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:

vsphere-web-client-linux-desktop-1
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:

vsphere-web-client-linux-desktop-0
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.

7 thoughts on “Accessing the vSphere Web Client from a Linux desktop?

  1. I understand what you are saying which is “non-plugin functionality works on Linux providing you have a recent enough Flash”. However the release notes for vSphere 5.5 update 2b say this:

    “Because Linux platforms are no longer supported by Adobe Flash, vSphere Web Client is not supported on the Linux OS. Third party browsers that add support for Adobe Flash on the Linux desktop OS might continue to function.”

    (from https://www.vmware.com/support/vsphere5/doc/vsphere-vcenter-server-55u2b-release-notes.html )

    While the second sentence is a get out (you might be lucky) the first clearly states it’s not a set up that VMware supports and will scare folks away…

  2. Thanks for support but i cant open vsphere web client with Chrome.Only blank page.
    I use Linux Mint 17.1.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance!

  3. I hope this situation improves.
    I remember when we asked at a XenSource Inc. customer workshop when they’d be releasing a new/improved linux client in addition to XenCenter for Windows.
    They told us they had to focus on where the VC companies saw their customers.

    So, basically, 10 years later this is why how we now have so many KVM based appliances and XenServer is just one among many.

    I’d wish VMWare gets smarter than that, using a deprecated and often blocked technology like flash is a questionable decision. We can’t even be sure flash plugins will still be around in 3-4 years.

  4. I don’t think the situation will soon improve because:

    1. We are running virtual Oracle Linux Servers on VMWare-environments to host our databases and application servers and we have been running into these problems now for nearly a year. Since Red Hat released RHEL7 there are only 64-bit Linux enterprise versions and a lot of software which has a connection to windows servers (like citrix) is still based on 32-bit implications of libraries, either because the application is not upgraded for the linux-platforms or the libraries on which it relies are still only 32-bit. Thus it seems that Red Hat is not making any effort to have these libraries or applications updated.

    2. Oracle has been inventing a new licensing model in which it states that all v-centers that are available in an organisation should be licensed because they can be potentially used to run their products. Oracle states that the ‘guilty’ party for this change is VMWare which has improved their capabilities to easily scale up your used capacity and is promoting their own KVM to host the servers which run Oracle products.

    It looks like there is a big strategic war going between Microsoft, Google (Alphabet) and Oracle and all firms are choosing strategic alliances with vendors and products and are forcing them to join their camp and exclude support for the opponent(s).

  5. 1. A pre-requisite for this is the Chrome stable. To install do this:

    wget -q -O – https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | sudo apt-key add –

    sudo sh -c ‘echo “deb http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main” >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list’

    sudo apt-get update

    sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

    *you will need to delete one entry from software sources as google ppa duplicates itself causing errors in apt-get update*
    ______________________________________________

    2. Install Flash 19 wrapper in Ubuntu according to the instructions in this link:

    https://askubuntu.com/questions/576562/apt-way-to-get-adobe-flash-player-latest-version-for-linux-not-working

    ______________________________________________

    3. Launch VCenter Web Console in Firefox (I assume you already know how to do this). It should be under the link https://vcenterserver.companydomain.com/ <-(substitute accordingly to your company or personal setup)

    Make sure that the regular flashplugin-installer is removed through Synaptic or apt-get as Firefox will default to Flash 11.2 and not 19- even if you set it to 'Always Activate'.

    Also Shockwave Flash 19 in Firefox Addons must be enabled in Add-ons afterwards. Sometimes it deactivates, I don't know why.

    It is important that the above be done because only Firefox has the VM console plugin, which enables you to log into VMs and interact with them.

  6. William – when are they going to get the EHC available for vCenter and SSO? HTML5 is soooo much smoother than flash anyway. EHC is a great addition and is now part of vSphere 6 u2. It has to be a precursor to just replacing the flash interface, right?
    Tom Miller

Thanks for the comment!