vSphere Review
v6 Webclient - I can’t say it’s been an overly positive experience, largely because of browser compatibility issues rather the the design of the webclient itself.


Summary: The vSphere Webclient has been around since vSphere 5.0 but it’s fighting an uphill battle to gain user acceptance. I’ve recently tried using it as my primary administration tool with mixed success.

Recently I’ve been rebuilding my home lab to test out new features in vSphere6 among others. As VMware have been very vocal about moving to the webclient I thought it was about time I took the plunge and started using it in anger – after all it’s been out for several years and like many others until now I’ve stuck with the C# client. Unfortunately I can’t say it’s been an overly positive experience, largely because of browser compatibility issues rather the the design of the webclient itself. To be fair it does seem faster than in earlier releases. VMware KB2005083 lists the prerequisites for the WebClient (both server and client components) but it doesn’t detail the browser specific configuration you need to get it working successfully. This post will cover a bunch of settings you need to make but it’s largely for my own reference as I couldn’t find a single source of information elsewhere.

Browser and server tweaks to make it work

Surely one of the perks of a web based client is no client side setup right? Sadly no. I’m using a Windows 2012 server as my management station for my home lab, which isn’t representative of a real production environment as I’m less concerned with compliance, security etc. While mine is a niche use case some of the same settings apply to desktop Windows editions, especially Windows 8. There are a few configuration changes you need to make on Windows to allow you to work with vSphere via the web client;

  • Enable desktop experience (instructions in VMware KB2054049) to allow Flash which is required by the web client (this is only required on Windows Server editions).
  • Install the client integration plugin as Administrator, run IE as Administrator. Discussed in this forum post (and this one) though I’ve had mixed success getting it to work at all. Based on the fact that those two forums posts between them have over 50,000 views I’d say this is a very common issue and one that seems to vary with each browser.
  • Disable Protected mode (internet and intranet zone) as per VMware’s advice. Obviously this reduces the security but if you’re choosing to use client applications on a server you’ve already made that choice!
  • Install the root CA certificate (instructions here) to remove those annoying ‘this site is untrusted’ errors. Alternatively deploy certificates to replace the self-signed one’s that ship with vSphere, although that’s considerably more work!
  • Disable pop-up blockers for the following sites;

I’m not sure if VMware publish a compatibility matrix across all their products but I’d suggest you have two different browsers installed so you can switch between them as required. For example IE is supposedly the fastest when using the webclient, but doesn’t work at all when trying to login to the Orchestrator configuration web service.

Tuning performance

Here are a few tips;

Let VMware know what you think

VMware are apparently listening to user feedback, according to this forum post, although in reality it’s largely an outlet for frustrated users!

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
2 visitors found this review helpful

3 Comments

Sven JohansenReal UserTOP 20

Interesting feedback and certainly worth noting many of the tweaks required here as many of the vmware evangelists seem to be glossing over some of the continual shortcomings of the blessed vSphere Web Client, simply saying its faster. Good write up Ed. Nice work. Hopefully I'll get time to write up some more reviews as I start running through some test migrations from 5.5 to 6.

Like (0)07 May 15
Ed GrigsonReal UserTOP REVIEWER

Thanks Sven. It's only half VMware's fault - browser incompatibilities and the beloved Java platform should both take their share of the blame. I totally get VMware's rationale for a cross platform web based client - it's just their choice of technology for the implementation that's at fault and that's obvious - with the benefit of hindsight. Still means a less than perfect experience for their users, though the increasing integration of additional services (vCOps, Orchestrator) is a benefit over the GUI client.

Like (0)07 May 15

Java heap tweaks are not needed even if you are using NSX.. But I would love to see webclient performing better than what it is now :)

Like (0)01 March 16
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