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HTML5 client ushers in the mobile-dominated era of IT

As the IT infrastructure landscape moves toward mobile-dominated computing, VMware is replacing the old vanguard of vSphere management with new HTML5 web clients.

It seems the days of the vSphere Client and the Adobe Flash-based vSphere Web Client are numbered and the dawn of the HTML5 client is here. Soon, all vSphere management will take place using your choice of HTML5 browser. VMware has informed customers that the Windows-based vSphere Client, C#, will not be developed any further or included in future vSphere releases. In conjunction with this, new HTML5 web service clients have been released. Anything with an HTML5 browser can be used as a vSphere management client.

This development is vital as we move to a more mobile-dominated computing environment. Gone are the days when IT could be done from a desk using a full-size PC. Like consumers, IT departments now use mobile devices for more activities.

We are also trending toward the simplification of IT infrastructure, reducing the amount of time operations staff spends managing vSphere. Installing certain software and keeping it up to date on a specific operating system can be very limiting, especially if you're only able to dedicate a half hour of work each week to vSphere management. Using a network device for vSphere management helps simplify overall IT management.

A browser-based form of vSphere management has been in the works for many years. The first vCenter Web Client was released with vSphere 5.1. This Web Client was written using Adobe Flex and required a web browser with Adobe Flash. Flash might have been a good choice in 2012, but today, HTML5 is a far better option.

HTML5 trumps Flash

Flash now has a poor reputation, both for excessive resource requirements and for frequent security vulnerabilities. Although HTML5 was available in 2012, it lacked robust development tools and browser compatibility was less widespread. Most modern browsers are compatible with HTML5, including browsers on mobile devices where Flash is not an option.

The first HTML5 interface for ESXi came in the form of a VMware Fling. VMware publishes a variety of internally developed tools and utilities as Flings. These tools do not have commercial support and are released on a user-beware basis. This is a great way to test customer acceptance and gauge demand for new features.

During this trial period, the HTML5 Host Client Fling was warmly welcomed by the VMware community. Those of us with a long VMware history remember the Management User Interface, a very basic HTML interface for configuring a single ESX 2.x server. The new HTML5 implementation allows comprehensive standalone host configuration and operation, as well as VM creation and management. It will replace the vSphere Client for managing a standalone ESXi server. With the release of ESXi 6.0 Update 2, the Host Client has become a feature of ESXi with full support. We will not see the Windows vSphere Client updated for newer versions of ESXi now that the Host Client is available.

Avoid plug-ins with HTML5

By moving to an HTML5 client, VMware has enabled every device with a browser. Even a Microsoft Xbox gaming console can run an HTML5 browser, as can almost every mobile device.

The HTML5 console for VMs also debuted some time ago -- first as a semisecret project and later as the Blast feature in VMware Horizon View. The technology to deliver a VM console into a browser tab is well-proven. This removes much of the need to have a plug-in on the client. Plug-ins are a source of ire for VMware and users alike. VMware needed to maintain a client plug-in to enable VM console access, and users had to keep it updated on their desktops.

Even worse, the plug-in had to be OS-specific and effectively made Mac and Linux desktops less functional for vSphere management. By moving to an HTML5 client, VMware has enabled every device with a browser. Even a Microsoft Xbox gaming console can run an HTML5 browser, as can almost every mobile device.

Developing the HTML5 Web Client

The final piece of the vSphere puzzle is vCenter, in which the vSphere Web Client will be replaced by an HTML5 version. Again, there is a Fling that shows the way. Called the vSphere HTML5 Web Client, it interfaces with an existing vCenter Server 6.0 and provides basic VM operations. I expect we will see this Fling developed into the full product in the next vSphere release.

The release will hopefully have a superset of the features of both the old Web Client and the vSphere C# Client. In the current release, there are some management tasks that can't be completed with the Web Client, while any new feature is not manageable from the C# client. Users hope the HTML5 client will be the one interface to rule them all.

The transition from thick client vSphere management to the HTML5 client has begun. The days of installing vSphere management components on PCs or Remote Desktop Session Hosts should soon be past. In the near future, users will be able to manage their vSphere estates from any device they have on hand, so long as it is on their network.

Next Steps

VMware's effort to make vSphere OS-neutral

VMware Horizon 6.1 offers major upgrades

The characteristics of a good HTML5 client

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