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When you use a single management console for a large portion of your IT infrastructure, it's imperative that the console be reliable and responsible. VMware's struggled with this for some time: Issues with Adobe Flash caused its vSphere Web Client to crash, and users have long complained that both the Windows vSphere Client and Web Client are too slow. VMware attempted to resolve this with the new HTML5-based vSphere Client in vSphere 6.5, but that client is still incomplete. VMware has said the next release of vSphere will include a feature-complete version of this HTML5-based client to replace all previous vSphere clients -- hopefully, that's true.
The first vSphere Client
Like many other vSphere users, I'm very familiar with the Windows vSphere Client application. From ESXi 3 up to vSphere 6.5, VMware offered a Windows application as the primary tool to manage its virtualization platform. This application was far from perfect: It only ran on Windows, was slow to load in large environments and had security issues. Take my word for it when I say that I saw the error message "Object not set to a reference of an object" a few times too many. But it also had features I've yet to see in any newer clients, such as map views that provided a visual representation of the relationships among VMs, hosts, storage and networks. The map view on a High Availability/Distributed Resource Scheduler cluster was one of the fastest ways to diagnose a poorly set up cluster or a VM that would not perform a vMotion migration. All of that said, VMware hasn't updated the Windows client to support new feature releases since vSphere 5.5, instead forcing users to rely on the Web Client.
The vSphere Web Client is a web server written in Apache Flex, which uses Adobe Flash in your web browser to provide a consistent interface across browsers. There have been a few iterations of the Web Client, but in my experience, none are superior to the Windows client. I find the Web Client to be slower to navigate, I regularly encounter Flash problems and I have trouble getting it to integrate with Windows authentication. Although I like that it provides a single console for all management tasks, I miss the maps view from the Windows client.
VMware looks for a way out
The biggest problem I've had with the Web Client, so far, was when it crashed immediately upon loading; I experienced the same crash using both Firefox and Chrome. The crash was caused by an Adobe Flash update I automatically installed because Flash has had so many security issues. Luckily for me, I was able to wait a day or so for someone to resolve the problem, which was to roll back to a previous Flash version. I hate to imagine how such a crash would affect an enterprise organization that can't manage its vSphere environment after deploying a Flash patch to all of its desktops. VMware desperately needs to distance itself from Adobe Flash, and the company's currently working on its escape plan.
That escape plan is the HTML5-based vSphere Client, included in vSphere 6.5. HTML5 more openly provides a consistent interface in different browsers. It doesn't require Flash but does require a modern web browser, all of which support the HTML5 standard. I like this new client for its responsiveness and stability. The underlying OS for HTML5 is less of an issue, as HTML5 should behave the same on Mac and Linux as it does on Windows. It should also run the same on an iPod or Android phone, provided the browser is fully HTML5-compliant. I appreciate the flexibility to use the device in front of me to complete the task at hand.
My biggest complaint about the new vSphere Client is that it's nowhere near feature-complete, so I still need to use the Web Client. When the Web Client inevitably crashes, I consider switching to the vSphere Client but know that I'll eventually be forced back to the Web Client again. Dealing with Adobe Flash issues wasn't much of a step forward from the .NET-based Windows vSphere Client. VMware's working hard on the new HTML5-based vSphere Client, but it can't reach maturity soon enough. I'd also be thrilled if, in a future release of vSphere, the vSphere Client regained the Windows client's map functionality.