A common miss-conception about the vSphere Web Client is that it is not accessible from a Linux-based desktop. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually possible at least from a technical standpoint as alluded to in this VMware KB. A recent discussion about this topic had piqued my interest as my own understanding of whether the vSphere Web Client would even work on a Linux desktop is fuzzy at best since it is not a desktop OS I use on a regular basis.
Though this may still comes as a surprise to some folks, Adobe Flash is indeed a requirement to use the vSphere Web Client. There are actually two ways to satisfy this requirement using any modern Linux desktop distribution. In the example below, I am using the latest Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 distribution to demonstrate the two options.
The first option is the most "convenient" by simply using the latest version of Google Chrome browser which actually bundles the Pepper Flash Plugin (more details can be found here from Adobe). Here is the CLI commands to perform the installation of Google Chrome on Ubuntu, you acn easily do a search for the instructions for other Linux distributions.
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y install google-chrome-stable
Here is a screenshot using Google Chrome connecting to a vSphere 6.0 environment as well as accessing the VMRC of a VM:
The second option is slightly less "convenient" since you need to install the Pepper Flash Plugin in addition to the browser that supports this plugin which is Chromium. Here is the CLI commands to perform the installation of Chromium on Ubuntu, you can easily do a search online for instructions for other Linux distributions.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y install pepperflashplugin-nonfree
sudo apt-get -y install chromium-browser
Here is a screenshot using Chromium connecting to a vSphere 6.0 environment and you will also be able to access the VMRC of a VM:
This looks pretty good right? I mean you can login to the vSphere Web Client UI to perform basic operations and access the VM Console using the HTML5 based VMRC. Well, almost but there are a couple of caveats to be aware of which may not be obvious at first. In addition to the basic operations and VMRC access, there some other important capabilities the vSphere Web Client offers today:
- Deploying OVF/OVA
- Windows Session Authentication
- Uploading files to a vSphere Datastore
- Mounting ISO/Floppy Image
- Connecting Local Devices (e.g. USB/CD-ROM)
The above capabilities are made available through what is known as the Client Integration Plug-in (CIP) which is something that is downloaded from the vSphere Web Client Server and installed locally on your desktop. A Linux CIP installer is currently not available today and the above functionality would not be available in the vSphere Web Client. Having said that, not all is lost and there are some workarounds. If you wish to deploy an OVF/OVA, you can still install OVFTool which is available on Linux and instead of using the UI to drive the deployment, it can be done through the CLI. For uploading files like an ISOs, you can use the vSphere API/CLI as shown here or SCP'ing directly to the ESXi host. Once the ISO is uploaded, you can then mount it to your VM from the vSphere Datastore.
Though this is far from a perfect solution for Linux-based desktop users, it does allow you to access the basic management capabilities of the vSphere Web Client. There is definitely room for improvement and this is an area that PM/Engineering is looking to enhance further in the future. There has also been a ton of general performance and usability improvements in the new vSphere 6.0 Web Client which will benefit all platforms and if you are interested to learn more about those, check out the blog post from the vSphere Web Client PM here.