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Tune up the vSphere Web Client for better performance

Many IT administrators prefer the vSphere desktop client, but VMware is slowly phasing it out in favor of the vSphere Web Client.

With every vSphere release, VMware has made it clear the vSphere Web Client will eventually replace the Windows...

-- also known as the fat or C# -- client. Over the last couple of years, access to new features and functionality in the core hypervisor could be accessed only in the vSphere Web Client.

The vSphere Web Client is a great concept, and one that keeps on progressing with each release, but it still needs some work. Many virtualization admins have certain peeves or performance issues that drive us back to the Windows client. That may be due to the comfort of having used the Windows client for years and knowing it inside out, or maybe we don't want to manually refresh certain screens to see changes we make. Whatever the reason, it's not lack of functionality; the Web Client has a number of advantages over the Windows client. I find it far easier to navigate through the inventory, for example. But there are still plenty of ways to improve the performance and usability of the vSphere Web Client.

Upgrade your vSphere

This may seem like an obvious solution as functionality is typically improved through new releases, and this is especially true when it comes to the vSphere Web Client. The vSphere 5.5 Web Client has better general performance, but it just seems easier to use. Aside from the improvements in speed, there are also a number of usability enhancements.

The Recent Items dropdown has improved drastically in vSphere 5.5. The icon is front and center, allowing administrators to navigate quickly to the vCenter inventory objects they have accessed most recently. The addition of New Objects to display any objects recently added or created in vCenter helps provide a more predictable type of navigation. The Web Client released with vSphere 5.5 has undergone some drastic improvements and just feels a lot more responsive than the vSphere 5.1 version. The 5.5 Web Client is also backwards-compatible with vSphere 5.1; you can use the 5.5 Web Client and leave your vCenter and Single Sign-On, or SSO, installations at 5.1. If you don't upgrade the whole infrastructure, I would recommend moving ahead with at least the Web Client.

Add more memory for Java heaps

Along with a few other vCenter components, the vSphere Web Client runs on a Java virtual machine (JVM) inside an instance of Tomcat. In fact, the Inventory Service, which is what the Web Client accesses to display the various infrastructure objects, runs on that same Tomcat instance. This means users can change the Tomcat and JVM configuration to grant more memory available to the Java heaps. This switch can increase overall performance and responsiveness while reducing the number of times the garbage collection process runs. You have to ensure you also have enough physical memory or reserved vRAM backing the server that hosts the Web Client before you do this. VMware has a Knowledge Base article outlining the process of changing these heap sizes, as well as the recommended values based on the size of your inventory. Tuning JVM memory heap sizes is somewhat of an art, so I'd be sure to follow VMware's recommendations to get the most out of your Web Client.

Tweak the Flash settings

The vSphere Web Client is heavily reliant on Adobe Flash and the Flash plug-ins within the browser you are using. If you haven't changed the Flash Website Storage Settings, you have probably seen the dreaded Requesting to store error as shown below. The Website Storage Settings essentially dictate how much information a Flash application or site can store on the local machine. The problem is that for security benefits the default value for all sites, including the vSphere Web Client, is a mere 100 KB. That is not a lot of storage in today's world, especially for an application as complex as the vSphere Web Client. Increasing this value can put an end to the annoying pop-up asking to store more information, which at times, tends to force the Web Client to completely reload. To do so:

  • Point your browser to the Flash Player Help page:
  • In the panel, find either the hostname or IP -- or both -- that references the URL of the vSphere Web Client
  • Adjust the toggle bar to your desired capacity. Just set this to unlimited.

Tailor settings in the webclient.properties file

There are some other settings you can change from the default to better customize your vSphere Web Client experience. Most of them can be found in the webclient.properties file. If you are using the Windows version of vCenter Server, you can find the file located in the %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\VMware\vSphere Web Client folder.

If you are using the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA), you can find it located at /var/lib/vmware/vsphere-client/.

Refresh rate: When different portions of an infrastructure in the vSphere Web Client are modified, changes aren't always displayed until a refresh. Users can refresh manually, but that's not the most efficient and sustainable method. With vSphere 5.5, you can adjust auto-refresh settings by choosing the following configuration in the webclient.properties file.

refresh.rate = number in seconds

Of course, constantly refreshing the screen comes with overhead and a performance price, so it's best to weigh the pros and cons in your environment.

Session timeout: Although the default setting for session timeout in vSphere 5.5 is generous -- two hours -- you may want to change the value to a higher or unlimited setting. To do so, modify the following configuration in the webclient.properties file. For no timeout, l set it to 0.

session.timeout = number in minutes

Navigator animations: This might not make a huge improvement in your performance, but it certainly makes a big difference in my user experience. When you're navigating through the vCenter inventory, the animations can sometimes appear to be a little choppy and somewhat distracting. You can shut them off by setting the following configuration in the webclient.properties file.

navigator.disableAnimation = true

Hide annoying tabs

It might not make a big difference, but sometimes the default "Getting started" tabs can be bit annoying. I find that a lot of the time I don't use any of the links that are placed on them and navigate away every time they come up. You can hide these tabs by selecting Hide All Getting Started Pages from the Help dropdown.

This was last published in August 2014

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