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We have a server that hosts an old application that uses a serial dongle to license its product. We converted the physical server to a virtual server running in VMWare server running on Windows and everything is working fine. We now are looking to move on to ESX or ESXi for our virtual environment. We played around with ESXi and found that it does not support the serial dongle. We installed a trial of ESX and it works perfectly, however, it seems a bit pricey for our low level needs.

Anyway to get around this serial dongle? The company that makes the software is no longer in business and the software is very specialized and nothing on the market exists to replace it in it's entirety. That research has been ongoing but not pertinent for this discussion. Am I wrong about serial support in ESXi?

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USB Dongle to use product, and no longer in business. I wonder if those frequently go together :-) – Kyle Brandt Oct 28 '09 at 18:27
serial dongle. those are kind of uncommon these days ;) – Journeyman Geek Nov 14 '11 at 1:22
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes you are wrong, ESX (regular, NOT 'i' version, both in 3.5 and 4) supports locally attached serial devices - even on the free version. Here's how you do it;

  • Connect the dongle to the ESX server's serial port
  • Start VIClient and log into the ESX host
  • Right mouse-click on the NON-RUNNING VM in question
  • Select 'Edit Settings'
  • Click 'Add...'
  • Select 'Serial Port' and 'Next >'
  • Choose 'Use Physical serial port on the host' and 'Next >'
  • Choose correct 'Port' (usually /dev/ttyS0', leave 'Connect at power on' and 'Yield CPU on poll' both checked, select 'Next >' then select 'Finish' and 'OK'
  • Once the 'Reconfigure Virtual Machine' task is complete simply restart the VM and test.

The only downside to this is that you won't be able to VMotion the VM from host to host while serially connected.

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Thanks for the answer this is what I thought, I will try this out when I get a chance. – Dave Wossum Oct 29 '09 at 18:49 Usb anywhere is an usb over ip tool that lets you share usb connected thing over IP. We use it for some usb dongles. We use this for ESRI GIS licensing . You could plug a serial -> usb with the dongle on it. The install the usb anywhere software in the client so that it can see the device.

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Thanks, this is goos too because I also have ESRI dongle to do this with as well. – Dave Wossum Oct 29 '09 at 18:50
This is the best option for any environment that has more than one virtualization server. – Skyhawk Nov 13 '11 at 22:07

it's not possible in the ESXi version as the "Use physical serial port on the host" option is greyed out. Even VMware has confirmed that it's not enabled. I needed it too, but sadly it was not there...

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Thanks for that, you're right, I've edited. – Chopper3 Dec 15 '09 at 21:09

Another solution is software dongle emulator.

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