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VMWare ESX HTML5 web client

VMWare is probably the most commonly used virtualisation platform in the corporate environment, and is worth exposing students to for that reason alone. Our lab makes use of multiple VMWare ESXi hypervisors, but after trying centralised VMWare vCentre management each ESXi instance is now a standalone hypervisor again.

While much of the usefulness of VMWare in corporate environments derives from the fact that multiple hypervisors can be clustered and managed by a vCentre server, we found this approach problematic in the training lab. Often we only needed to run a single ESX box for a few hours, not a full cluster, but once a number of ESXi boxes are added to a cluster vCentre complains unless the entire cluster is started up simultaneously.

So we find standalone ESXi boxes more useful than a vCentre cluster. Features such as vMotion, which are only available using vCentre, are not as compelling in a training lab environment where most VMs are transient and often don’t see the day out anyway. Of course, this applies to general purpose training labs, not VMWare-specific labs. Where the purpose of a lab is to actually cover vCentre configuration then obviously a cluster is required.

Another feature not available on standalone ESX boxes is the vSphere web client. With the desktop and Flash clients now mostly unsupported, a HTML5 web client for standalone ESX boxes is essential. Thankfully, just such a web client developed with VMWare support is available with tech preview status as a VMWare Fling project:

ESXi Embedded Host Client

We have been using this client in our lab for around 18 months and can report that is it generally stable and reliable. Any problems we have had related to flaky VM consoles, which may have been more a problem with limited network IO capacity that anything else.

So in our labs at least, ESXi + ESXi Embedded Host Client has proved to be a great combination that frees us from the overheads involved in running a full vCentre cluster.

ESXi Embedded Host Client installation

The ESXi Embedded Host Client is packaged as a VIB package, which can either be downloaded directly to an ESXi host or downloaded to a local machine and pushed to an ESXi host using scp. Both installation techniques require SSH to be enabled on the ESXi host.

If the ESXi host has internet access, the VIB package can be installed directly from a URL:

ssh root@<esx ip or hostname> esxcli software vib install -v <URL>

At the time of writing, the URL was https://download3.vmware.com/software/vmw-tools/esxui/esxui-signed-8122819.vib.

If the VIB package has been downloaded to a local machine, it can be pushed to ESXi using scp:

scp /path/to/downloaded/vib/esxui.vib root@<esx ip or hostname>:/tmp
ssh root@<esx ip or hostname> esxcli software vib install -v /tmp/esxui.vib

Following installation, it should now be possible to navigate to https://<esx ip or hostname>/ui where a login page should be displayed.

To upgrade the VIB package:

ssh root@<esx ip or hostname> esxcli software vib update -v <path to VIB or URL>

To remove the VIB package:

ssh root@<esx ip or hostname> esxcli software vib remove -n