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VMware vSphere HTML5 client enhancements prompt upgrade buzz

The vSphere HTML5 client contains user experience improvements and workflow changes, including a feedback tool, a storage home view and an enhanced data store file management page.

The next update to vSphere will have a fully featured HTML5 client, which is welcome news to IT administrators.

VMware announced the enhancements to the client coming in vSphere 6.7 Update 1, which is slated for the end of October, at VMworld 2018. The existing vSphere flash-based client, named vSphere Web Client, will be depreciated from the next numbered release of vSphere, the company said. The updated vSphere HTML5 client is one feature that might make admins seriously consider upgrading.

"We are extremely excited for Update 1 and the fully functional HTML5 interface," said Matthew Szewczyk, compute and storage team lead at Allegis Group, an international talent management firm based in Hanover, Md. "I'll never forget the round of applause everyone gave ... when the first HTML5 interface was announced."

Some customers are still skeptical, however, and understandably so considering the client's history.

"HTML5 will be wonderful if it's fully functional, [but we] haven't had that so far," said Brian Mathias, virtualization engineer at Huntington National Bank based in Columbus, Ohio.

New features and enhancements

There is now a feedback tool in the vSphere HTML5 client where admins can take screenshots and annotate them to point out any issues. In addition, a storage overview page has been added at the cluster level where it can show admins a list of the hosts, their corresponding health information and any warnings.

Enhancements to the data store file management page include the ability to download and upload multiple files and a new pop-out feature. Admins can also configure guest OS customization specs to change the IP address and gateway, enter that information for the VM being cloned, and edit it for a VM created from a template in the Content Library.

In addition, there are improvements to VMware Update Manager, streamlined administration roles and global permissions settings, as well as Platform Services Controller UI enhancements.

Usability enhancements include live refresh and live state of the object across sessions, a flat structure to help discoverability and reduce the number of clicks, collapsible panes, performance chart enhancements, keyboard shortcuts, and native browser capabilities, including bookmarks, navigation and zoom.

Plug-in improvements

VMware has also minimized the performance effect of plug-ins on the vSphere HTML5 client. The company introduced a tech preview of APIs for client plug-ins on VMware Cloud on AWS and a newly automated suite for the plug-in certification program, which launched in vSphere 6.5. There are 19 plug-ins certified to date -- 12 plug-ins for vSphere 6.7 and nine plug-ins certified for the vSphere 6.7 HTML5 client.

"Most plug-ins are also updated to run in the vSphere client, but a few -- such as for vRealize Orchestrator, and also some third-party plug-ins -- might not be there," said Rob Bastiaansen, an independent trainer and consultant. "So that might be a reason that you would have to use the older client."

Experiment with Flings

For those who might not be quite ready to upgrade when VMware releases the update, experimenting with the vSphere HTML5 client Fling is always an option.

VMware first announced the vSphere HTML5 client as a Fling -- a way to test new features and get user feedback -- in 2016. The Fling has had more than 70,000 deployments and more than 70 updates. The most recent update to the Fling this month has the Onyx capability and the PowerCLI automating capability, which enable admins to record a workflow inside the vSphere HTML5 client and automatically convert it into a policy-like script that they can save and export to use later.

Flings are a good indicator of what's to come with VMware, but not every customer is in a position to take advantage of them.

"As a bank, we don't use a whole lot of the Flings," Mathias said. "We're less experimental than some others may be."

If admins want to continue trying out both clients, the next vSphere update will have the new HTML5-based GUI and the web-based client, but the web-based client is due to be depreciated with the next release, said Michael Adams, senior director of the cloud platform business unit at VMware, in a session. Whether or not admins upgrade right away, they should keep that limited time frame in mind.

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