Changing the Guard: Goodbye Flex Web Client—Hello HTML5, Baby

They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace. This is a major tourist attraction in London, and the changing of the guard happens every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, weather permitting. “Changing the guard” is also a well-known refrain used to signify the complete change of an environment. VMware is currently undergoing such a transformation with regard to its vSphere clients and the introduction of the HTML5 client.

With the release of version 6.5 of vSphere, VMware has finally laid to rest the venerable Windows client. Very few can argue that it was not time. The client had not had any updates in functionality since the Flex web client was introduced with vSphere version 5.1. It is, however, fair to say that the Flex-based vSphere client has not covered itself in glory. It quickly gained a reputation for slowness, and many a vSphere admin would only open it up when they absolutely had to—for example, when they wanted to utilise a feature that was not in the C# client, such as configuring vSAN—thus confounding VMware’s attempts to move from being a Windows management-centric company. I have to say that I was, and where the Flex client is concerned, still am, one of these people. It was slow and cumbersome, and a veritable resource hog. True, it got better with the more recent additions, but I still could not let the C# client go. It was responsive, familiar. I could just jump in the C# client and do what was needed quickly and efficiently.

However, with the release of vSphere version 6.5, the C# client is no more; VMware has fulfilled its promise of retiring the client. At the same time, with the release of 6.5 there is a new client on the block. This one is based on HTML5. This client has emerged as the new champion from a fling VMware released to allow browser-based access to non-vCenter managed hosts. For those of you who do not live on the bleeding edge, a fling is not a short lived but fiery romance of the Barbara Cartland type, but VMware’s name for a small proof-of-concept project to try out a new feature or idea, usually led by a small team of a few engineers.

This client is chalk and cheese to the Flex client, and I am finding that I am spending more and more time in the new HTML5 client. VMware has got this client right. It is responsive, and more importantly, it is intuitive, but one of the most amazing features of the new client is the speed at which it is updated. The HTML client is not tied to a particular version of vSphere like the C# and Flex-based clients were. It is continuously updated, expanding the range of features that the client can handle. This is a good thing, because VMware has just announced that the Flex-based client will have its last outing with the next version of vSphere. Yes, that’s correct: the Flex client final iteration will be released with the next version of vSphere, which is currently under beta.

This means that finally vSphere will have a single platform-independent client that is both fully featured and performant. Yes, that is correct: this client works on Windows, Mac, and various Linux distributions across numerous popular modern browsers. For those of us who have been on the virtualization gravy train for many years, this is a milestone. One of the longest-ever threads on the VMware communities was related to a request for VMware to release a Linux version of its client, started in 2005 when VI3 was first released.

VMware is currently undergoing a bit of a purple patch. The 6.5 version of vSphere is a very capable release. Given this, together with the newly unfettered HTML5 client, people finally have a real choice in their management platform; everybody has access to a browser.


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