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What's wrong with the new My VMware portal?

Having trouble navigating the My VMware portal? You’re not the only one. It was intended to simplify licensing, but the clunky interface leaves much to be desired.

The new My VMware portal was supposed to help customers better manage licensing and support, but so far, it hasn’t...

lived up to its potential.

For as long as I can remember, most VMware customers that I have worked with always dreaded when they had to use the now-defunct Licensing Portal on VMware’s website. Finally, a few months back, VMware introduced the new My VMware Portal, which was designed to alleviate some of that pain and make working with VMware easier on multiple levels. Let’s take a look at some tips on using the portal, along with some gripes that VMware can improved upon.

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After the beta testing was complete and VMware publicly launched the My VMware portal, many folks had a hard time just navigating the site. VMware created a large base of webinar training and frequently asked questions to ease some of that pain, but then the issues started to flow in from users.

To address these concerns, VMware created a rather large collection of VMware Knowledge Base (KB) articles, which reference the My VMware portal. I would suggest bypassing their Top 10 things to know about My VMware article, as it makes things more complicated to understand. The folks at VMware who write those articles should really consider their wide audience and make things easier, not harder, to understand.

Using the My VMware portal interface
During the beta testing , the first thing I noticed is that the My VMware portal seems to be more stable using Google Chrome than with Internet Explorer 9. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had IE crash a few times while using the portal – even after the public launch. I have never had a stability problem while using Chrome. On my Mac, the portal worked well in both Safari and Camino. I don’t use Firefox, so I can’t comment on the portal’s performance in that browser.

On this same topic, for those of you that have not yet seen Josh Atwell’s video on his peculiar and very funny browser issue with My VMware, check it out. This issue spurred a VMware KB article. The KB article suggests  clearing your cache to fix this problem. This eliminates quite a few issues with the new site, and has worked for me when something quirky is happening with my browser.

I like the interface, and it is much better than the previous licensing portal. It’s easy on the eyes and looks cleaner, for example. I suggest that you follow the breadcrumb navigation links in the upper-left corner, because you can easily get lost trying to find your way back home, when going deep into the site.

A word of caution when using the site: Remember to always save your changes! Because of the site’s programming, it sometimes appears that you have made a change, even if you have not confirmed and committed it, because you are taken away from where you were working and brought back to the start. As an example, when you go to organize a large amount of license keys and place them in folders, you are brought back to the initial license-key screen instead of where you were. And this can be confusing.

My VMware portal usability tips
Use dashes or numbers in folder names to organize important folders  to the top so you can find them easier. Also, remember that text you enter in the Notes field do not carry over to licenses that are divided or combined. This isn’t any different from the Licensing Portal, but it should have been fixed. Once you divide or combine licenses, be sure to change the Notes field.

A valuable tip for the Users & Permissions element is to look for the gear symbols with the dropdown arrow whenever you open a user, folder or contract. You can find more control options for those objects in the dropdown menus. Creating folders to organize these objects is especially helpful for folks with larger accounts and many objects.  The concept of folders also expands to other parts of the portal, such as licenses, for even more convenience.

The Users & Permissions element was the most controversial and discussed element during the beta testing. Even after the release, it remains one of the toughest aspects for people to learn and understand. I believe that VMware, by trying to make permissions management easier for users, actually made it more confusing. Attempting to assign users to contracts, and altering the permissions for those users, seems more difficult than it needs to be.

More My VMware portal gripes
When I click on the Support icon, I should be able to quickly see what support tickets I have open, along with the other options that are available today. Why can’t I do that?

By far, my biggest complaint during beta testing and one of my pet peeves with licensing portals in general is that the My VMware portal does not allow a customer to print or export a listing of licenses, contracts or keys. At least with the old interface, you could create a scrolling screenshot or print the page as a PDF to get your information. Now, you can’t even do that because you can only have one license or contract open at a time.

I was told by a VMware representative that  the ability to export a list of licences would be included when the portal was released to the public, but it never happened. C’mon folks, it can’t be that hard to code a simple Print or Export button in. How much did you spend on this thing?

Additionally, the mobile app is a good idea, but it really serves very little purpose because you cannot actually do anything with it. It is read-only and it requires you to go to the Web portal to make any changes to your account. It also requires WiFi for the initial connection, which in today’s 4G world, is a bit ridiculous. Nice try VMware, but no.

All in all, I do like the look and feel of the new portal, but it still has some nagging quirks and programming issues that leave me wanting something better. I know this will be tough for VMware to swallow, but it really should consider taking a cue from Microsoft and its LiveID integrated portals with Volume Licensing and MSDN. The overall requisite should be to “keep it simple, stupid” and make the lives of your customers easier, not harder. If your account portal site requires training just to use, you’re doing something wrong.

This was last published in July 2012

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Are you finding it difficult to use the My VMware portal?
The new portal is terrible, slow and cumbersome. I have made several complaints to support staff.
Convoluted and difficult to navigate...
Was nice when I was made "master" over all the vmware licenses in my company -- which I'm not the master and now can't get rid of the licenses that don't belong to me.
My company name is a very common one, so I have several users that do not even belong to my company. This also means I have access to several folders that belong to the other company.

I opened a support case and all they did was send me links to online tutorials. I am still fighting it.
While it's not as intuitive as it could be, I don't find it that hard to use. Use the menu to navigate, not your back button seems to help as well...
The conversion really screwed up our account. There are a number of completely separate businesses with very similar names and these accounts got merged with ours. It took almost 2 months to get it straightened out.
"The conversion really screwed up our account...."

We're having the same problem. We cannot determine which licenses/contracts belong to us.
I agree that an export for all licenses is needed. Doing screen shots of the many license folders is a pain!!
Finding license no, service request etc.
Complete lack of any HCI design.
simplify, to simplify
sometimes a pain. But it has to be said, in one case i had to transfer licenses, went very smooth thanks to the licensing support desk of VMware.
Thank you very much for posting this article, Mike. We at VMware are very interested in the thoughts, perspectives and feedback from our users, so an article like this helps us understand frustrations that people using My VMware may have. We welcome all feedback, so if there others out there that share these perspectives and have other input, we would like to hear from you.

Since My VMware went live back in April, we've been actively working on improving the experience. We are paying close attention to the survey data that comes in, as well as feedback that we get from customers directly and in-indirectly through our support channels.

There's good news for My VMware users. We are well aware of the issues that Mike talks about in this article. We are working with customers to evaluate possible solutions and help move the needle in the right direction.

Last comment – we all couldn't agree more with the statement that "The overall requisite should be to 'keep it simple, stupid' and make the lives of your customers easier, not harder. If your account portal site requires training just to use, you’re doing something wrong."
A fixed-size GUI built for low resolution tablet devices is a HORRIBLE way to manage a large number of licenses. Seriously - how hard would it be to autoscale? At least in the Y direction.

And only being allowed to select a single key when doing maintenance? Again, once you get a decent number of licenses in there it is a major hassle to reorganize them. You get a 3-step wizard per line, and once you complete moving one key you are back to the general overview - any filters you might have set are gone.

All in all a huge step backward compared to the old portal, which is saying something!
I'm just a single user with a few licenses, but for some reason my "My VMware" portal has three accounts, none of which has any licenses attached. I didn't worry about it (since I have my licenses in local text files), but it bit me - and VMware - when I tried to buy an upgrade to Workstation 9 during a recent 30% off promotion.

I had no ability to give VMware my paltry $83 for the upgrade. Talking to both sales and tech support on the phone for a couple hours wasn't any help.

Guess I'll just have to stick with VMware Workstation 7.
Update from the My VMware team: Thank you to all who have shared your insights, frustrations and suggestions regarding the My VMware site. We actively solicit and review feedback so we can continually improve the My VMware user experience. Here is a summary of some improvements we made a couple of months ago, as well as a sneak peek of additional functionality we are implementing in the very near future – all based on user input.
The November My VMware update release included the following improvements:
• Added “right click” menus to streamline access to frequent tasks
• Changed “gear” icons to the word “actions” plus a dropdown menu to make menus more visible
• Made the license key notes visible by default and added ability to filter on note keywords
• Provided context during License Key actions so you can see which product you are working with
• Made the currently selected account more visible so you can easily switch between accounts
• Streamlined the product download process when purchasing from our online store
For more information on the November release, visit: http://blogs.vmware.com/kb/2012/11/my-vmware-improvements.html.
The next release of My VMware will include:
• Reporting functionality so you can run reports on Licensing and User Permissions information, as well as the ability to "export to CSV" format
• "Liquid layout" so users with larger resolutions and displays can obtain more effective and usable real estate to work with
• Ability for Super Users to set the permissions for new users at the time they are added – no need to wait for the invitation to be accepted before setting permissions
• Ability to "bulk move" a range of licenses from one folder to another more efficiently
• System-generated alerts to Folder Managers or Super Users for permission/access requests, and the ability to "remove" yourself from an Account if desired
• Notification of future changes – users will be notified of upcoming My VMware changes before they occur

We’re excited about these new enhancements, and hope you will be, too. Please keep the feedback coming. We value your input so we can continue enhancing My VMware to meet your needs.