I am currently evaluating Virtual Server plus Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) because I am thinking of replacing our VMware Server installations with Microsoft's virtualization solution. Since I am still undecided, I was curious to test the beta of VMware Server 2. I was hoping that they added the feature I was waiting for (VSS support). Unfortunately, my test results didn't end as I expected. Even though VMM didn't really convince me to move to Virtual Server, my test of VMware Server 2 did.
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There are some new interesting features, but only one is really important for me. Unfortunately, it is a change for the worse. These are the new features:
- Web-based management interface
- Support for Vista, Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, Ubuntu 7.1 and others
- Support for 8GB RAM per virtual machine, up to two virtual SMP (vSMP) processors and up to 64 virtual machines per host.
- 64-bit guest operating system support (Intel EM64T VT-enabled processors and AMD64 processors with segmentation support)
- Support for VIX API 1.2 (a programming interface for automating virtual machine and guest operations)
- Support for Virtual Machine Interface (VMI): guest OS can run either on native hardware or in paravirtualized mode.
- Support for USB 2.0 devices
If you are regular reader of my blog, then you'd already know which of the new features really turned me off. Yes, it is VMware Infrastructure Web Access, the new Web-based management interface for VMware Server 2. I thought, Virtual Server's admin console is the worst imaginable user interface, but VMware managed somehow to beat Microsoft here. At least, Microsoft recognized now that a Web browser is not really made for managing back-end apps. So they decided to give Hyper-V a real user interface.
So, what is so bad about this new user interface of VMware Server 2? First of all, it is sluggish as all web-interfaces (some of Google's tools excluded). Second, do you really want to logon to a server using a console that is embedded in a browser window? VMware Server 1 has this nice autofit feature which automatically adjusts the screen resolution of the guest when you resize the console Window. It seems this is not possible anymore with VMware Server 2. At least I wasn't able to find it and the documentation doesn't contain the word "autofit". I suppose, it is not that easy to program such a feature for a browser plug-in.
This browser plug-in is installed when you open the Console for the first time. It worked without problems on the host running Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2. But I wasn't able to install it on a Vista machine. Under Firefox, I got the error message "Installation of msvcr71.dll failed. Error Code -202." and with Internet Explorer I got a C++ Runtime Error. Later, I wasn't even able to connect to Infrastructure Web Access with Internet Explorer. I guess it was an SSL-related problem because the last message I saw was a certificate error. Well, my test was over anyway since there is not much to explore with VMware Server 2.
I got a couple of other error messages, but I don't want to bore you with them. Okay, this is just beta software. So you might expect to be confronted with some bugs. But I tested betas from VMware before and I never encountered as many problems. Many of them were in one way or another related to the web-interface.
The ugly user interface was not the only disappointment, though. The main reason why I want to move to Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is its support for the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). This allows you to run live backups of virtual machines. My hope was that VMware would offer VSS support for VMware Server 2. However, I am not sure if VMware plans to add such a feature in the final version. There is service called VMware VSS writer. I didn't find anything about it in the documentation, though. So I wouldn't count on it.
I just wished they didn't mess up with the great management interface of VMware Server 1. Even if VMware Server 2 will support VSS, we will most likely move to Virtual Server now.