VMware Server Episode 2.0: The Revenge of the Web UI

Has VMware gone over to the Dark Side? Linux Magazine's Jason Perlow examines the recent release of VMware Server 2.0 beta, and finds its Web-only management interface disturbing.

We take you now to the Planet Virtual, where two combatants are already engaged in mortal combat. Laser swords drawn and at the ready, and facing each other on opposing levitating anti-gravity platforms hovering over a fiery river of molten metal, the opponents utter their final words.

Open Source Kernobi: Darth, slow, memory hogging and less functional Web interfaces compared to native Linux software are evil. Why did you remove the native Linux console client from VMware Server in the 2.0 release? We’ve been using it for years and its worked great.

Darth VMware: Evil from your point of view! From my point of view, the Open Source freeloaders and non-paying end-users are evil. You should be lucky that we give you a free Server product, period. And besides, if you don’t like the Web interface, you can always use the Windows-based Virtual Infrastructure client. You want native? Use our free VMware Player or buy VMware Workstation.

Open Source Kernobi: Well, then you are lost! That’s not what we Linux users want! Don’t you remember who and what you started with, back in 1999? Developers and power users need a free server with a native client!

Darth VMware: This is the end for you, My Linux community. I wish it were otherwise.

The fighting continues for what seems like an eternity, with the opponents trading blows against each other, until what seems like a stalemate. Finally, Kernobi opens up his Targus laptop bag, and produces a huge stack of DVDs, containing Linux distro builds with integrated Xen, KVM, and Virtualbox — all native and Open Source Virtualization packages for Linux.

Kernobi: It’s over, Darth. Open Source has the the high ground. Our hypervisors and management tools are catching up to you in polish and functionality, while you lag behind in driver support in your enterprise product offerings, produce bloatware, and alienate the fan base which got your company started in the first place.

Darth VMware: We’ve outgrown your community, Kernobi. You underestimate our power! We have more than 80 percent market share and we’re backed by one of the biggest names in enterprise storage. We can sit on our laurels, force end-users to eat what ever we give them, and we’ll get away with it too.

Kernobi: Don’t try it, Darth. Once the end users get a taste of free and open source virtualization, they’ll want to go to Citrix, Oracle, Red Hat, Novell, SWsoft or any other vendor that will give them support at their enterprise. Your 80 percent market share will shrink like a slice of Bantha bacon hitting a cast iron pan.

And so it went. Well, we all know how that sucky movie ended. Darth got burnt to a cinder and ended up having to wear a permanent sleep apnea mask welded to his face, and Kernobi and the rest of his kind retreated into the safety of their Open Source development model, one day to return and conquer the proprietary villains.

Of course, it didn’t have to end that way if Darth didn’t want to maintain the native Linux client anymore, they could have open sourced it for the community to maintain it themselves. Or better yet, release their entire hosted virtualization product as open source, since their enterprise hypervisor-based version ESX Server and its derivative products are what make them the big bucks anyway.

And as to Darth’s concerns of an open source version detracting from sales of their hosted VMware Workstation product, from which VMware Server shares much of its technology? Well, think of it as free development resources. Red Hat and Novell have been able to make that work for them. People still want to pay for support for a fully regression tested and stable version.

Of course, if I were one of Darth’s competitors and one of Kernobi’s friends — such as the aforementioned Citrix, Oracle, Red Hat or Novell all of which are using Open Source hypervisors as basis for their commercial virtualization products — I’d come out with an easy to install free product that seamlessly and easily converted VMware images over to whatever their native VM file format is, as well as a physical-to-virtual converter utility, with a nice, fast and native Linux GUI front-end. I might write it in a multi-platform toolset like QT, or maybe even Java so the client will run on Macs and Windows too.

Oh yeah, and if they want support and enterprise capabilities, they should charge them for that too. Cause, like, people pay for that. Even the Linux freeloaders, when they go to their day jobs in corporate America.

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