Discovering vSphere web client 5.1

When the web client was first announced last year, I was really excited with what it had to offer. I was personally even more excited because I really thought, I would finally have no need to run a windows VM on my mbp.

Then I had a rude awakening which triggered me to write this post. Basically, even though you could access the web-client via the browser on OS X, there is still an element called the “Client Integration Plug-in” that cannot be installed on OS X. :(. This and a few more things just killed all my motivation to use the web-client. I figured if I was going to run a VM to access a fully functional client, I might as well run the C# client. But now things have changed a bit.

To start off, the client integration part has still not changed, it still does not fully work on OS X. I just tried it on 10.8 with no luck. So what does this really mean? Lack of inability to install this will keep at least two options away from you that I know of.

  1. Ability to launch the console of the VM
  2. Ability to transfer files to and from datastores
These are the only two that I am aware of, I am not sure if there are any other gotchas yet. But clearly these are not the end of the world. Another thing that I found disappointing was the inability to access VUM from the web-client. Seriously? Why?
So now that I am done with all the trash talking. Lets talk about why should you still get on the web-client bandwagon soon.
  1. I have been told, support for OS X is on the roadmap (that should address the client integration plugin issue)
  2. The VUM plug-in is coming soon
  3. All/most new enhancements of 5.1 are visible and accesible via the web-client ONLY
  4. 5.1 will be the last release for the traditional C# client we have used for all these years. Going forward, web-client is the only way.

So there, #4 should be enough to motivate one to move forward. But let’s keep the draconian approach out for a little bit. The web-client has had a major face lift and IMO has a much better UI. Sure, you will feel lost in the beginning but you will notice the web-client will provide you a much better user experience. The UI is well thought out and has a much better work flow.

To start off, one can now assign searchable tags to objects inside vCenter and yes one object can have more than one tag assigned to it. I am sure this will be a very helpful new feature in large environments.

How many times have you started doing something in vCenter only to realize you have to go back to a different object to get some info. But you can’t without canceling the wizard and what you are doing. In comes work in progress, this is a pretty handy way to address those situations where you can pause what you are doing and come back to it when you are ready.

Another one that I find very useful is the log browser. Basically it gives you the ability to view the logs for your vCenter and all yours hosts in one place. Isn’t that nice? Single pane of glass is what we always wanted. And yes it will let you see all the logs of your host, and you can switch between the type of logs using the drop down list as shown below.

 

These are simply some of the new features that the web-client has to offer among so many more. During the beta, I noticed the OS X compatibility issue but was hopeful for it to be fixed before GA. That didn’t happen but at least its on the road map. The VUM plugin is coming soon along with most other third party plug-ins. Keep in mind, dont be shocked if future third party plug-ins are only available for the web-client. It only makes sense for the vendors to develop for the client that will stay.

Lastly, if you want to make use of all the enhancements in 5.1, the web-client is a must. I was originally not too impressed by the original web client last year, but I must say the 5.1 is not just as good as the traditional c# client but better. Moreover as mentioned above, the traditional client is going away, now will be a good time to get to know your new friend.

vSphere Web Client and OS X

So I finally decided to install the Web Client server in my lab. Everything was pretty straight forward as far as installation goes. Ones you get through the wizard, you will basically have to register the Web Client with the vCenter server. This happens on the server where the web client server is installed via the browser. You will go to https://web-client-server:9443/admin-app/ where server is the name/IP of the web client server. Keep in mind this requires flash to be installed on the server. I am not a big fan of installing flash unless absolutely needed, so here is the workaround thats mentioned in this kb article.

If you don’t want to install flash on the web-client server, simply type the following command on your web-client server:

admin-cmd.bat register https://web-client-server:9443/vsphere-client https://vCenter-server username password

Be sure to replace the portions in blue above with your info (web-client server, vCenter server, username, password).

Once the registration is complete, you can simply head over to https://web-client-server:9443/vsphere-client and login. However, be warned, though this is a great alternative to the vSphere client, it does not have all the functionalities and even less if you are an unfortunate Mac user.

 At the bottom left of the screen, you will notice where it says “Download Client Integration Plug-in”, and if you are a Mac user you will be disappointed. Why? Because this will not install, you will be prompted with with a message as displayed below:

 

So whats the big deal?

To start off, client integration does a couple of important thing that I am aware of:

  1. Allows you to access a virtual machine’s console in the vSphere Web Client
  2. Allows you to connect virtual devices that reside on a client computer to a virtual machine (think USB devices on a client machine)

So if your an OS X user, you will not be able to perform those tasks using your web-client. Will this kill you? Probably not but it’s disappointing to see that OS X has been left out for now. I have heard that support for OS X is in the roadmap for the future. When exactly? No clue. I guess after crying for years, VMware listened to the Linux users and released the web-client and I think its only a matter of time before the Mac world starts to see all the features.

Don’t get me wrong. The web-client doesn’t cover all the features a traditional vSphere client has but it’s ver 1 and I am sure it will get there soon. If you are a Mac user, keep in mind the functionality of the web-client on OS X is even more limited.Will I still use it? Absolutely, this will replace the traditional client we have known for years one day.

 

OS X on vSphere 5 – Myth busted

So after all the licensing fuss, I was finally able to get my vSphere 5 lab started. I have been reading about what this puppy has in store. So far, I have a simple setup of 2 hosts (of course both virtual running on vSphere 4.1) running vSphere 5. One of the things that I was really looking forward to was the ability to run OS X on vSphere and my day got even better once I saw the following screen in the new VM creation wizard in vCenter 5.

So of course like anyone else, I emailed a couple of people whom I thought would look forward to this. I forgot everything else like SDRS, FDM, Datastore heartbeat and what not and all I wanted to do was run OS X in vSphere. So I quickly created a VM, mounted my 10.6 ISO (10.7 just sucks for me right now), got some snacks and powered on the VM to witness history. This is what happened.

Turns out VMware may have added OS X to the list, that hasn’t changed Apple’s EULA. You are still required to use an Apple hardware in order to virtualize OS X. And in order to keep Apple happy, VMware has also added a SMC check prior to starting a VM. When during a check if it is assessed that your host is not running an Apple hardware, then guess what, you will get the same message that I got. I am sure VMware must not have been too fond of putting this check, but who wants to make Apple upset in 2011 right?

If you go to https://address-of-your-host/?moid=ha-host&doPath=hardware, you can then quickly find if your host will pass the SMC check or not. Notice mine failed in the screenshot below. Of course I am not running an Apple hardware for my lab either. If your check says “true” then you are in luck.

So yeah this is a bit disappointing for two reasons. Apple has discontinued XServe which leaves you with Mac mini and Mac pro. I dont think that either one of these two are in the vSphere HCL but folks have been able to get vSphere to run on them. This basically means, no body in their right mind would run OS X on vSphere 5 in a production environment. Why Apple? Why? In my opinion, if Apple claims to be a software company, they should not force one to use any specific hardware. I am sure VMware could care less.

In the end, though this was a bit disappointing, there is so much more to look forward to with vSphere 5. Now that I have my lab started, its only a matter of time before I start liking all the things it has to offer. As mad as I am at Apple for this blunder, I must point out that I am using  my favorite macbook pro to type this post.