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.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

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.

VMware Server 2 ConsoleSo, 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.

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117 Comments
  1. Mike 10 years ago

    I have to agree with the author here. Just tried VMWare Server and they certainly have ruined a fine product by forcing it down the web browser path. We use ESX for production environments but for the quick run a vm on this host pc task, we are going to be looking at using the 1.x production or moving to Hyper-V.

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  2. David Duckworth 10 years ago

    James,

    To your post (late response, I know!), I installed VMware 2.0 on Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 fully updated. Super clean OS with no "junk", not even AV software. There was not much to do wrong, I've been working in IT for over 8 years but certainly I'm not infallible... I basically didn't have time to figure out why the web server was randomly crashing/hanging and requiring a reboot. Maybe IE was sending malformed requests 🙂 VMWare rocks... not trying to rag on their product. Can't beat free. Older versions are still readily available so it's all good. I'm going to test 2.0 in a lab environment soon and give it another go.

    PS I do know about ESXi. Another great free product. We kind of skip it though. In my environment, we use VMWare Server on Windoze for various reasons. And work with ESX 3.x installations running HA and VC.
    D

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  3. Roger 10 years ago

    I fully agree, i tested WMWare Server 2 (final) but it was extremely disappointing.
    Simply put, the web based GUI is a bad, bad, very bad idea!

    Yes, now they don't have to write two separate GUIs for Win and Lin, but it is not a big deal: they could have used Java, or a cross platform graphic library like Qt... anyway they have to write a lot of platform specific code since paths, security model, and environment values (and registry) works in a completely different way on the two platform!

    And, the complexity of testing the UI explodes: now they have to test it on Win and Lin, AND for each test it with the available browser: FF, Opera, Epiphany, Konqueror, Safari, IE (and don't 4get XP integralists have ditched IE7 and following ones, so you would still need to run well on IE6 that has still a sizeable market share!).

    Ok, and some tasks requires the process met some specific security settings... so multiply the previous number for any combination of system's security setting for the current user for any possible security setting of the web browser... nice!

    Result? A lot of issue running the most basic tasks I used to do in 1.x version, no context menu, a lot of problems complicated by the fact sometimes they are not reported at all.
    I'll stick with 1.x version as long as it is reasonable, then I'll migrate to something else unless they provide again a viable GUI.

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  4. Michel 10 years ago

    I see some of the discussions here are not very old. Thats why I'd like to give my 2 cents to this conversation.

    It was the new VSS Backups in ESX 4.0 driving me to update my private VMServer from 1.x to the newest. This was not for the first time but I rolled back last time because I didnt like the Webiface. So, I did again because I thought I can do the same in VMServer 2 now as with ESX 4.0 for the VSS gadget. Unfortunately I couldn't deal with the VSS integration and it endet with the fight again to get comfortable with the Webiface.

    The good thing I may add here is that there is no problem accessing the VMServer 2.0 with the VI-Client 2.5, so I'm happy now. The bad thing is there is still no nice way to backup a VI using the same technology as with ESX 4.0.

    Thanks for this nice thread here
    <<<michel

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  5. Tuinkussens kopen 10 years ago

    Since my last post here (comment 93) we used VMS2 in a small production environment. I'm not so pleased anymore, we had serious issues with I/O corruption on high disk usage due to bugs still unsolved, also upgrading VMS2 and maintaining compatibility with its hosts kertnel can be a pain on Linux.

    Converted all production MVhosts to ProxMox recently, (KVM + OpenVZ + webgui), I doubt we will ever ever take a look at VMware products again. Not because VM sucks all over, but free/OSS alternatives are arising and prove to be rock solid.

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  6. Will 10 years ago

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that you can replace VMServer 2 with XenServer Enterprise and get some added benefits out of it. At the very least you get a better management GUI.

    Of course I'm mentioning this strictly out of my own experience of using both.

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  7. Travis 10 years ago

    I too haven't been impressed with the change to a Web-Based GUI for v2. Sometimes the web GUI pages time-out, or not accessible at all!

    I have also noticed that disk I/O from the host seems slower, and that more RAM on the host is used than with V1.x

    They have also changed the command line programs, so scripts that backup the VMs need to be re-written for v2. I have written a guide to backup vmware server 2 guests here - if anyone is interested.

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  8. erock 10 years ago

    I have a text only version of centos installed in vmware server 2.0
    why does the interface look horrible? I can hardly read the text!! Even going through the centos installation was painful in text mode. Has anyone had similar issues?

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  9. only_samurai 10 years ago

    I couldn't agree more with your post. I've had to revert to version 1 of Server to even be able to use the VMs on a Windows XP host. I can have them running in the background, but as soon as I try to connect to the console the entire browser (in this case Firefox 3) becomes unusable and requires killing.
    The box I'm running this on isn't fantastic, so the usability issues could be affected by that. Regardless of that, I still think the effort to putting this in my browser was a wasted one. Too much happens in my browser already...

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  10. Jerry 9 years ago

    I also can confirm that web console is nightmare. In Firefox without modifications i get "Loading..." - should be logon prompt, helps only web management services restart and if i get lucky and can log in then most cases interface is unresponsible most times. Console window is not working at all - only get timeout message.

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  11. Brendan 9 years ago

    Well, it has been about two and a half years and VMware Server 2 still is horrible.

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  12. Grega 9 years ago

    True, true... I tried vmware server 2 yesterday to see if they changed anything. OMG, virtual maschines were so slow... Vmware server 1 is still ok. but if you need just a computer to run virtual mascines, than you need vmware esxi.

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  13. JP 9 years ago

    I agree, VMWare Server 1 is still the best.

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  14. Aish 9 years ago

    Sigh... I give up. The web console is just so unreliable. Now it's not even opening up at all.

    I'm giving up with virtualization entirely, going to set up a server on a real, second PC.

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  15. real_skydiver 9 years ago

    I was happy for years running VMWare Server 1 on a Linux box with a few VMs. Some day, a friend of mine offered me a Server 2003 license (32bit) for a few bucks because he moved on to 2008. I bought new hardware (i3, 4GB), installed 2003+VMS1 and was very happy – at the beginning. Then, the vicious circle started when I became greedy. I needed more and more VMs – running all at the same time. Soon, RAM was an issue. I bough 4GB more, running 2003 with PAE. Then I noticed, that the machine (2003) crashed about every other week or so – very scary with a dozen VMs crashing at the same time. So I was looking out for a new server OS, 64bit, avoiding the (possibly) too tricky PAE. I gave Windos 7 (Enterprise, 90days-Trail) a chance. Unfortunately, VMWare Server 1 won’t install on this OS. While I was already on this point (Win 7 installed) I thought I might just try out VMWare Server 2. What a mistake. To cut the story short: the whole thing runs extremely stable now for over two months (24h/d). From a managing point of view, it is not acceptable. I truly believe, that the people at VMWare who decided to use this web based management console do have a serious mind-problem. Unfortunately, until Microsoft (if ever) offers a server style virtualization that can run upon a client OS, I have to stick with that crappy VMWare 2. I simply avoid to touch that management console at all. I have shortcuts to all my VM’s – some through RDP, some through VMWare Remote Console (even that was a horror trip, documentation here is just awful).

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  16. YD 9 years ago

    Guys

    Give VirtualBox (now Oracle Vbox) a trial.

    I have a mixed linux/windows environment, both hosts and guests.

    I migrated 14vms over the past 4 mths (using ovftool), so far no real issues. V4.04 is stable.

    Regards
    Y

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  17. Moonfern 8 years ago

    Another disappointed user. The webpage is a horrible thing. I'm using it on windows 7. As soon as I change something it goes in an endless waiting loop. Restarting the tomcat doesn't help at all, I might be running but it ain't working nor is it logging. I have to check the alternatives.

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