The Virtualization Room

Nov 27 2007   10:33AM GMT

VMware Server 2.0 at First Blush

Kutz Profile: Akutz


They say the best laid plans of mice and men rarely succeed. It is clear to me then that some of the development team that VMware has working on Server must be what Mulder and Scully were searching for — not the truth, the other thing, human/alien, (wait, scratch that,) human/mouse hybrids. I figure if a double-negative makes a positive and Mars is in the orbit of Venus, then a human/mouse hybrid probably succeeds a little more than it fails. And that is my poetic, round-a-bout way of saying that at first blush, VMware Server 2.0 hits the mark more than it misses.It is nice that VMware Server 2.0’s installer attempts to uninstall VMware Server 1.0.x for you, except that 1.0.x’s uninstaller is famous for not working! It does not like to shut down VMs in a timely manner. I tried to manually shutdown the daemon, but the vmnet1 NIC arrived in some type of hung state. A reboot was eventually necessary as countless console messages prevented me from accessing the server even from the console. I know this is not indicative of a 2.0 problem, but it sure soured me to upgrading right off the bat.

However, once I finally resolved that issue, 2.0 installed like a champ! No problems at all. That is more than I can say for previous versions of VMware Server. VMware even bypassed the nasty problem on non-GPL3 compliance by not using the GPL3-ified version of set_dumpable in their vmmon memory module. Instead they call the set_bit function directly:
/* Dump core, readable by user. */
set_bit(MMF_DUMPABLE, ¤t->mm->flags);
clear_bit(MMF_DUMP_SECURELY, ¤t->mm->flags);

It’s nice to see that someone listened to me (I’ll pretend someone did — most likely VMware just saw that this was a problem and fixed it — good on them!)

So far so good, VMware Server 2.0 installed great. But then it comes time to manage it. The very first thing I do is open a Web browser and point it to the Tomcat instance being used by Server 2.0. However, it does not ever authenticate me. I get a funky malformed URL error. That’s like, totally bogus, dude. I mean, cryptic error messages? Who does VMware think they are? Every other software developer in the world? VMware — we hold you to higher standards — better error messages please.

Luckily, Server 2.0 is manageable by the VirtualCenter client, which I happen to have. Unfortunately the Server 2.0 Website does not make that an available download for users without said client. 🙁 . I started up the VI client and tried to connect to my Server 2.0 instance until I realized that the VI client is subject to the same issues connecting to Server 2.0 as it is with ESX — it does not accept pass phrases. My pass phrase is over 70 characters long and the VI client rejects it. Or it is using the trim function (if you know what it does you know I gave something away, otherwise, LOOK, a rainbow!). I ssh into my Linux box and change my password to something less secure and then attempt another VC connection and this time it works.

The VirtualCenter client is a great way to manage VMware Server. The VirtualCenter client is a terrible way to manage VMware Server. I am sensing some dichotomy here. I am glad we (do not) agree! While the VI client is a great improvement over the MUI (we finally get meaningful statistics!), it would have been nice to get a client version that did not constantly throw .NET errors about objects not initialized or null this and weak reference that just because VMware Server 2.0 does not fully implement everything that ESX does. That is annoyance number one. Oh, click “Continue” instead of “Quit” or watch the VI client close on you!

That brings me to annoyance number two, and this one is far worse. There is no intuitive way to add existing VMs into VMware Server 2.0! You have to double-click on a configured data store in order to explore its contents, navigate to the VM’s vmx file, and then click “Add to Inventory.” However, if you right-click on the data store you get an error. If you look for an “Explore data store” option you will not find one. There should be a “Search this server for VMs to import” option. At the very least, when the installer asks you where to store VMs (from which it creates the first data store), it should ask if you wish to import existing VMs.

Overall I am happy with VMware Server 2.0. It seems much faster and you can finally create more administrative users than just “root”. However, there is much spit and polish needed before VMware Server 2.0 is ready. Most of that focus needs to be on what VMware already knows — its management. The VIX API and increasingly integrated Virtual Infrastructure client functionality are a good first step, but VMware Server 2.0 is not there yet.

1  Comment on this Post

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  • Paul Shearer
    The most serious issue I see with VMWare server 2.0 is its lack of 64bit support for Windows.
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