With the vSphere 5.5 release, there are a plethora of new features that come with the usual vSphere release. In my opinion, the largest change is the death of the vSphere full-client, with management performed exclusively from the vSphere Web Client.
The web client?
The vSphere Web Client was released with vSphere 5.0, and is certainly a big change from what sysadmins are used to. It takes a new train of thought, and general thinking to manage your vSphere farm. At first, I did not like the Web Client, as literally every single thing has moved location, so finding things you used to be able to click on with your eyes closed, is not possible. But after using it for a few months, it certainly has grown on me.
Below are some tips or noted intricacies that will help you on your vSphere Web Client journey.
It’s entirely flash based
This has both pros, and cons. Pros? The Web Client is multi-platform. No longer will you have to hunt for that Windows workstation in your network, to install the vSphere client. No longer will you have to download 200+mb and install different versions of the client to manage different clusters. Chrome, Firefox and IE are all supported.
The cons? It’s entirely flash based. The debate about the security of flash is outside ths scope of this article. I guess at least it’s not Java. This also means if you access the Web Client over say, a RDP jump-host or other remote-desktop solution, it will run quite poorly.
This is my favourite feature of the Web Client.
Say you are going through configuring a new VM, deciding which VLAN/port-group you need to place your VM into. Like most sysadmins, you are extremely busy and cannot quite remember which one you need. Instead of cancelling out of the wizard, loosing all of your work, you can click on this nice double-arrow:
That will minimize what you are currently doing, to the WIP section:
Now you can continue on with the sub-task you need to do, and when you are finished, simply click on the task in the WIP window to be returned where you were before! I initially thought, “Heh. That’s neat, I guess”, but then started to use it frequently and now could not live without it.
The search function is handy…mostly
Generally, I find in-built search functions, for most software, basically useless. They either return nothing, or the complete opposite of what you were after (I’m looking at you, mediawiki!).
The search functionality in the Web Client is mostly better then that. It will display VMs, Virtual Networks (portgroups), hosts, clusters, datacenters and datastores. Most of what you will be working with on a daily basis.
What about vSwitches though? That’s one of the first things you will configure, and you cannot search for it:
Why they didn’t include that, who knows. But for general use, the search function will help you find what you are looking for, instead of blindly navigating around.
Managing a vSwitch took me a long time to find out. For reference, you have to select the host, manage, networking.
To navigate your way around the interface faster, you can also use keyboard shortcuts! I find when working remotely, over a slow connection, these drastically increase your administrative speed:
- Ctrl-alt-3: Hosts and Clusters
- Ctrl-alt-4: VMs and Templates
- Ctrl-alt-5: Datastores/Datastore clusters
- Ctrl-alt-6: Networking
Those 4 items above are the 4 main ones I use on a regular basis. They greatly assist in zipping around the interface. Oddly enough, I was not able to find any official VMware documentation on these shortcuts.
SSO is a big, complex beast, but ready for enterprise integration…but not deployment
Whether you install a stand-alone vCenter appliance, or highly-available vCenter infrastructure, you now have to install the SSO component. How do you plan for your deployment, though? Check out this flowchart from Josh Odgers, VCDX #90:
Phew. I’m glad that wasn’t to comple- Oh, wait. Generally, most deployments will only consist of a single vCenter server, and single SSO component. However, if your business and/or technology requirements are different, thorough planning needs to take place.
For enterprise integration, I’ll commend VMware for taking other technologies into account. VMware SSO is compatible with OpenAM, ADFS and Shibboleth/SAML. However, it might not be ready for true enterprise level deployment, as you cannot use a clustered database solution for your database, like MS-SQL clustering or Oracle RAC. You can cluster the SSO componenents themselves, but that only uses VMware HA (you will have downtime), or you can use a 3rd-party load-balancer (usually, spend money) to acheive fail-over.
The vSphere Web Client – Resistance is futile
Basically, you now have no choice but to get used to the Web Client. However, don’t look at this as a bad thing, look at this as an opportunity to re-learn what you know, with some icing on top. Initially I disliked the Web Client, but over time I have grown to like it, and now prefer it to the full-client.
At first, I was much more inefficient compared to using the full-client. But with general use, using the (mostly) useful search, using keyboard shortcuts and de-coupling myself from old habits, I can certainly work faster, and smarter, in the web client.
Before deployment, do your research. If you blindly run the installation wizards clicking “next-next-next”, you’re gonna have a bad time.
At the end of the day, the virtual-motherland is mandating use of the Web Client. If you close your eyes and think of a far-away place, things don’t hurt. Too much.