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Working with the vSphere 6.0 Web client

Your stance on the vSphere Web Client may determine your level of happiness with VMware's latest server virtualization platform.

When VMware released vSphere 6.0 in March, most administrators were curious what would happen with the vSphere clients in the final release. Depending on your feelings toward the vSphere Web Client, it's either good or bad news. If you don't like the Web client, then you can still use the desktop client for day-to-day operations. But vSphere 6.0 further emphasizes VMware's message that the path for new features and development efforts leads to the browser-based client.

Another advantage to the new Web client is the ability to modify how it looks and feels to make it even more useful for busy administrators.

Limitations on the Windows client

As you can see in the screenshot in Figure 1, the desktop client supports virtual machines (VMs) up to the latest hardware version, currently 11. But VMware restricts the actions you can perform from the Windows client. Specific hardware level 10 or 11 features, such as configuring vSphere Flash Read Cache or adding a SATA controller to the VM, are not available. For those actions, you need to use the vSphere Web Client.

These restrictions are true for the largest part of the configuration of your vSphere 6.0 environment. But for many day-to-day operations you can continue to use the legacy client if that is your preference.

Editing VMs
Figure 1: Administrators who want to edit the settings of a VM with later hardware version numbers in vSphere 6.0 will have to use the vSphere Web Client.

Speedier client, but Flash lingers

What many administrators were expecting in vSphere 6.0 was a Web client that was not based on Flash. That hasn't happened, but I feel VMware did a good job to improve the Web client. It's absolutely faster and more useable compared to the Web clients in the previous vSphere versions. I haven't done any benchmarks to test if VMware's claims of 13 times faster login speeds and right-click menus are four times faster, but the client is more responsive and easier to use.

In a previous article, I wrote about the improvements to the Web client compared to the Windows client. These tips are still valid so have a look if you still need to be convinced to start using the Web client.

Changes to the vSphere Web Client

The overall look and feel of the Web client is the same, but the Recent Tasks panel has been moved. Once you start to click, you will find a new Home menu and a more responsive right-click menu. See Figure 2. Where you had to wait several seconds in the older Web client for the context menu to open, it now opens almost instantly.

The vSphere 6.0 Home menu
Figure 2: The new Home menu in vSphere 6.0.

Using the VMware Remote Console

When working with VMs, you will also notice that the VMware Remote Console (VMRC) feature is different in vSphere 6.0. This change started with vSphere 5.5 Update 2b when Google announced it would end support for the Netscape Plug-in API in the Chrome browser. VMware needed to respond to this change since client integration hinged on this plugin.

Administrators must install VMRC separately on Windows-based computers. Support for the Mac is coming, but VMware says accessing the console from a Mac should be possible with VMware Fusion.

Adjusting the look of the Web client

While there have been improvements to the Web client, an administrator will most likely want to customize it to streamline a workflow.

VMware provides a fail-safe where you can reset the configuration to factory defaults if a problem occurs. See Figure 3. Resetting to the factory default puts the panels in the original location and re-enables the "getting started" pages. Hiding these introductory pages can be done by clicking the help menu, which is unchanged from version 5.x. To reset to the defaults, but also to logout, click your username in the upper-right corner and select the appropriate option from the drop-down menu.

Factory defaults
Figure 3: The vSphere 6.0 Web Client modifications can be undone by going back to the factory defaults.

How to move panels

If you have a large monitor, the Web client offers some flexibility by allowing the panels to be rearranged. Another benefit to this customization is the panels will remain in the same place across logins.

To move panels for Recent Tasks and Alarms to a new location, click the title bar of the panel and drag the panel to a new position. When you hover over another panel, four arrows appear. You can then drag and drop the panel. When you drop the panel on the up-arrow, such as in the screenshot here -- see number 1 in Figure 4 -- it will be placed above this panel.

The outer edges of the screen also contain small arrows. When you drop a panel on top of these arrows, it will attach to the border. In the example number 2 in Figure 4, the Recent Tasks panel will attach to the right side of the screen.

Recent tasks panel
Figure 4: The Recent Tasks panel in the vSphere 6.0 Web Client can be dragged and dropped into new locations.

Collapse panels to maximize space

For users with smaller screens, the panels can be collapsed. In Figure 5, three panels have been collapsed to the bottom of the window. This leaves more room to work with the inventory and the objects and when you need access to Recent Tasks or Alarms. Click on the collapsed panel to expand it.

Docked panels
Figure 5: Panels can be docked to the bottom of the window and expanded with a click.

Hardware requirements in vCenter Server

The vSphere Web Client is installed as part of a vCenter installation on Windows. The Web client is also a default component of the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).

In version 5.x, administrators could choose where to install components, such as the SSO server and the inventory service. However, in vSphere 6.0, all these services are installed on the vCenter Server except the new single sign-on feature named Platform Services Controller (PSC), which can be put on a separate server.

Due to this combination of services, it is important that vCenter Server has enough resources, especially RAM. The documentation lists two CPUs as the minimum and 8 GB RAM for a tiny environment -- about 10 hosts and 100 VMs. The requirements grow when adding more hosts and VMs. The table below details these minimum recommended hardware requirements to install vCenter Server on a Windows machine.



Tiny environment (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs)

Small environment (up to 100 hosts, 1,000 VMs)

Medium environment (up to 400 hosts, 4,000 VMs)

Large environment (up to 1,000 hosts, 10,000 VMs)

CPUs 2 2 4 8 16
Memory 2 GB RAM 8 GB RAM 16 GB RAM 24 GB RAM 32 GB RAM

Changing the properties of the vSphere Web Client

There are several settings for the vSphere Web Client that you can modify. One of the more important ones is the behavior of the Recent Tasks panel to show all tasks instead of just your own tasks.

The modifications can be made in the file named webclient.properties that resides in the folder named c:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\cfg\vsphere-client on Windows machines and in the /etc/vmware/vsphere-client folder in the Linux-based vCSA.

After making changes to settings, restart the vSphere Web Client service on Windows from the services list or restart the service in the appliance by either restarting the entire appliance or by enabling the shell and executing the following command:

service vsphere-client restart

Changing the number of tasks displayed

There are a number of settings that can be changed, but here are a few that are useful for many administrators.

show.allusers.tasks = false (default)

This setting will show all tasks in the Recent Tasks panel instead of just your own by changing the default setting from false to true. This is very useful in an environment with more than one administrator to see what's happening or to see what system tasks are being executed. Be aware it might affect performance for the Web client in large environments.

Adjust the Recent Tasks panel settings

Two other settings related to the Recent Tasks panel are:

tasks.refresh.rate = 60 (default)

tasks.display.count = 50 (default)

These settings change the refresh frequency for the panel and set the number of tasks being displayed. The range of the refresh rate is 10 to 600 seconds. The range of the display count is 1 to 100.

Change the client timeout

To change the timeout setting:

session.timeout = 120

The default of 120 minutes can be changed to another length or 0 to disable the timeout.

Refresh and display in Alarms panel

The refresh and display settings for the Alarms panel work in the same manner as the Recent Tasks panel:

alarms.refresh.rate = 60

alarms.display.count = 30

The refresh frequency default is 60 seconds and can be changed from 10 to 600 seconds. The default for the display count is 30 with a range of one to 100.

Adjusting the panel display

The setting below speeds up displaying objects in the inventory. When set to true, the smaller panels on the summary page of objects are not expanded by default. The normal behavior is to always expand. You might not want to see all the information about things such as hardware and related objects. In that case, set the parameter to true to leave the panels collapsed. This speeds up the display of summary pages of, for example, VMs.

portlets.collapsed = false (default)

Next Steps

The new features VMware vSphere 6.0 can brag about

Improve performance with vSphere Web Client

VMware vSphere has good news for admins who prefer to use a Mac

Dig Deeper on VMware ESXi, vSphere and vCenter

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