Where does the vCMA fling fit in VMware's mobile strategy?

The vCMA virtual appliances is an unsupported fling, and VMware still doesn't have an official mobile admin interface for vSphere. What’s the delay?

Everyone wants mobility options for software, whether it’s an application interface, website or a portal. VMware admins are no different, and with last year's release of the vCMA virtual appliance, VMware finally gave admins the ability to do what they do best without a desktop.

More on vCMA and remote management

Installing vCMA and VMware iPad app for remote vSphere management
VSphere Client for iPad: VMware management on the go
VMware iPad apps: Taking virtualization to go

But which direction VMware is taking for mobile administrative clients -- and how they are supported -- remains uncertain.

The vCMA (vCenter Mobile Access) fling, which is a required backend for some clients, can become a valuable administrative asset. And the free tools from VMware labs, called flings, are worth a look. This fling is unsupported; however,  the VMware Labs site offers some important educational resources.

The vCMA is a virtual appliance that comes ready to import into your ESXi environment. Once you have the vCMA installed and configured, you're ready to use your mobile device.

Fig. 1: vCMA Main Menu

To get started using the vCMA, open your device's browser and go to the URL of the vCMA at https://<vCMA IP Address>/vim. Enter a vCenter server name (or ESXi host name) and then enter your authentication credentials.

I’ve found that the vCMA interface is usable, but it does have some quirks.

  • There is no breadcrumb navigation, so you can get lost very easily. And clicking on the browser's Back button can cause errors.
  • The vCMA interface lacks the option to show text labels for all of vCMA’s icons. Unless you hover over the icons, which can be difficult on a smartphone, you  might not know what they do.
  • There is no option for opening consoles into your guest virtual machines (VMs), which is disappointing -- even with the small screen size. Screen real estate is an issue with any mobile application that attempts to show an entire desktop, but opening consoles should be an option in case of emergency.

iPad support sends mixed messages on vCMA future
Some will argue that vCMA is an unsupported fling that was never intended to be the mobile access interface for vCenter. However, VMware also has a vSphere Client for iPad and iPhones, and vCMA is a required backend for these mobile apps. 

According to the description in the iPad app store, these clients are "available as-is, with community support only." This means you have a community supported client that runs on an unsupported backend.

Fig. 2: vCMA guest view

And this raises a few questions: In what direction is VMware going? When will the company stand up and fully support mobile administration? Will mobile support come with the new vSphere Web Client introduced with version 5?

VMware has released a mobile client for the My VMware administration portal, along with separate mobile clients to administer their Horizon product as well as View, their virtual desktop offering. But what does this really mean for the VMware’s mobile strategy?

I think it means the company is heading in the wrong direction. VMware is creating too many different mobile access clients for the company's different product lines, rather than concentrating on what every administrator wants -- a single pane of glass. Having a conversation about eliminating the "fat" vSphere Client is a good sign, but so far, VMware does not provide a true mobile interface that admins can use on tablets as well as phones.

This was first published in August 2012

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