First look: Driving VMware vSphere 5.1

VMware's new, Flash-based Web management GUI is easy to like, but it comes with a few gotchas

By Paul Venezia, InfoWorld |  Virtualization, VMware, vSphere

Also handy are the icons at the top of the left panel. These are shortcuts to the four main management views for vSphere: Hosts and Clusters, Virtual Machines and Templates, Datastores and Datastore Clusters, and Networks. These function like the drop lists at the top of the Windows client.

I like the Web interface, but there are a few caveats. It's not as fast or responsive as the fat client, and it has update lags that can interfere with normal operation. For instance, if someone adds a VM with the Windows client, the Web client will not necessarily reflect that additional VM unless the reload icon is clicked at the top of the app. Other navigation tasks may cause a refresh that will suddenly display the change, but a dormant client will not until it's manually refreshed, which can get admins in trouble when multiple people are working on the same vCenter instance.

The view of the networking configuration for a single host in the vSphere Web client, showing that we have a distributed switch configured on the host.

It's important to note that while the Web interface handles the bulk of normal vSphere administrative tasks, there are some notable exceptions. It's missing an Update Manager interface, and it lacks third-party plug-in support. This means that any time Update Manager is used, it must be accessed with the Windows client, and the same holds true for any third-party plug-ins, such as a hardware vendor's server management plug-in.

Also, there's the matter of compatibility. The Web interface is officially supported on Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox on Windows, as well as on Chrome and Firefox on Linux. It will run on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari on the Mac, but key elements -- such as VM consoles -- will not be available. While the effort of providing a cross-platform client is definitely something to be lauded, the lack of Mac support for consoles is very unfortunate.

Under the hood, we find more fairly significant changes, highlighted by feature additions to distributed switching, including load balancers and firewalls with extensive capabilities. VXLAN, the hypervisor-driven network layer, is VMware's big push behind concentrating all layers of the data center into a single management framework; while it's not new, much of the administration has been updated to reflect the new virtual networking capabilities.

Some of the new switching capabilities seem simple in relation to their hardware counterparts, such as configuration backup and restore, rollback and recovery, and LACP support. These are elements that are frankly necessary for any viable software-based switching framework, so it's important to see them in place.

Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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