vSphere Client for iPad – Another step forward in mobile administration

Today VMware announced the release of the vSphere Client for iPad. The first great thing is that you can download the vSphere Client for iPad from Apple’s iTunes Store for FREE! The second great thing is that it looks really awesome and the interface is very intuitive.

VMware is taking mobility very seriously as this is their second application specifically for the iPad. Recently VMware released the VMware View Client for iPad. The vSphere Client for iPad isn’t meant to be a fully functional equivalent for the existing Windows client, but allows you to do the most common tasks, according to VMware. With the current release, the functionality offered by the vSphere Client for iPad is:

  • Search for vSphere hosts and virtual machines
  • Monitor the performance of vSphere hosts and virtual machines
  • Manage virtual machines with the ability to start, stop and suspend
  • View and restore virtual machines’ snapshots
  • Reboot vSphere hosts or put them into maintenance mode
  • Diagnose vSphere hosts and virtual machines using built-in ping and traceroute tools

The ability to manage your vSphere environment with a mobile device isn’t new, as VMware already provides the vCenter Mobile Acces (vCMA) virtual appliance. If you’re familiar with this vCMA, you might recognize the vSphere Client for iPad’s functionality. In fact it’s built on top of this vCMA. The vCMA is required in order for the vSphere Client for iPad to function and can be obtained from VMware free of charge at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vcma The latest version of the vCMA has now SSL configured by default, to make sure your connection is secure. Because you connect to the vCMA virtual appliance using standard SSL, you can easily use the vSphere Client for iPad to connect to the vCMA through a firewall to manage your vSphere environment.

Setting up your environment

Part 1: Configure vCMA Virtual Appliance

  1. Extract the zip file to a temporary directory, for example c:\temp. The files contained in the zip file include:
    • vCenterMobileAccess-1.x.y.z.ovf
    • system.vmdk
  2. Launch the vSphere client and log into your vSphere Host or vCenter Server.
  3. In the inventory view, select the menu File -> Deploy OVF Template…
  4. Select “Deploy from a file or URL”, browse to the OVF file, and follow the wizard next steps.
  5. In the “End User License Agreement” page, read the license agreement completely and click on the “Accept all license agreements” and continue the steps.
  6. In the “Name and Location” page, provide the name for your Virtual Machine.
  7. Once the wizard completes, a virtual machine will be created. Select the virtual machine and power it on.
  8. You can then add the appliance to your DNS server. This step has to be done manually; you can use only the IP address if you prefer but you can also enter a host name for the appliance.

VMware also released a video to show you how to setup the vCMA.

NOTE: After the vCMA virtual appliance is deployed, you might notice that it is still at virtual hardware level 4. I guess that’s done for backwards compatibility. You can upgrade the vCMA virtual appliance to virtual hardware level 7, if you deployed it on vSphere.

With the vCMA in place, it’s time to get the vSphere Client for iPad set up.

Part 2: Configure & use the iPad app

  1. Download the vSphere Client for iPad application from the iTunes Store.
  2. Once the vCMA virtual appliance powers on, on the home screen of the iPad go to “Settings”, scroll down and tap on “vSphere Client”. Now enter the IP Address of the vCMA virtual appliance in the “Web Server” field (see image).
  3. Ensure your iPad has connectivity to the vCMA virtual appliance. This may entail configuring the iPad’s built-in VPN client. Consult Apple’s documentation on configuring the built-in VPN client.
  4. Launch the vSphere Client for iPad application and enter the host, username and password for the vCenter Server or vSphere Host you wish to connect to

VMware also released a video to show you how to configure and use the vSphere Client for iPad

First impression

I haven’t had the opportunity to play with the vSphere Client for iPad myself. Watching the video provided by VMware, I was really impressed by the interface’s look and feel, but I also noticed a couple of shortcomings. When you’re logged into your environment, you are presented with a list of hosts that are available to you. What about your clusters? If you have a problem in a cluster, do you know which hosts belong to that cluster? Or just the other way around; when I have a problem with a host, I want to know which cluster (and client) is affected.

Monitoring your host is still limited to the core four: CPU usage%, Memory usage%, Disk KBps and Network KBps. The same is true for virtual machine monitoring. Additional information like memory ballooning or swapping is still missing, which is something you would definitely be interested in when performance is bad and I also haven’t seen an option to view alarms

Another thing I noticed is the big Restore button on the virtual machine’s snapshots when viewing the virtual machine’s page. Shouldn’t this read “Go to” or “Revert to”? I don’t know wether I favour Go to, Revert or Restore, but I do favour consistency amongst the vSphere Clients. Again missing functionality is the ability to create or delete snapshots. Also the ability to migrate a virtual machine to another host is missing in this release.

Conclusion

The vSphere Client for iPad is definitely a 1.0 product, looking at functionality at this stage. But don’t get me wrong; I do like this product and I think it has a lot of potential. The look and feel of the interface is great and very intuitive, but more functionality needs to be added to be truly useful. But again I think it’s a great application and VMware has put a lot of effort in designing the interface specifically for mobile devices. I think you should definitely add it to your management gear. You never know when it might come in handy. That said, don’t underestimate the power of the vCMA. Some of the shortcomings I mentioned earlier are available directly from the vCMA. Just point the browser on your iPad to the IP address or DNS name of the vCMA. When logged into the vCMA, you’ll notice the ability to migrate virtual machines, see your clusters, view and run scheduled tasks, view alarms, view the virtual machine’s settings, create snapshots, and so forth. I think it’s very likely that this functionality will be added to the vSphere Client for iPad in one of  the future releases. VMware is planning to release updates on a IOS-frequency instead of vSphere-frequency, so my guess is that this app will evolve quickly and we don’t have to wait that long for fucntionality like vMotion to become available.

VMware has opened a community site for the vSphere Client for iPad. You can visit the iPad Client community at http://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/vsphere/ipadclient, where you can go for support and additional information.

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2 Comments on “vSphere Client for iPad – Another step forward in mobile administration”

  1. #1 vSphere iPad Client | vNinja.net
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 10:54 am

    [...] vSphere Client for iPad – Another step forward in mobile administration by Arnim van Lieshout [...]

  2. #2 Jemimus
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I had actually not yet used the vCMA at all yet. Reading about the iPad app got me exited, and it took me less than 45 mins to get the whole setup working. Very straightforward.

    I like it a lot, but its a little simple. Meaning I could really use some more features.
    But the presentation is fantastic, I especially like the way it renders the performance graphs. They really made the best use they could of the form factor.

    Its a great first version, I hope they add lots of functionality to it. Being able to takeover console using thing would be supremely useful for example.

    Here are some pics I have made of my own use of it the last few hours.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jemimus/tags/viclient/

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