Summary: The vSphere Webclient has been around since vSphere 5.0 but it’s fighting an uphill battle to gain user acceptance. I’ve recently tried using it as my primary administration tool with mixed success.
Recently I’ve been rebuilding my home lab to test out new features in vSphere6 among others. As VMware have been very vocal about moving to the webclient I thought it was about time I took the plunge and started using it in anger – after all it’s been out for several years and like many others until now I’ve stuck with the C# client. Unfortunately I can’t say it’s been an overly positive experience, largely because of browser compatibility issues rather the the design of the webclient itself. To be fair it does seem faster than in earlier releases. VMware KB2005083 lists the prerequisites for the WebClient (both server and client components) but it doesn’t detail the browser specific configuration you need to get it working successfully. This post will cover a bunch of settings you need to make but it’s largely for my own reference as I couldn’t find a single source of information elsewhere.
Browser and server tweaks to make it work
Surely one of the perks of a web based client is no client side setup right? Sadly no. I’m using a Windows 2012 server as my management station for my home lab, which isn’t representative of a real production environment as I’m less concerned with compliance, security etc. While mine is a niche use case some of the same settings apply to desktop Windows editions, especially Windows 8. There are a few configuration changes you need to make on Windows to allow you to work with vSphere via the web client;
- Enable desktop experience (instructions in VMware KB2054049) to allow Flash which is required by the web client (this is only required on Windows Server editions).
- Install the client integration plugin as Administrator, run IE as Administrator. Discussed in this forum post (and this one) though I’ve had mixed success getting it to work at all. Based on the fact that those two forums posts between them have over 50,000 views I’d say this is a very common issue and one that seems to vary with each browser.
- Disable Protected mode (internet and intranet zone) as per VMware’s advice. Obviously this reduces the security but if you’re choosing to use client applications on a server you’ve already made that choice!
- Install the root CA certificate (instructions here) to remove those annoying ‘this site is untrusted’ errors. Alternatively deploy certificates to replace the self-signed one’s that ship with vSphere, although that’s considerably more work!
- Disable pop-up blockers for the following sites;
I’m not sure if VMware publish a compatibility matrix across all their products but I’d suggest you have two different browsers installed so you can switch between them as required. For example IE is supposedly the fastest when using the webclient (reference), but doesn’t work at all when trying to login to the Orchestrator configuration web service.
Here are a few tips;
- Java heap tweaks are no longer required (unless you’re using NSX apparently – I’ve not tried it myself).
- Tweak Flash settings to allow more local storage
- Modify the web.properties file (just as I was finishing this post I found this Wikibooks entry which covers many of the configuration tweaks covered here. Who knew! Anyway I’m going to publish as I’ve written it now).
- If you’re working remotely be aware that the WebClient can be pretty bandwidth intensive. Use RDP if possible!
Let VMware know what you think
VMware are apparently listening to user feedback, according to this forum post, although in reality it’s largely an outlet for frustrated users!
Tuning the vSphere webclient for better performance (based on v5.5, but largely unchanged)
What VMware need to do to convert the web client haters (Trevor Pott @ The Register)