Redesigning the vCenter Client?

In fresh blog post, called “Resource pools and simultaneous vMotions” by Frank Denneman prompted a quick Twitter discussion regarding the vCenter client (and perhaps even vCenter itself). A simple

Why are there no folders under Host and Clusters view ?

from Maish Saidel-Keesing got the ball rolling.

Could it be that the design of the client itself helps perpetuate the myth the resource pools is an organizational unit, one that should be used as a way of grouping VMs? As Frank says;

This is not (the) reason why VMware invented resource pools.

I’m not going to get into why this is a bad idea, both Frank and Duncan will have far more intelligent feedback to you if you are interested in discussing this.

Now, if you could redesign the vSphere Client, based on your own experience, what would you change?

I can see that in many cases, a lightweight vCenter Simple Mode client would do the trick. Give your VM admins the Simple Mode client, and they won’t have to worry about resource pools, HA/DRS and other advanced features. Let them administer the VMs, like adding networking, powering on/off etc. The same applies for your storage admins. Give them a small, limited, client that only allows them to configure storage aspects.

I know you can do most of this with permissions etc, but I still feel a limited client could be one way to go.

In other cases, like mine, it won’t help splitting up the client into smaller chunks. As in most SMBs, I wear a lot of different hats during a normal working day. I’m the networking-/storage-/operating-systems-guy in a small shop, where there simply isn’t room for delegating all these tasks to specialized teams or even other admins.

Perhaps dividing the client into specialized sub-topics would help?

A task based user experience where you can select between “VM Operations”, “vSphere Operations”, “Storage Operations” or “Network Operations” as your initial choice, and then limit what you can configure based on your initial choice would help organize the screen real estate? You could also have sub-sections like “Monitoring VMs”, “Monitoring Storage” and so on, displaying a performance overview as the initial point of entry.

You could still have an “Advanced Mode” that works the same way the vCenter Client works today, but the default would be a simplified experience that is based on the task you have at hand.

Am I completely out on a limb here, or is this semi-rant making some sense, somewhere? What would you change, and how?

Using USB Pass-through in vSphere 4.1


Finally USB pass-through is possible on ESX hosts with the new vSphere 4.1 release! This feature ha been available in VMware Workstation/Fusion and Player for quite a while. The freshly added feature in vSphere 4.1 even works if you vMotion the guest from one host to another, which is in itself pretty amazing functionality!

In this post, I’ll show how to setup and use the new USB pass-through feature in vSphere 4.1.

Setting up USB pass-through in vSphere 4.1

First off, we need to add an USB controller to the VM we want the USB pass-through working on. This is done by firing up the vSphere Center Client and right-clicking the VM. Then select Edit Settings

Click on Add and find USB Controller from the list then click Next

Click Next and you’ll be presented with a list of the currently host-connected available USB devices. If none show up, make sure it’s actually connected to the host. If your device is indeed connected, but still not listed in the vSphere Center Client it’s not supported.

In my test setup I have a small APC UPS connected to the host, so I’ll add that to the VM. Also note that this is where you enable vMotion support! Find your device, and click on Next

Review your changes and click on Finish

This will return you to the Edit Settings window. Click on Ok to have the USB controller and device(s) added to your VM.

Connect to your VM and install the drivers, if needed, and you should be able to use your USB device directly inside the VM.

Usage Scenarios

What could you possibly use this new feature to accomplish? Well, for one you could use it to connect your UPS to your management software, without having to install any management software on the host itself. In general I would recommend using UPS vendors that offer direct vCenter integration instead, but for a lab environment this should work out nicely.

Another obvious usage pattern would be to connect USB dongles that some software require, either for security or for licensing purposes.

The one thing that springs to my mind, and one that would probably be the most useful in my environment, is to connect USB HDDs to the host and use those as a backup target for Veeam Backup and Recovery. Being able to directly connect some cheap storage to the host and then connecting it directly into the Veeam Backup and Recovery VM makes it easy to backup/replicate your VMs for manual off-site storage. Kendrick Coleman (kendrickcoleman.com) had the same idea, but unlike him I’ll try to make sure my HDDs are located off-site before the fire starts! :-)

I’m sure that there are other usage scenarios as well, like connecting scanners, cameras and whatnot, I’m just not sure I’d like all sorts of devices connected to my hosts.