Bits and Chaos

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Between bits and chaos, a sysadmin stands.

VMware Server 2.0 beta: first impressions

I’ve eagerly downloaded and installed VMware Server 2.0 beta to test it, over my Fedora Core 6 (yes, when it comes to operating systems I’m a bit conservative). The machine is a AMD 64 3000+, with 1 GB RAM, that I’ve successfully used with the VMware 1.0.x series.

Competition in the arena of virtualization is today mostly on the management and support tools, because as the hardware support increases, the relative differences between hypervisors (being there binary translator a la VMware or para-virtualizer a la Xen) will be of less importance. AMD has the nested paging feature on the Barcelona series resulting in a lowering of TLB miss count. Intel has concentrated its efforts to obtain an efficient DMA mapping: the Intel VT-d technology will reduce the perfomance hits that a guest machine experiences every time it performs a I/O operation. These technologies will be first deployed by high-end consumers, but sooner or later they will land over final user desktop, so someday we’ll play all the Windows games over a Linux machine 🙂

With such considerations in mind, I must confess that I’m a bit disappointed by this release of VMware server. It’s a beta, this explains some glitches, but there are some architectural design decisions that I can hardly understand. The most important one is that they move from the 1.x management tool, which is a traditional client you launch from the command line, to a web tool. Create and manage a pool of virtual machines requires a user interaction via HTTP, the VMware server starts a web server and the user connects to it via a web browser.

Some points of this procedure requires some tuning:

  • the default installation use port 80 if available otherwise something over 8000, without asking which port it should use;

  • the server listens on every network interface;

  • the root user is the only user that can connect, I’m sure it’s possible to define a list of authorized users but this should be done before starting the management, I do not like to send a root password over an HTTP connection.

but these are glitches. What I hate most is that Firefox is a poor browser for rich web client applications, like this management server. CPU usage climbs up to 100% just to display, after too many seconds of intensive work, the overview of the installed, managed and available virtual machines. Firefox is not a product of VMware, but they cannot ignore that it’s the default browser for Linux systems, and that their tools works poor with it. With the traditional client, everything works amazinlgy fast, I can start a virtual machine within seconds, with this thing it takes a lot more time and leaves the user with the idea that something stopped and the system is not responding or near to that.

I was also unable to load some virtual machines I made with the prior version, the file selection dialog box doesn’t allow to choose the virtual machine description files nor it’s possible to insert it manually.

Last, the shutdown procedure now takes minutes, due to the time it takes to shut down the VMware services. During these interminable minutes, I don’t see the hard disk activity led blinking, so it seems that it’s only a time-out that should expire.

KVM will be a fierce competitor of these proprietary solutions, for some good reasons that Ulrich Drepper pointed out. Red Hat is working hard on management tools like Libvirt and Virt-factory, so a vendor must do everything it can do to convince a system administrator that the high licenses fees are a good investment. With this muddled beta release, VMware is very far from this goal.

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Filed under: virtualization, ,

2 Responses

  1. JimmyB says:

    I just installed Beta 2. It’s truly dreadful. Install is garbage. It installs Tomcat, Java and all sorts of guff – I really really don’t want that rubbish. When I finally got into the web front end it was impossible for me to load an existing VM (Contents – Loading just kept spinning on the standard datastore. Can’t be bothered investigation. Stick with v1.04 and rich client and IIS based management (if you are on Windows). I’ve used Workstation 6.0 and VI3 extensively. Server 2.0 really pales in comparison. It’s a large, slow and poorly thought out product. I hope this web management paradigm is not going to infect other VMware products.

  2. v says:

    thx for the time you took to dig into vmware 2.0. i just know i don’t want it 🙂 esp. not in a productive system. now i see why the package is over 500 MB. i dont like to manage my system over a webbrowser, the gui was fine, but i really don’t like to mess round with such an overhead and resource wasting thingy like firefox to watch a vmware machine . i think its worth continue using an old stable 1.x and spend more time on migrating to KVM or so 🙂

    v.

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