VMware Server 2.0 Thoughts

March 11th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Like many other developers, I end up using virtual machines quite a bit to test features of the software I’m working on across a number of different OSes (and also for a myriad of other reasons.) Given my experiences so far, I prefer to use VMware’s free Server and Player products due to the portability of the guest VM. Anyway, because of this, I thought it was time to try out the free beta of VMware Server 2.0. Here is a summary of some of my experiences.

  • The first thing you should know, even before you install, is that VMware has dropped the server console desktop application in favor of a web browser plugin that enables something similar. While a great idea, since it means you could access or administer your VMs from a remote machine without having to locate and install the server console software, the implementation so far leaves a little bit to be desired. For me, the biggest problem was that the browser plugin was not yet available for either Firefox or Safari on OS X so I could not connect to the console from my notebook. So I was reduced to accessing the console from the machine I was running the server on anyway (an Ubuntu 7.10 install btw.) In which case, there isn’t a large benefit to having access via a web browser.In fact, the requirement to use a browser is a detriment because Firefox prevents a user from running multiple sessions simultaneously. This means that I have to always remember to shutdown Firefox before I go home in case I’ll need to access the VMware Server configuration via a VNC session from home. Yes, I could remotely shutdown Firefox from my VNC session but then I can’t see whether any of the tabs contain critical information I’ll need when I get back to the office. And yes, I could install / setup VNC so I connect to the :0 display and thus see the machine console from home, but that isn’t the default on any Linux distribution I’ve come across so you always have to remember to set it up. It was just much easier when I could invoke the ‘vmware’ command and start up a new server console as many times as I wanted.
  • If installing on Ubuntu 7.10, you MUST turn off IPv6 before installing. (This might be necessary on other host OSes as well.) You can find instructions on how to do this for Ubuntu 7.10 here. This needs to be done as the web app console is actually a couple apps that communicate amongst themselves and they have trouble if IPv6 is enabled. Note that you have to do this prior to installation as the install process will silently fail if these apps can’t connect to each other during installation. I’ve turned up no help instructions that say how you can recover an install after the fact.
  • One of the new things I love about the new console is that the summary information for a running VM now includes the IP address of the VM’s network interface. This is a godsend for direct remote connection as it no longer means you have to login just to get the ip address to do an ssh, rdesktop, or vncviewer connection to the VM. Whoever thought up the idea of providing that bit of information is my hero!
  • The web browser plugin is still pretty unstable. I can’t go more than an hour or so of interaction time with it (that means 5 or 10 mins at a time spread out over one or more work days) before it segfaults the browser. Unfortunately, I get no useful error messages that I can forward to VMware so I’m not sure how to help them get over this hurdle. As a result of frustration with this browser plugin, I installed the old 1.0.4 server console app (yes, you can download it individually and install it) but it refuses to connect with the VMware server instance no matter what I try (localhost, remotehost with machine’s IP and with or without an explicit specification of the port, remotehost but use a server name of localhost, etc.) I’ve given up on getting that combination to work after not finding any assistance on the VMware server beta forums.

Because of that last bullet, I’ve uninstalled Server 2.0 beta and gone back to Server 1.0.4 for now. Perhaps when the next build comes out, I’ll give it another try.

Tags: Development · IT/Network

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Azmir Mohamed // Apr 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Server 2.0 Beta 2 was release last Friday. Please check it out – it should address most of the issues you encountered

  • 2 Dave // Apr 1, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the notification! I’ll download it shortly and post about my experiences after living with it for awhile. I’ve seen that 1.0.5 has also been released, so I’ll probably try that as well.

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