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VMware Server 2.0: New look, new Web interface

VMware Server 2.0 boasts new features and a new Web-based interface called VMware Infrastructure Web Access. Learn how it stacks up against VMware ESXi and VMware Server 1.0.x.

VMware released VMware Server 2.0 in September, just prior to VMworld 2008. Although the VMware Server product has been quite popular since its 1.0 release in July 2006, it now competes with another free VMware product, VMware ESXi. While both server hypervisors are free, their use cases vary.

The key differences between VMware Server 1.0 and VMware Server 2.0 are as follows:

  • Underlying operating system. ESXi has no underlying OS. VMware Server 2.0, however, installs as an application on Windows or Linux systems and the OS is still available for use from the host perspective.


  • Workload size. VMware Server 2.0 is made for smaller workloads. ESXi is for larger workloads.


  • Transportability and interoperability. A virtual machine (VM) created on VMware Server 2.0 is slightly easier to transfer to other environments (for example, copying a VM from VMware Workstation and VMware Player to VMware Server.

VMware Server 2.0 offers a lot of flexibility for installations where it's the better choice. Version 2 brings a dramatic new look to the product -- the familiar client has departed in favor of an entirely Web-based interface called VMware Infrastructure Web Access (VI Web Access). The Web interface, however, will likely require some adjustment if you're used to the 1.0.x version of the product.

The 2.0 version also offers several functionality highlights:

  • New console tool. The console tool for VI Web Access is a browser applet that runs in a separate browser window across platforms. The console tool has some nice features, including re-direction capabilities for local media (such as CD-ROM) to the guest VM. The console display also has dynamic resolution resizing, including full-screen support. The figure below shows a guest VM in the new console:

    Click image to enlarge.


  • USB 2.0 device support


  • Live disk addition You can add an additional hard drive to a VM on the fly.


  • New programming features The VMCI socket interface and VIX API allow for programming and scripting directly to VMware Server.


  • Increased hardware boundaries You can now assign up to 8 GB of memory to a VM. Enhanced 64-bit processing support is available.

Getting started with VMware Server 2.0
For this example, we'll walk through an upgrade of the release candidate installation of VMware Server 2.0 on a CentOS Linux system. Downloading the installation file is simple enough from the VMware website. The file is about 500 MB for both Windows and Linux editions.

While VMware Server is a free product, a serial number is required. You should have this information ready before you begin the installation. The registration process is quick and easy, and the serial numbers are available from the same page you download the product. A valid email address is required for the interactive registration process. Along with preparing the registration materials, it is a good idea to review the release notes for the product. One particular issue that I came across on another system was the presence of TCP/IP version 6.This issue prevented the underlying network services for VMware Server 2.0 from starting.

Once the installation is available, a quick expand of the tar (tape archive) file is required to gain access to the installation program. In our example, the installation starts from the script file, launched as shown in the figure below:

Click image to enlarge.

From here, a text-based wizard is provided for the installation. For Windows installations, the process is much more intuitive and wizard-driven. Linux environments can also go with the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) installation method. Before the upgrade, you want to back up the VMs and make sure you can shut down any running VMs. That said, an upgrade may not be the best way to install the new version depending on your configuration. To prevent installation failure, it may be best to perform a full reinstall that removes most settings. Regardless of installation type, make sure to note the selected port configurations. In the example installation, the default port assignments were as follows:

Remote connections to use [902]

Port for standard http connections to use [8222]

Port for secure http (https) connections to use [8333]

Note the standard http connections option. If left at the default setting, it will require a browser entry with the port number. In this example, the browser URL would be http://vmwareserver:8222, and it would redirect to the correct login page.

First look at VI Web Access
Once the upgrade is completed, we can log in to the Web interface to access the new VI Web Access portal. The basic arrangement is shown below:

Click image to enlarge.

In the Web interface, we can see that any VMs that were built with VMware Server 1.0.x or pre-release Version 2 may require a virtual machine hardware upgrade. Upgrading the virtual machine hardware is loosely equivalent to a BIOS update on a physical machine. There are configuration updates to the virtual machine elements, including the VMDK files. The figure below shows a VM that existed before the upgrade to 2.0, and the 'Upgrade Virtual Machine' link is shown in the status section of the VM:

Click image to enlarge.

Once the task is complete, the VM version should read 7. Along with the "upgrade virtual machine hardware" task, each VM's guest OS VMware tools should be upgraded.

Managing VMware Server 2.0 in VirtualCenter
For enterprise customers already using VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3), VMware Server 2.0 can be managed through the VMware Infrastructure Client with no licensing effect on the other hosts. While advanced functionality like VMotion and high availability are not offered, a standalone host can be connected to the VI3 environment. The basic functionality is available in VI3, including hardware inventory management, snapshot creation, console viewing, performance information and power control. Using VMware Server 2.0 (and free editions of ESXi) in VI3 can be a good way to save licensing costs for lesser-priority systems when you want to have the robust permissions model of VI3. The VMware Infrastructure Compatibility Matrix highlights this information on supported configurations with VMware Server and VI3.

VMware Server 1.0 v. 2.0: Should you upgrade? VMware Server 1.0 is a dependable product. Version 1.0.7 was released on Aug. 28, 2008, less than one month before the 2.0 release. Keeping the 1.0.x series of VMware Server is fine, and for many installations there may be a training curve for the VI Web Access interface. Many test-and-development use cases of VMware Server have become accustomed to the thick-client functionality and upgrading may not be in the plans just yet.

As far as look and feel, VMware Server 2.0 is a major upgrade in the free hypervisor category, but it didn't change too much as far as functionality. The VI Web Access, however, is a big benefit for remote connectivity and management. When the host operating system needs to be available for other functions, VMware Server 2.0 fits the bill well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Vanover is an MCSA-certified system administrator for Belron US in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has been working with information technology for over 10 years and with virtualization technologies for over seven years. 

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