VMware users have been asking for a Linux version of the Windows-only VMware Infrastructure/vSphere Client for years. Last year at VMworld, VMware hinted that it may be releasing a version for Linux soon. But a year has gone by and there is still no sign of VMware releasing a client that will work with Linux. It is doubtful that VMware will release a Linux client for VMware Infrastructure 3 now that vSphere has been released, but a Linux version of the vSphere client is still a possibility.
My guess is that VMware does not see creating a Linux version of the VI Client as a priority as the majority of their customers have predominantly Windows environments. But while a Linux client may be a nice-to-have for most customers, it is a must-have for those customers that have predominantly Linux environments. To accomplish this, though, VMware would have to rewrite its client using another programming language because the current client uses the Microsoft .NET framework, which is not natively compatible with Linux systems. By not providing client support for more OSes than Windows VMware is potentially losing customers that do not run Windows and have no desire to run Windows just to use a management client for their virtualization environment. If VMware wishes to further its journey into cloud computing (which is typically predominantly Linux), it may want to rethink this strategy and shift its development to a multi-platform client.
VMware could ditch the software client completely and use a Web-based client instead. VMware currently has a Web-based user interface (UI) for accessing vCenter Server and ESX hosts but it is limited to only managing virtual machines and not vCenter or host servers. Additionally, ESXi — which, according to VMware, will eventually replace ESX — does not support the Web-based UI as it does not have a Web application server installed. Using a Web-based UI is an attractive option as it is OS-independent and anyone with a supported browser could access it regardless of the OS they are running.
So what will VMware do? It appears that VMware is firmly committed to using the vSphere client as evidenced by the many plug-ins VMware is developing. It’s unlikely that VMware will port the vSphere client to other operating systems like Linux or Macintosh and it is also unlikely that VMware will enhance the Web UI to provide the functionality that the vSphere client provides. Having a multi-platform or OS-independent client would benefit all customers; even predominantly Windows shops have some Linux or Mac systems. VMware may surprise us at VMworld with a client support announcement like it did last year, but users will want to see an actual product this time.