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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, VMWare ESX and USB Dongles in Technical; Hi guys, I'm just wondering if anyone else is using multiple VMWare ESX servers in a High Availability cluster - ...
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    VMWare ESX and USB Dongles

    Hi guys,

    I'm just wondering if anyone else is using multiple VMWare ESX servers in a High Availability cluster - running virtual machines with applications that require USB Dongles for serialization/licensing?

    The problem I have is that we have 3 physical esx servers. I have one server with a virtual machine running an application that requires a usb dongle for its license. Without the dongle the application stops working. If the physical server were to go offline then the virtual machine running the application would be restarted (using the high availability feature) on a different physical server. Herein lies the problem. We only have one dongle and if it is plugged into the server that is offline then when the virtual machine is restarted on another server or infact vmotion'd onto any of the other servers it cannot contact the dongle and verify its license and so it stops working.

    As far as I can see I have 4 options:

    1) ask the software vendor if they sell a copy of the software that does not use a usb dongle. (Tried this and got told 'NO')

    2) buy another 2 dongles and infact another 2 full copies of the software. I could then plug one dongle into each esx server and whatever phisical esx server the virtual machine was on it would always detect a usb dongle. (considered this until I heard the price of another 2 licenses, also don't like the fact that we would have 3 dongles altogether and would only ever be using one of them).

    3) use dongle emulation apps. from what I have read there are 3rd party apps that dump the contents of the dongle to a file and then an emulator is used to emulate the dongle being plugged into the machine. (I have tried this and it didnt work, the application didnt detect the dongle as being plugged in).

    4) consider a usb over ip solution. I found this white paper and it details a product by a company called 'DIGI' called anywhereusb. I am about to purchase this device to test it out.

    http://www.vmware.com/pdf/esx_anywhereusb2.pdf

    Does anyone do this in a different way? I also have one application that uses a serial port to communicate with the electronic door entry system, so I guess I'm going to need a serial over ip solution as well.

    Thanks guys,

    James

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    I wonder if you can clone the dongle onto another some how? Can you do this with ghost or something?

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    I found this which may or may not be able to do what you are after.

    @FN - unfortunately the dongles are usually proprietary chips with encrypted data on them so cloning them is really difficult and would require another identical USB dongle and the appropriate software / lock codes to actually write to it.

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    @FN - The dongle isn't detected as a mass storage device, so ghost wouldn't detect it as being a device that could be copied.

    @Syn - That's a nice looking device, I haven't seen anything like that. I'll have a look to see if I can find anything like it in the UK. Although the USB over IP solution that VMWare approve of looks very similar. I will probably try that first to be honest.

    I cant believe that software vendors haven't recognised that people will want dongleless software for this reason and worked a solution for it yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesC View Post

    4) consider a usb over ip solution. I found this white paper and it details a product by a company called 'DIGI' called anywhereusb. I am about to purchase this device to test it out.
    Please take a look at Fabulatech's "USB over Network". It delivers the same functionality but this is the software solution.

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    jamesfed's Avatar
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    In the grand world if this application were to go offline for 10 minutes while you move the dongle from one server to another would it dramticly effect users?

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    Theblacksheep's Avatar
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    What ESX are you using?

    VMware 4.1 supports passthrough USB. This works over HA and DRS/vMotion.

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    Sandman's Avatar
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    Xtravirt.com have a couple of ESX on USB dongle guides. They might be helpful.

    I do know that unless you purchase the "specific VMware USB dongle" (even though you can use any old USB donge) for your version of ESX VMware will not provide support.

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    apaton's Avatar
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    Hi,

    For VMware 3.x/4.0 I've used a Keyspan USB Server for two different customer environment. The Keyspan worked perfectly for applications that required dongles for licensing.

    Andy

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    We just set the VM concerned so that it couldn't be migrated, then we make sure to tell the people who purchased this bit of software that this is what they get for purchasing virtualisation-unfriendly software if they have any availability issues.

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