMP
Only VMware Virtual SMP allows a single virtual machine to span multiple physical processors. Virtual SMP and ESX Server 3 extend the feature to support virtual machines configured with up to four processors. 4-way Virtual SMP lets ESX Server virtual machines handle the processing requirements of scaled up workloads like databases and messaging servers so applications previously reserved for physical systems can now enjoy the ease of management and flexibility offered by virtualization. Additional service fees and conditions apply.
- 16GB RAM for Virtual Machines
ESX Server 3 lets you allocate up to 16GB of memory per virtual machine to support the most demanding workloads in virtual machines. The expanded memory capability together with 4-way Virtual SMP truly enable virtualization anywhere in your data center.
- Distributed Availability Services
An option when used under VirtualCenter 2 management, Distributed availability services detects failed virtual machines and automatically restarts them on alternate ESX Server hosts. Distributed availability services selects a failover host that can honor the virtual machine’s resource allocations so that service level guarantees remain intact. With Distributed availability services, you can deliver high availability for critical applications without the cost and complexity of clustering. Additional service fees and conditions apply.
- Distributed Resource Scheduling
Built on top of VMotion and VirtualCenter, Distributed resource scheduling intelligently and continuously balances virtual machine workloads across your ESX Server hosts so you can safely operate at 80% utilization or higher. Distributed resource scheduling detects when virtual machine activity saturates an ESX Server host and it triggers automated VMotion live migrations, moving running virtual machines to other ESX Server nodes so that all resource commitments are met. Distributed resource scheduling enables a self-managing, highly optimized compute cluster with built-in resource and load balancing. Additional service fees and conditions apply.
- VMware Consolidated Backup
An ESX Server 3 option offering improved backup performance and simplicity, Consolidated backup supports host-free, LAN-free, agentless backup of Windows virtual machines. Consolidated backup automatically quiesces a virtual disk before creating an online snapshot with no virtual machine downtime required. A separate physical machine can mount the snapshots and use a standard backup agent to back the data up. Consolidated backup provides the simplicity of backing up an entire running virtual machine in one operation while allowing file-level restores. Additional service fees and conditions apply.
- Large-Scale Management
VirtualCenter 2 can manage hundreds of ESX Server hosts and thousands of virtual machines. VirtualCenter 2 starts up faster, is more responsive and is designed from the ground up to handle the largest virtual infrastructure deployments.
- Unified User Interface
ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 share a new VMware Virtual Infrastructure Client accessible from any Windows PC or browser. Remotely access and manage ESX Server hosts, virtual machines and VirtualCenter Management Servers from a single client.
- Improved Virtual Infrastructure Oversight
VirtualCenter 2 centralizes storage of virtual machine configuration files and VMware licenses for greater deployment flexibility. Finer grained access controls and audit trails support enterprise security requirements. An improved inventory model and interactive topology views help simplify management.
- Expanded ESX Server Hardware Support
We anticipate ESX Server 3 will be certified with industry-leading rack, tower and blade servers from Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu Siemens, NEC, Sun and Unisys. ESX Server 3 supports AMD and Intel dual-core processors (a dual-core processor is considered as one processor for licensing purposes).
- Expanded ESX Server Guest Operating System Support
We anticipate ESX Server 3 will be certified with recently updated Windows, Linux and NetWare guest operation systems.
- Expanded I/O Device Support
We anticipate ESX Server 3 will be certified with additional PCI-based SCSI, RAID, Fibre Channel, and Ethernet controllers.
- Expanded Storage Area Network Support
We anticipate ESX Server 3 will be certified with additional Fibre Channel SAN products.
4. What is the pricing for ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2?
VMware will announce pricing for ESX Server 3, VirtualCenter 2 and related components such as Distributed availability services, Distributed resource scheduling, Consolidated backup, 4-way Virtual SMP and VMotion at a later date.
5. I currently own licenses for ESX Server and VirtualCenter. How will I upgrade to the new releases?
VMware ESX Server, VirtualCenter, Virtual SMP and VMotion customers with active Support and Subscription contracts are entitled to the new releases at no cost. Virtual SMP upgrades provide current Virtual SMP customers with the new 4-way version of Virtual SMP. The new Distributed availability services, Distributed resource scheduling and Consolidated backup options will be available for purchase by existing customers with pricing for those options to be announced at a later date.
6. Are ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 compatible with earlier releases?
VirtualCenter 2 can manage mixed ESX Server 2 and ESX Server 3 hosts. The final releases of ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 will support in-place upgrades of ESX Server 2 and VirtualCenter 1 servers. ESX Server 3 will be capable of running older ESX Server 2 virtual machines, but those virtual machines should be upgraded using tools provided with ESX Server 3 to permit them to use all the new capabilities in ESX Server 3.
7. Is there a beta program I can join?
VMware will be announcing a public beta program for ESX Server 3 and VirtualCenter 2 later in the fourth quarter of 2005. To sign up for our beta program, please see this Web page: http://www.vmware.com/betarequest