ivoras’ FreeBSD blog

July 30, 2008

VMWare Server 2.0 is a step back

Filed under: FreeBSD — Tags: — ivoras @ 3:20 pm

At the start I’d like to say I don’t have anything against VMWare Inc. and their products, and use their products regularly.

I tried VMWare Server 2.0 RC1 again. The first time was sometime early in beta so I just shrugged at the problems and returned to 1.0 to wait until they are solved. This time, it’s a release candidate. And it just sucks. It’s full of WTF moments:

* The install package downloaded from their site is > 500 MB. Really. WTF? A virtualization program? VMWare Server 1.0 had 150 MB and this was also completely over the top considering that the actual VM software (vmware-vmx.exe and companion libraries) is less than 7 MB uncompressed. When installed, VMWare Server 2.0 wants over 1.5 GB of disk space. Drives are cheap but this is ridiculous.
* Completely inappropriate use of technology 1: The VMWare Console (which was one of the best parts in 1.0 – small and reliable) is now replaced with a web interface, written in Java. Now we know how they filled 1.5 GB. The web interface is written as a servlet running in Tomcat 6. This means that, without doing anything, the host machine has a > 95 MB tomcat process in memory, waiting for you to connect. Again, ridiculous. Much more appropriate usage could be gained with practically any other technology ever. Java is particularly bad because of its sandbox – can’t do any system calls so a separate native layer must exist between it and the VM software proper. They could have written it in anything: Perl, Python, PHP, and got the same portability with a small fraction (2-3 MB) of used resources.
* Completely inappropriate use of technology 2: The web interface is AJAX-y. When you try to view the information about a VM you created, you get a mostly-blank form with cute little animated GIF images next to the word “Refreshing” in place of the actual data. At this time JavaScript code is asking the server (judging from the network traffic, once for each form field!) the data to fill in the fields. WTF? I can’t believe that this couldn’t have been done by parsing the .vmx file (typically consisting of 30 key-value lines!) on page load, instead of dynamically after it’s loaded. That’s completely what AJAX isn’t for and stinks like a design by committee.
* The web interface is on HTTPS, which is good, but the SSL server asks the browser for client certificates. As I actually have client certificates in my browser, created for some other purpose, and have set the browser to ask me each time someone asks it for the certificate, this means I get constantly nagged by popup boxes. There is NO WAY to generate a client certificate that would be applicable to the VMWare Server 2.0 from the web interface or the tools installed in the Start menu.

And then there are the bugs (you can skip this section, maybe they will be fixed by the time you read it):

* The web inteface has somehow picked up some of my old “registered” virtual machines (actually it picked the machines at random, whether they are registered or not), but made a complete mess with their names – I had 10 machines, with only 4 unique names. And, I couldn’t de-register all of them. The AJAX stuff broke every time I tried to de-register the last of the duplicates.
* The Console (implemented, naturally, as a native executable so all that effort in cross-platformness of the UI goes out the window; actually, the console looks somewhat like VMWare Player so again running it on FreeBSD will be a problem) works in Firefox 3.0 but not in 3.0.1
* The Console cannot use the hosts file (/etc/hosts and its equivalent in Windows) to resolve hosts. So no matter that i have accessed the AJAX-y web interface as http://myhost/, the console complains myhost can’t be resolved. Nice, really nice. Fortunately, we can pretend we’re in the early 80ies and use my IP address to connect both with the web interface and the console.
* And at last, when I got the new Console to work through the IP address (as suggested on VMWare forums), it couldn’t find the VM it was supposed to monitor – a message like “there’s no MyVMName.vmx running on the server” pops up.

The end effect is that, after two days of trying to get it to work, I couldn’t even boot a VM and attach the console to it. And I really tried. So far, it’s an awful product (actually the VM product itself could be really nice, but I didn’t even get the chance to try it because of the horrible user interface) and I reverted to using 1.0.

25 Comments

  1. These are some of the reason why i am currently using virtualbox. It’s lighter and no pain on module recompile after kernel major upgrade.

    Comment by Scorp — July 31, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  2. I have to admit that I have a very bad experience with Vmware server 2.0 as well. I am running it on my workstation, and it is just a big laugh. I DO appreciate the efforts that VMware had undertaken to release their software for free to the crowed etc. which is something from which other vendors can learn! but Vmware 2.0 isn’t it. I reverted back to the 1.x era, which is good enough for my purposes (running all supported freebsd versions).

    Comment by Remko Lodder — July 31, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  3. I ended up disabling the Tomcat server (per some posts in the VMware forums) and running the VMware Infrastructure Client on Windows, which results in a far more polished and usable experience.

    We have been using VMware Server 2.0 (beta series) on a quad-core Ubuntu box (the only Linux system in the place :-(), on which a number of our developers are the running their FreeBSD-based development systems. So far it has been rock stable.

    But I agree the size of download, plus the horrible Web UI, are both very off-putting as far as first impressions go. Couple all that with having to run it on Linux… :) Having said that, since it’s been up and running, I haven’t had to touch it except to upgrade as each beta release has timed out. And fix a Ubuntu bug with the software raid configuration that caused it not to find the RAID on boot.. hmmm…

    Comment by Antony Mawer — August 6, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  4. I installed VMWare Server 2 a few days ago because VMWare Server 1 was giving me too much trouble on Debian Lenny. Frankly, I hate it.

    1. There’s no need for the web interface. Yes it’s pretty, and it does save some time installing the client on every PC you want to use it from… But it wasn’t that hard to install.

    2. The consoles appear as a seperate window anyway. Why bother with the web interface?

    I’m going to try Virtual Box later if I get time. I only used VMWare before because it was the best. Now it’s not.

    Comment by Tim B — September 1, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  5. I hate VMWare 2.0!

    Comment by Le — September 24, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  6. VMware Server 2.0 web interface doesn’t use Java. It uses Javascript. And you say that php would be better? You’d still need a web server (aka TOMCAT – a small version of Apache.) I’d rather use a small Apache than IIS.

    The Web interface is decent, and doesn’t require that you load a console app on your machine to manage it. While I did like the old GSX/Server 1.x console, the new one is good.

    VMware Server 2.0 also supports local disk/image mounts, USB, and sound – which 1.x didn’t do.

    The last RC is good (Much improved over the betas) and seems to Just Work. I have one running on an Ubuntu box (dual core 3Ghz core2 with 8GB RAM) and it seems to be running fine. Haven’t had to touch it since I installed it.

    Comment by Joe — September 26, 2008 @ 3:55 am

  7. Java is not JavaScript. Java is a server-side technology, JavaScript is executed in browsers. Tomcat has nothing to do with Apache except that it’s under the umbrella of Apache Foundation. Tomcat is written in Java and it executes Java server side applications. As it says on the top of the first page at http://tomcat.apache.org/ , “Apache Tomcat is an implementation of the Java Servlet and JavaServer Pages technologies”. Note that nobody mentions JavaScript. If you cared to look at what was actually delivered on the drive when you installed it, you’d see that VMWare Server 2 installs

    * a private Java Runtime Environment (jre 5)

    * a practically complete installation of Tomcat, you can plainly see its JAR files (Java ARchive) containing Java code

    * and yes, the code of the ui backend itself, located exactly where Tomcat expects them to be, also as JARs with Java classes.

    I have no idea why somobody would rather use a huge web application that’s so complex it bloats the memory and CPU consumption of the client browser, and *still* requires a native binary application – the console – to actually access the system, instead of an integrated solution. VMWare ESX had a small web server that allows you to download and install the “rich” client console. A good move would be to implement *that* client in Java instead of going through all that web 2.0 nonsense.

    VMWare Server 2.0 is released. Just be sure to check its huge “known issues” list at http://www.vmware.com/support/server2/doc/releasenotes_vmserver2.html – some of the things I’ve complained about here are known to the authors and still not fixed.

    Comment by ivoras — September 26, 2008 @ 7:11 am

  8. [...] Here is some feedback from earlier beta RC1: The end effect is that, after two days of trying to get it to work, I couldn

    Pingback by Is It Time To Upgrade To VMware Server 2.0? | x86 Virtualization — September 26, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  9. Continued here: http://ivoras.sharanet.org/blog/tree/2008-07-21.vmware-server-2-redux.html

    Comment by ivoras — September 26, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  10. VMWare Server 2.0 makes me want to go back to 1.0.6. After trying several reinstalls, optimizations, a seperate hdd setup just for vm’s, completely isolated from the host OS, NOTHING can get me any kind of performance.

    I don’t even want to think of all the time that I was working on getting it up and running, and trying to get something even 10% of real hardware speeds. If I spent that same amount of time working for minimum wage at a fast-food restaurant I could have been able to afford a farm of low end machines that would obliviate the need for this worthless piece of software. (And it’s free! Hey, it’s true you get what you pay for.)

    Ultimately I take the time to keep multiple OS install discs (windows) slipstreamed, tested, and driver integrated for work. A VM system is perfect for this. This VM system is not.

    Ditch whatever it was that made you think this was a good plan and get back to making performance oriented rock solid VM software.

    Comment by James — October 10, 2008 @ 1:46 am

  11. Hi, I have created a video tutorial about how to install Vmware server 2.0 in OpenSuse 11.0 the video is available at: http://easgs.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/video-de-instalacion-de-vmware-server-20-en-opensuse-110/

    Theres is a video tutorial about how to install vmware workstation 6.5 in opensuse 11.0 too.

    Comment by easgs — October 11, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

  12. I’ve been an ardent VirtualBox user. I needed to setup a `shared disk’ and found I couldn’t do it with VirtualBox. I (thought! I) mistakenly downloaded 1.0.7. I set it up and created my VM. Bridging was a bit easier than VirtualBox but all in all, it looked like a nice product.

    I did notice running the configuration required running a Perl script. I thought, hmmm, I wonder how long _that_ will last! (I’ve seen overzealous developers implement `technology’ because a CLI doesn’t look `nice’). I didn’t mind the Perl script and I like that if need be, I have source to change. :)

    This morning, I discovered I had downloaded an old version of VMware so I thought, hey, before I continue I should download 2.0. I was floored it that it was a 500+MB download. Yeow! But I did it anyway.

    When I tried to start `vmware’ from the command line up pops up Firefox. This is when I realized what had happened: let’s-use-technology-for-the-sake-of-using-it. It doesn’t have to be correct use. We just have to use it. I figure some `pointy hair’ manager who used to be a mediocre developer came down with The Edict of Thou Shall Do … feh.

    I just finished un-installing 2.0 and I’m re-installing 1.0.7

    Once VirtualBox gets `shared disk’ I’ll migrate back. I was half thinking of switching from VirtualBox to VMware but 2.0 makes my decision obvious.

    Comment by pablo — October 28, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  13. I just installed VMware Server 2 for the first time and I am SHOCKED at the enormous piece of crap they made with it. I still have versions 1.0.5, 1.0.6 and 1.0.7. And I have backups. I am going to keep them like little treasures and try hard to forget what I saw today.

    Comment by Luc — October 30, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  14. Big disapointment. I am fighting with VMware 2.0. entire day. WMware 2 wins – I gave up. Although I tried to find benefits of 2.0 version over 1.0.x – so far I can’t see any. Many weird “new solutions”: web access, annoying certificat cofirmation windows, slow response etc… Can’t find Plug-in for Firefox 2.0.4 to start a machine. Going back to 1.0.x.

    Comment by Ted — November 24, 2008 @ 9:32 am

  15. Can not find the damn console in the web interface at all. It gray out. Waste me 5 hours. Hate 2.0 so much now I want to jump off Golden Gate bridge. 1.x works much better.

    Comment by MiC — December 17, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

  16. I just upgraded to VMware Server 2.0. I upgraded
    because the latest OpenSuse 11.1 upgrade broke vmware.
    Cons:
    -The vm install worked except for their custom socket
    implementation wouldn’t compile. Fortunately, it’s not
    required.
    - You can’t use Virtual Center to manage VMware Server 2.0. So now I have no way of looking at historical treads for my vms. bummer. Although VC kept crashing on me anyway. I was hoping an upgrade
    would fix.
    - The web gui disconnects with an error randomly
    and I have to loggin again.Tried disabling IPv6 as someone suggested, didnt work. A web interface is
    never going to be as responsive as a desktop client.
    It’s got the ajax shakes – software Parkinson

    Comment by systemsplanet — December 22, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

  17. Glad I am not the only one having these problems. The Hak5 cast needs to be shot for calling this one of the best free downloads for the year and then having the nerve to call the installation issues enough for a retarded person to do. I tried this pile of garbage with my student during a network security class last semester I made a huge mistake up(down)grading from 1.06 to 2.0. Another professor who is using this next semester is dreading it and may end using VirtualBox, just as I did earlier, because it is such a mess. Like other users all virtual machines I previously built were ruined and it refused to even allow me to build a VM. It was also a complete system hog and resources were threw the roof. It was like going from Windows XP to Windows 3.11, not even ME, calling it ME would be an insult to ME. Yes its that bad.

    Comment by Will — December 28, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

  18. VMWare Server 2 looks like a software suicide to me.

    I can’t but think that they are trying to kill off this product since it’s usability went down the drain.

    Comment by Yoo — January 15, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  19. I found this post because I noticed the tomcat6.exe running in my processes. I didn’t realize people were hateing VMware Server 2.0 this much, which makes me feel better. I used to use 1.06, and I rather liked the console that came with it. I thought having one window open and turn on as many machines as I needed was nice as they were all contained in one window and I switched tabs.

    I got 2.0 installed and the first bit of trouble I had was I couldn’t remember what the username and password I had setup on the old version. I had to Google for the default user and password for VM Server 2.0 just to find out that I had to use a user that was setup on the host machine, and to me that’s a fail. This caused me to uninstall and re-install thinking that I missed something during the install routine about setting the password.

    The second problem I had is when I tried to upgrade the virtual hardware version on some of the old VM’s. had one using version 3 and one user version 4, both did not want to upgrade. he’s a tip, you can upgrade them by removing them from the list of VM’s but don’t delete the disk file, just delete everything in it’s folder except that and start up a new machine and tell it to use that disk file, this will “upgrade” the machine.

    There are lot of things I don’t like about VMware server 2.0, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate them, but if it’s a really crappy product, my opinion will change. The first trouble was that I didn’t understand was having to setup a data store. all of a sudden I can’t just browse the folders on the hard drive to start up a new system or find an ISO image to install from, WTF? I also had to change the directory of the default data store, and then setup another one to give me access to my ISO images. the problem with this is that if I make a mistake I’m creating machines in the wrong folder, which means I have to start over. the second thing is that the web interface is soooo damn slow, all the refreshing and when I click on something it takes a good 2 or 3 seconds for it to respond. I feel like I’m running on a 500mhz system when I got a 3ghz system. and the last thing I want to do is have my browser open AND all the machines open in separate windows (although just now thinking about it, I have multiple monitors and can now have different machines on different monitors). I guess I can just use the shortcuts that can be created through the web interface.

    There is at least one bright side to the web interface. You no longer have to go around installing the vmware console or a version of server on everyone’s machine to get to the machines, which alleviates at least one IT admin problem, deployment.

    As for the use of tomcat6.exe. While it sucks that it’s >95 megs of system ram, I understand that they had to use something that would allow OS system calls to access HD, and serve up html, IIS with MySQL and PHP runs around 75 megs of ram so the difference is minimal IMHO since it’s only 20 megs apart and that’s only on my server with is used for development. They could have provided instructions on installing PHP and Mysql in IIS or Apache to accomplish the same goal. VMWare server shouldn’t be used by some shmo on windows xp unless that shmo understands how to install Personal Web Server or Apache with php and mysql. So making VMWare Server a stand alone product (at least for windows) shouldn’t have come about. Require people to use real server software for a proper host OS. After all getting Apche on linux is easy with all the install utilities that are out there.

    Comment by Granville — January 16, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  20. we had also migrated from VMserver 1.0 to 2.0 on DL 380 G5 with 20 GB RAM. we have been using Citrix Server on that. the reason was the limitation of max 3.6 GB RAM that you can assign to a VM in VMware server 1.0. we were happy with the way VMware server 1.0 was working and the feature of snapshot and all, if in case the citrix crashes but the VMware 2.0 has simply send knocking of the walls. all the users are complaining whats wrong with the speed of the applications published over citrix….so i am sitting in my office on this weekend waiting for all the users to log off so that i can take VM back to VMware 1.0. hope the VMs will open up with VMWare server 1.0….

    Comment by shivi — January 31, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  21. I agree with you, version 2.0 is horrible !!!
    Go back to previous version here: http://www.vmware.com/download/server/

    Comment by Vittorio — August 9, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  22. [...] product bringing professional virtualization within everyone’s grasp. Contrasted to VMWare Server 2, I’m yet to find something really serious in ESXi, to rant about, but the lack of software [...]

    Pingback by Ivan Voras: VMWare + FreeBSD + ZFS soft-raid with SATA drives – performance « The Daily BSD — October 14, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  23. [...] product bringing professional virtualization within everyone’s grasp. Contrasted to VMWare Server 2, I’m yet to find something really serious in ESXi, to rant about, but the lack of software [...]

    Pingback by VMWare + FreeBSD + ZFS soft-raid with SATA drives – performance « The Daily BSD — October 22, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  24. Man, was I glad to see this thread. Downloaded 2.0 and thought I’d be getting an improvement over 1.0. NOT EVEN CLOSE. After 2hrs of being unable to simply open the same virtual machine I’ve happily been using for almost 2 years… I’VE GIVEN UP. If the simple things can’t be done easily, it defeats the whole purpose. Version 1.x was simple… point to the VM, Open/Run… you’re up and running… this is a TOTAL KLUDGE. Lousy interface, worse documentation, unnecessarily complex terminology. I strongly feel this is how they expect to be paid… (read extortion) by an off-putting product that forces you into paid support. BEWARE. DON’T UPGRADE. SKIP IT. HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE. STAY WITH WHAT WORKS UNTIL VMWARE GET THEIR HEAD OUT OF THEIR (…) Virtual Box looks great but I couldn’t get it to open a few year old deki wiki virtual machine but would have loved to switch.

    Comment by Scott — December 6, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  25. THANK YOU for posting this rant! It makes me feel much better to know that I am not alone.

    VMWare Server 2 sucks big-time. Who the hell thought to make it so relient on Java?

    There seems to be a memory leak or something. I checked my server after a night of leaving my VM running (which I could not even access thanks to the web UI console errors!) and my server was running slow as a boulder…

    Comment by Simon — March 12, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

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