Meet the New vSphere 5.1 Web Client

vCenter 5.1 Updates

VMware announced at VMworld 2012 a number of new products and technologies that challenge the status-quo in IT. One of the most visible changes was the introduction of the new vSphere Web Client and the promotion of it as the primary interface to manage vCenter servers.

In my humble opinion, the web interface is a functional work of art. It is fast, responsive and easy to navigate. Yet, there are more practical reasons to force you to switch. A good reason to switch now is that soon enough (in vSphere 6.0) you will no longer have the option to use the traditional Windows-based client. Even now, most of the new vSphere 5.1 features are only accessible through the new web user interface.

getting started

The web client is a successful attempt from VMware to reduce its dependency on Microsoft. Customers have long demanded a way to manage their VMware infrastructure from Linux or Mac without the need to install a Windows VM. Finally VMware has responded directly to Microsoft, competing with them in the virtualization market.

This article is an introduction that explores the web interface and how to perform many important tasks using it. The series will also explain some essential vSphere features and capabilities including vMotion, HA, DRS and Fault Tolarance (all outlined in the context of web interface).

The user interface structure is a huge improvement over the traditional windows interface, which has a hierarchy divided to four main views: hosts and clusters, VMs and Templates, and Datastores and Networking. The new web interface adds inventory lists that allow you to quickly view all objects beneath the current object grouped by type. This makes it extremely intuitive to browse to related objects.

traditional windows

The traditional windows C# vSphere Client – we will remember it, but I doubt we will miss it

One click on a host object displays information about the object in the center pane, while a 2nd click (or a double-click) opens it to display related objects like VMs hosted on it, and datastores and virtual networks connected to it.

objects

summary

web interface

Viewing the related object is a new concept in the web interface. I often need to see which VMs are connected to the DMZ or to certain WAN link. This was achievable in a number of ways like going to the networking views, clicking on the virtual network and then on the Virtual Machines tab. With the web interface you can reach the same information with just another click.

The new search is also very impressive. Clicking “All Results” displays the search results in the details pane and on the navigator pane. The details pane allows you to filter or sort the results, and if you want more details on any of the search results without leaving the search context, click on the object from the navigator pane.

virtual machine

standard network

datastores

Advanced Search

The advanced search allows you to use customized search criteria: For example you may need to know which of your data stores have more than 1TB of free disk space.

customized search criteria

Or you may need to combine multiple criteria to see if the VMware tools on any of your Linux machines needs upgrading.

saved search criteria

Search Criteria can be saved to be used how often you need it. This is a great way to keep an eye on things that matter the most to you. And save time needed to rebuild what can be a complicated long list of rules.

Searchable Tags

Another important improvement to search is the searchable tags. In a large infrastructure tagging objects according to your needs will make it easier to find what you are interested in as fast as possible. For example, I often clone a VM before a major change to its configuration. Then I can tag the clone with its date of creation or mark it for deletion later.

manage

Work in Progress

If you’ve been using the old vSphere Client, you sure know the feeling when you start a wizard to perform a task then have to cancel it and start over because something was not totally ready or you need some extra information to complete the task; it is annoying and counterproductive. At a place where the SAN admin had made a huge number of small LUNs, I used to have a hard time finding enough space to create a new VM. I sometimes had to cancel the wizard, migrate another VM to consolidate empty space and make room for a larger VM. Another example is migrating a VM to a host where a required virtual network is not there. While the migration will go through with a warning, losing virtual machine connectivity.

How many times have you wished that you could simply pause what you were doing, go create the needed virtual network and return to the migration wizard without losing your work? With the new Web client you can do exactly that! It may look small, but if you’ve been in that situation way too many times you will appreciate how useful this feature is. This actually is the primary feature that made me switch to the new web client in everything I do.

work in progress

How to Get the Web Interface

The vSphere web client is a great leap in the evolution of VMware clients, yet not a disrupting revolution. It builds on what you are already familiar with to provide a smooth transition to a better way of doing things. The four hierarchies are still there in some way, but you will find the flow between related objects as a much more dynamic way to reach your destination.

I am sure by now that you are eager to try the web client yourself and are wondering how to get it. There are basically two ways to have this beauty, both with its benefits and constraints and both will be explained in details in future articles. The first is the installation of the web client on top of a 64-bit Windows vCenter 5.1 Server. The second is to deploy the new Virtual Center Server Linux Appliance (vCSA for short). Stay tuned for more articles about how to do things the new web client way.

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