Getting Starting with the vSphere 5 Web-Client


One of the most visible features of the newly announced (and soon to be released) vSphere 5 is the new web-client used for vSphere administration. VMware has stated that this new web client will soon be replacing the current Windows-based vSphere Client, written in the C# language. VMware admins have long since voiced that they wanted a client that runs on a Mac and/or a client that is web-based. VMware has listened by creating a new web-based client written in Adobe Flex.

What does the new vSphere Web-Client Offer?

The new vSphere web-client offers most of the same features as the traditional vSphere client. Here is a list of some of the features:

  • Hosts and virtual machine inventory view
  • Administration of hosts, VMs, templates, storage, and networks
  • VM remote console access
  • Event and task monitoring

Besides the traditional vSphere Client administrative features, the new web version of the vSphere client offers:

  • Ability to administer vSphere from any computer with a supported web browser, Adobe Flash, and a network connection to the vSphere infrastructure.
  • No installation of a client to administer vSphere
  • Ability to administer vSphere from any operating system including Mac OSX, Linux, and, of course, Windows
  • An innovative work in progress feature (covered below)
  • A visually appealing interface

Besides “looking pretty” and functioning on any platform without an install, the new vSphere web-client’s “work in progress feature” is quite nice.

The work in progress feature allows you to save a configuration task that you are in the middle of, do something else, and come back to your partially completed task. When you do save your task, it is stored on the right side of the web-client interface in a box called, you guessed it, the “work in progress” panel. Here’s how it works…

Say that you are in the middle of adding a new virtual network interface to a VM. You are trying to recall what virtual network it should be attached to when someone walks in and asks you to reboot a VM. Rather than cancel out of your work and lose it, you can click to minimize it to the work in progress panel by clicking the double arrow on the top right of the screen, like this:

Figure 1

Once minimize, the work in progress panel, you can perform your other task and then retrieve your saved task from the work in progress panel, like this:

Figure 2

The other thing I really like about the new interface is the speed and snappy response. When you click on things, they just seem to happen quickly. Plus, the interface is, visually, beautiful to use as compared to other vSphere web interfaces or even the current vSphere Client.

How Do You Install the vSphere 5 Web-Client?

Getting the vSphere 5 web-client up and running is not hard but there are a few specific steps that you must perform, in order, to be able to use it.

To use the vSphere web client, a server piece is required to be installed. The web client (server) portal can be installed on the more recent Windows Server operating systems. Assuming you are using vCenter on Windows, it’s recommended to just install the vSphere web client (server) on your vCenter server. If you are using the new vCenter Server appliance, you won’t be able to install the vSphere web client (server) for Windows on it but, you won’t need to. Support for the vSphere web client is built in to the new vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).

The vSphere web client (server) is located on the same media that you would install vCenter Server for windows from. On the installation media, here’s what you’ll see:

Figure 3

The installation process is quick and uneventful. All you need to do is to take the standard defaults during the install.

Authorizing the vSphere Web Client (Server)

Once installed, you’ll need to authorize the vSphere web client to use your credentials with your vCenter server. To do this, you can use the browser window that will automatically open up when you complete the installation. You should know that, to do this, you’ll need to have Adobe Flash installed on your server before (I didn’t have it installed on my vCenter server and had to install it).

The authorization process is basically entering the hostname and vCenter administrative credentials, like this:

Figure 4

You should take special note of the two URLs in the graphic above:

  1. vSphere web client (server) admin site – https://localhost:9443/admin-app
  2. vSphere web client (once authorized) – https://vcenter5:9443/vsphere-client (where vcenter5 represents your server’s hostname where you installed the vSphere web client (server).

Using the vSphere 5 Web Client

Once it is installed and authorized, using the vSphere web client is a snap. Just point your local web browser to https://vcenter5:9443/vsphere-client (yes, to access this remotely, you could open a port on your firewall to access this over the web but using a VPN would be much more secure).

When you first connect to the web client interface, you’ll be promoted with a login screen, just like you are used to using with your local Windows vSphere Client. Here’s what the login screen looks like:

Figure 5

Once you login, you’ll see this main vSphere web client administration screen:

Figure 6

From here, you’ll find that the vSphere web client functions very similarly to the traditional Windows client. On the left hand side you have your hosts and virtual machines inventory that shows your datacenters, folders, clusters, hosts, and VMs. That hosts and VM view can also be changed to the VMs and templates view, datastores view, and networking view.

In the middle of the screen, you have the main content for whatever type of object you are viewing in the inventory. In the graphic above (figure 5) you can see how I have selected the vCenter 5 virtual machine (but the example applies for any VM you select) and, in the middle of the screen, you have information about that VM including its status, hostname, IP address, vCPU information, memory info, network, disk, CD, and related items in the virtual infrastructure.

On the right hand side, you have a vertical panel that contacts three smaller panels – My recent tasks, work in progress, and alarms. You saw how “work in progress” works, above, and the tasks and alarms function the same way.

I do like how you can collapse the left and right vertical panels to give you a lot more screen real estate. Here’s what it looks like:

Figure 7

I like how, when you collapse the right panel, there are small icons with numbers that indicate the number of unread tasks, alarms, or work in progress items.

New vSphere Web Client – In Summary

Overall, the new vSphere 5 web client is valuable and effective. While today’s web client may have limitations (like not being able to install or use vSphere plugins), it is still fast, visually appealing, working without an app install, and can do at least 90% of the tasks that VMware Admins are performing on a daily basis. I really like where VMware is going with this new interface. As soon as vSphere 5 is released, it’s time for VMware Admins to start using the new web client as you will only see more and more of this new tool.

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