Virtual Machines

On our cluster of vmware servers we provide space for virtual machines.

For you as a (future) user, that is, operator, of a virtual machine, it is just a machine that you install and operate remotely without ever touching it.

After installation, it will provide services for production or testing purposes.
Users of such services will not note the difference with physical machines.
There are however application areas where virtual machines are better suited than physical machines. They include:

  • course assignments
  • prototyping
  • monitoring
  • licence servers

or, more general, applications that require relatively small resources and one or more of:

  • reliability of storage
  • facilities to save snapshots of the system state
  • remote access, with authentication, to the boot procedure
  • independence of hardware upgrades

You may want to read more about virtual machines...

their environments and application areas, in the wikipedia article.

What we provide are System virtual machines.

Setting up your virtual machine

Employees and students can request virtual machines to run Windows and Linux systems.
Please include these details in your request:

  • a short hostname
    Your virtual machine will be accessible as
    It is up to you to install and provide services, often for testing purposes, on your virtual machine.
  • type of OS, one of:

    • Windows, optionally pre-installed
    • Linux: 32 or 64 bit, you always need to install that yourself
  • operators, accounts that need access to operate the virtual machine:

    • reset, power on and off
    • enter input and view feedback at the virtual console
      especially to install system software

    and therefore need access to the virtual machine environment.
    It is up to you to provide access to services that you will run on the virtual machine itself and to create accounts to setup, use or test such services.

  • estimated required disk space in addition to system-software.
    For example, the entire matlab suite takes 8 GB of diskspace.

  • estimated required memory
  • the subnet, implying a choice for network access.

  • end date or estimated end date. The availability can be extended later.
  • For SEP assignments also the SEP group number

Resources such as memory can be changed later, the virtual machine needs to be down to apply the changes.

Remote access to virtual machine operations

  • Virtual machines created since 2018

    See instructions for the WINESX cluster 2018

  • Virtual machines created before 2018

    See instructions for the old WINESX cluster

  • Migrating from the old to the new WINESX cluster

    We will notify you about the migration.
    Then please check what you need to do before and after the migration.

Virtual machines need to be switched on, installed and (re)booted, just as physical machines. Access to such operations is available in several ways on the vShpere start page :

  • for Windows:
    • Web-based: vSphere Web Client
      Optionally with Client Integration Plug-in for access to the consoles of the virtual machines.
    • Dedicated software: vSphere Client
      No longer recommended but still on the vSphere start page.
      Newly created virtual machines by the vSphere Client are already aged.
  • for Linux:
    • Web-based: vSphere Web Client
      Optionally with Client Integration Plug-in for access to the consoles of the virtual machines.

The Client Integration Plug-in

For the Client Integration Plug-in, (CIP) when not already installed, a download pointer appears on the login page of the vSphere Web Client.

The CIP provides:

  • Access to the (virtual) console of your virtual machine, in most cases required to guide the installation procedure
  • Connectivity to install-media on your local (client) computer

For Linux, the downloaded package is VMware-ClientIntegrationPlugin-X.X.X.bundle, which is actually a shell script that extracts and installs the attached software archive. In case you care about the layout, the files are installed into

pointing to/usr/lib/vmware*
pointing to/usr/lib/vmware*

Navigating to your virtual machine

Unless indicated otherwise, here is how to find your virtual machine:
  • vCenter
  • Hosts and Clusters
  • WIN
  • SEPpool

Booting from install media

To boot from install media, you need to "insert" them and adapt the boot sequence of your virtual machine.

Inserting install media

You can of course not directly insert install media into your virtual machine but you can connect install media through the computer from which you are visiting the vSphere Web Client.

Provided that you have installed the vSphere Web Client Integration Plug-in you can connect your virtual machine, when powered on, to:

  • a CD inserted into your computer
  • an ISO image on your computer

which you can include in the bootsequence of the virtual BIOS of your virtual machine. If this does not work for you, you may upload an ISO image but please remove it as soon as you finish installation.

You can also connect your virtual machine to a USB drive inserted into your computer, but you cannot include that in the bootsequence.

Adapting the bootsequence

To install your OS, you will need to adapt the bootsequence of your virtual machine. Therefore, you need to enter the virtual BIOS, for which the tight F2 key timeout poses a big challenge. Here is how to force entering the virtual BIOS once:

  • Click on Edit Settings, from one of yourVM's :
    • label on the inventory panel, the right-click menu
    • Summary tab, VM Hardware
    • Actions ▼ menu
    From this yourVM - Edit Settings:
    • Select VM Options
      • Boot Options
        • Force Bios setup: mark this checkbox

Note that this checkbox is unmarked after the next boot. So if you need to re-enter the BIOS, you need to repeat this procedure.

Add USB Devices From a Linux Client Computer to a Virtual Machine in the vSphere Web Client

In addition to this and related chapters, we found that the following sequence worked on Linux vSphere Web Clients, with Client Integration Plug-in installed: (Just tested on Linux, may also work on Windows, which or whose Web Client may not require this sequence):

  1. Start vSphere Web Client, login if required
  2. Select the VM to which you want to connect the USB device,
    let's call it VMusb.
  3. Finish the Web Client
  4. Physically connect the USB-device to the Linux Web Client Computer
    • Your desktop file manager will either directly open (mount) te USB-device or ask you whether to open it. The best answer is no, to prevent any application from grabbing the USB-device so that it may not become available for the vSphere Web Client.
    • The vSphere Web Client will detect the USB-device and unmount it, if necessary, to have it available for the virtual machines.
  5. Start vSphere Web Client for the 2nd time, login if required

  6. Now:
    • The same VMusb is hopefully still selected
    • Under Summary, VM Hardware, it should have item:
      USB Devices    Power VM on to connect

      if not yet powered on.

  7. Power on VMusb, if not already done

  8. Now:
    • The USB Devices item under Summary, VM Hardware, should look like:
      USB Devices    Connect client device
  9. All physical USB-devices will appear under this menu.
    • Select and connect the USB-device.
    In case you are managing several VM's: Connect the USB-device now, before selecting another VM, because after returning to this VMusb , the option to Connect client device sometimes disappears and you will need to restart the vSphere client.

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