ESXi 5.5 is finally here, and brings with it a lot of good, new features. Especially interesting, is that early tests seem to indicate that the USB passthrough issues that people were seeing on 5.1 have somewhat resolved themselves (although there are reports that USB 3.0 is working, but not USB 2.0). In addition, however, an interesting tangle for those of us with home labs relying on the free hypervisor has cropped up.
VMWare is moving is to get rid of the traditional vSphere Client that we know, and use only the platform-agnostic vSphere Web Client. The problem here is that the vSphere Web Client requires the use of a vCenter Server Applicance, which is a licensed, paid for product. It does, like ESXi, come with a 60 day evaluation period (and there is also the 365 day corporate trails), but after this, it needs a license to continue working, and when it goes, so does your control of the hypervisor.
ESXi 5.5: vSphere Client Error, Cannot Use
Trying to edit a VM via the vSphere client on a ESXi 5.5 Hypervisor with a free license gets you this error: You cannot use the vSphere Client to edit the settings of virtual machines of version 10 or higher.
Managing ESXi 5.5 with VMWare Workstation 10
An alternative is to use VWare Workstation to connect to the ESXi host and edit the settings of the virtual machine from there. However, this method is fairly restrictive, and provides little access to configurations that you would need for a home lab, networking configuration, iSCSI, or anything else. In addition, vApps are inaccessable.
Using VMWare Workstation, you can do the following when connected to an ESXi host:
- Create new Datacenters on a vCenter Server
- Check the power status of virtual machines
- Power on and off existing virtual machines
- Create new virtual machines
- Modify virtual machine settings (hard disk, CD-ROM, etc)
- Upload virtual machines to the server using the OVF tool
You can read more concerning this in VMWare’s support article, Connecting to a remote ESX / ESXi / vCenter Server from VMware Workstation
As it stands, unless something changes, what you end up with is a free product that can only be managed by a paid, licensed product. At least this is how it stands at the moment.
How do you intend to deal with this if licensing stays the same? Leave your comments below!
Update 9/27/2013: Paul Braren also has a great article on this over at TinkerTry.com entitled Best parts of VMware’s ESXi 5.5 free hypervisor rely on vCenter, which isn’t free. Uh oh?
Update 11/12/2013: After needing to update my vSphere client to access some ESXi 5.5 nodes at work, the client now comes up with the following explanation. If taken as read, this seems to indicate that only the new ESXi 5.5 features will be blocked, not the entire VM. I’ve written my VMWare account manager for some clarification on this, but one of the workarounds is to change the version number of the VM in the VM’s config file. This has been reported to work with no apparent side effects immediately noticeable.