ESXi – Closer but still no Cigar

We all know that ESXi is the future for VMware are regards their Hypervisor strategy, however most of you are more that aware pf the issues with the current iteration (see my eariler post) .   Vladan, a French based (well Reunion Island based to be exact) blogger of whom I have great respect, wrote about how ESXi does not support Serial and Parallel ports.

How is this an issue? Vladan correctly states the vast majority of SMB’s still use Parallel and Serial based devices in their environments.  ESX Classic fully supports Serial and Parallel ports but ESXi does not,  surprising considering that they are supposed to use the same code base.  Now according to this KB article there is a workaround, but the fact remains that it is a workaround and not a true solution as the use of named pipes will require communication from a VM to the management appliance where you have to create the pipes. There are several reasons why this is an issue:

  • Security — communication from hostile VMs to the management appliance
  • Manageability — the whole issue around ESXi is to minimize the need to directly access the management appliance. If you are not careful, a reboot will also remove the named pipes, etc.

VMware have made great strides in making ESXi deploy-able and patching is much easier. vMA is a vast improvement on RCLI and you can even use those commands from ESX Classic that you know and love, the vMA product has gone a long way in alleviating some of my concerns regarding ESXi.  But it is just not enough for some users. For these users there are several outside ‘VMware’ options but they have additional expenses in either money, time, or complexity.

  • Use Serial over IP devices — This is possibly an expensive option but also complex as now your VMs require special code.
  • Switch from  Serial or Parallel port devices to USB devices and use USB over IP hubs — This is an Expensive option if you have lots of legacy parallel or serial port devices.

Not only are these options potentially expensive they also provide one more bit of hardware to manage. The benefit however is that these devices no longer pin a VM to a given host which allows the use of VMware HA, vMotion, and Fault Tolerance (for those with the license). The SMB is concerned about Availability and pinning a VM to a host will impact availability.

ESX and ESXi licenses are expensive, and the extra cost with changing out legacy hardware presents a major setback to VMware’s adoption by the SMB. Furthermore, until ESXi is feature for feature compatible with Classic ESX, ESXi is not necessarily a good fit for some organizations.

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