If you used the web client for your VMware vSphere environment, you know it hasn’t been (and I’m choosing my words carefully) equal to the “fat” client (or VI client) we’re familiar with using. Great strides have been made with the web client in VMware vSphere version 5.1.

In vSphere 5.1, you can do pretty much everything that you could with the fat client and more. Also, many of the new features added to vSphere 5.1 are only configurable using the web client (read my recent blog on the Virtual Distributed Switch).

New features with the vSphere 5.1 web client

Work In Progress, which is only available on the web client, allows you to start a task, such as creating a new virtual machine, and then pause it to work on something else. In the older versions of vSphere, if you started a task and then needed to check something else on the vSphere client, you had to cancel your current task in order to do so; then, when you found the information you needed, you had to completely restart your original task. This task will remain available even if you close your browser and re-open it.

Single Sign On (SSO) allows administrators to log in once, and then other installed VMware solutions will be authenticated through the use of that SSO. This feature can use Active Directory passwords as it did in previous versions, but it will not work with components in older versions. SSO also allows you to manage several vCenters without having to use linked mode.

vSphere Replication is now available without having to purchase Site Recovery Manager (SRM). vSphere Replication allows you to replicate your VMs across the Internet or a WAN link to a different site. This is not really a replacement for SRM, as you’re missing the processes that come with recovery; however, it can be used to copy VMs to other sites in your environment.

Inventory Tagging allows you to right-click an object, select Assign Tag, and then give it a name, description, and category. It’s a little like tagging pictures of your friends on Facebook. This could be helpful in many ways, such as letting you make notes about certain objects and letting you do a search based on those notes. There is a Tags tab on the home page of the web client (Figure A). Figure A

Tags tab on the vSphere 5.1 web client (Click the image to enlarge.)

Other features that come with the web client include pre-emptive searching (think of Google pre-populating your searches based on the letters you type) and saving searches, navigation with inventory lists, and more.

When to use the previous version of the vSphere web client

You will still need to use the previous version of the vSphere web client for several things:

  • Most VMware plug-ins will be supported with the web client; however, there is no guarantee third-party plug-ins will work.
  • If you use the vCenter Server Maps, you need to use the old client.
  • Other advanced features, such as VXLAN networking and inflating thin disks, are still not available on the web client.

Familiarize yourself with the web client

It looks like the web client is here to stay, and the word is eventually it will be the only client available. I recommend getting familiar with the web client now because there is a learning curve.

The web client has really grown on me — it’s very responsive and offers a ton of great new features. Let me know what you think of it by posting your comments in the discussion.