VMware vSphere Web Client: Browsing the features

The vSphere Web Client includes most features found in the traditional vSphere Client with the added advantage of allowing admins to work from any location or operating system.

The new vSphere Web Client offers the flexibility that administrators have looked for from VMware, allowing access to their virtualization environment, regardless of their location or operating system. Installing the Web Client is relatively straightforward, but you should weigh the strengths and weaknesses before relying on this management tool.

Virtualization is based on the concept of flexibility and making the best use of your environment, allowing you to easily adapt to changing conditions. Thus, it makes sense to have a variety of tools for managing a dynamic environment – whether you are running a few VMs on a small ESX host that shares space with a cable modem and espresso maker, or a large, geographically diverse data center that includes IT teams for every conceivable operation.

The vSphere Client is designed expressly for managing a VMware environment, and is your go-to tool for most day-to-day virtualization management tasks. If you have been around a VMware environment for more than 15 seconds, you have likely seen the vSphere Client. It is fast, effective and comprehensive. However, the traditional vSphere Client is only compatible with Windows operating systems.

With the release of the vSphere Web Client in vSphere 5, administrators now have the flexibility they’ve been looking for. The vSphere Web Client offers most of the same features as the traditional vSphere Client from a Web browser, along with a few added advantages.

Web browsers are like SUVs: versatile, but not particularly great at any one thing. You can take them grocery shopping, load them up with building materials for a construction job or even take them for an evening out on the town. They get the tasks done, though not as elegantly or efficiently as a specialized wagon, truck or sedan.

Unlike the traditional vSphere Client, you can use the Web Client on any operating system, including Linux or Mac OS X, with a supported Web browser, allowing you to manage a VMware environment from anywhere. This flexibility is the nicest feature of the Web Client.

That said, the Web Client does have limitations, when compared to the traditional vSphere Client. The most significant limitation is that it can connect only to a Linked Mode vCenter Server environment, if the  vSphere Web Client is logged in to vCenter Server as a domain user. However, if that doesn’t pose a problem, the vSphere Web Client is a great addition to your virtualization management arsenal.

VSphere Web Client requirements
To use the vSphere Web Client, you need both the server-side software installed as well as a compatible browser installed on the client machine. To access the Web Client, you must use either Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 or 8, or Mozilla Firefox 3.5 or 3.6 and Adobe Flash 10.1.0 or later.

I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with the Adobe Flash requirement and the lack of support for Google Chrome. The Flash requirement restricts which devices you can use to access the server via the Web Client (BlackBerry phones don't support Flash). Because the point of using a Web browser is for simplicity, I was hoping that any browser would work. Perhaps future versions will address this.

This is part one of a two-part series on using and installing the vSphere Web Client.

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