Yesterday, I was quite surprised how bad the remote control performance of VMware Server beta 2 is. It was so slow that I wasn't able to remotely manage a server using VMware Server Console with a 6 Mbit/s DSL connection. Today, I tested the performance of Virtual Machine Remote Client (VMRC) for Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.
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VMRC is a very simple tool. You don't even have to install it. Since the exe file only has 419 KB, I didn't expect too much from this test. But then, I was surprised that it performed better than VMware Server Console. I also tested VMRC with a 6 Mbit/s DSL connection, using Windows Server 2003 as my guest operating system. The performance was not as fast as with an RDP connection, but at least I was able to control the server.
I also tested a SuSE Linux guest system. The performance was much slower here. The mouse pointer was often stuck, whenever I dragged a window. This is not a Linux issue though. I suppose, the remote control feature is optimized for Windows' guest systems. At least, I was able to operate the Linux system on the command line.
I then changed to a 128 kbit/s ISDN connection. I still was able to remotely control my test server, but the Windows GUI was a very sluggish. You can do some basic work, but compared to a RDP connection at the same connection speed, it is very, very slow. The Linux box was hardly controllable at 128 kbit/s
The remote control performance feature of Virtual Server 2005 is certainly better than that of VMware Server. The VMware Server Console is much more comfortable than VMRC though, as one has a good oversight of all virtual servers and can also configure the settings of the virtual machine there.
You can start VMRC from the Virtual Server's web interface though. In my view, however, the usability of Virtual Server's web interface is a mess, when it comes to remote control. Displaying a virtual machine within a browser window might look cool, but who really wants to work like this? Every time I switched to my client's desktop, I got disconnected, which was quite annoying. To reconnect, I had to enter my credentials again. This can drive you nuts. Maybe it would behave differently, if client and host computer are in the same Windows domain.
Obviously, the remote control feature of Virtual Sever and VMware Server is only for installing a virtual machine and later for a quick look at your server, but not for remote management. Although VMware Servers Console's usability is a lot better than that of Virtual Server, its remote control's poor performance is a disadvantage.
In reality, most system administrators will use the guest operating system's built-in remote control feature. I think it would make more sense if one could connect directly to the guest system from the server console using the built-in remote control tool. If the guest system is a Windows Server for example, starting a Terminal Server session from the management interface would be much more convenient.
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This post only covers the remote control feature of VMware Server and Virtual Server. Of course, there are many aspects to consider. Also note that one can't infer from its remote control performance to the overall performance of a virtualization solution. The remote control performance is mostly dependent on the network protocol used to transfer display information from the server to the client.