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Vmware compatibility with pci parallel cards

Posted on 2011-02-12
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I have a server that it has 2 PCI cards, with four serial ports each one of them PCI card.
On these cards is connected some PLC (PLC Programmable Logic Controls).
The question is if I install VM on this server, the VM is capable to see these cards??
Or the VM it will pass transparent these cards, to the installed Operating System.

P.S.The OS it will be Windows 2003.

Best Regards
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Question by:DareDevilE12
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 500 total points
ID: 34878390
What version of VMware will you be using VMware Workstation, VMware Server, VMware Player.

In the subject you state PCI Parallel Cards, and in the question you refer to serial ports?

If the parallel ports and serial ports are detected by the host server, they can be used as passthru' to the Virtual Machine.
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by:garycase
ID: 34879004
VMWare can access both physical parallel ports and physical serial ports on the host.    It does not "see" these by default, by you can add them to the virtual machine on the Settings page.     I do not, however, know how many ports VMWare supports at once ... the most I have on any physical machine is two -- and VMWare WILL let me use both of those.    I suspect you can add as many as you need -- but can't confirm that.
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by:bgoering
ID: 34879454
I can confirm it will use at least three because at some point in the past I created and connected a bluetooth (COM) connection to a vm.

Good Luck
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by:bgoering
bgoering earned 1500 total points
ID: 34879468
Ahh - from the user manual (http://www.vmware.com/pdf/ws71_manual.pdf) pp 27:

"Serial (COM) Ports
    Up to four serial (COM) ports.
    Output to serial ports, Windows or Linux files, or named pipes."

So it looks like limit is likely to be four ports.

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by:DareDevilE12
ID: 34879598
First of all I want to thank you for the direct support.

I want to correct my mistake, I refer to serial ports, and at VMware ESXi Server.

So its good to know that the ESXi can see or at least pass thru the PCI card to the Host Operating System.

My initial idea was this: I have two same servers. Both server have the same PCI serial cards. But the one server is active and the other is backup. So I thought to install ESXi at the Backup server and grab the live server to the ESXi.
So like this, it did not need to setup anything,Because is two identical servers with to identical PCI cards. The only issue is if the ESXi can provide this resources of cards to the OS.

Best Regards
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by:DareDevilE12
ID: 34879605
bgoering the limit is four port per card or at the total?
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
ID: 34879613
A maximum of 4 ports can be redirected to the host - i.e. COM1-4 only
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bgoering earned 1500 total points
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As of ESXi 4.1 you can assign serial ports on the physcial host to a vm. My previous response was for Workstation, but the limit on ESXi is also 4.

If you install ESXi on a host that has your pci card it should recognize them as

/dev/char/serial/uart0
/dev/char/serial/uart1
/dev/char/serial/uart2
...
/dev/char/serial/uartn

Note that 0 and 1 will likely be the onboard serial ports if your particular server has them.

If you only need 4 ports on your vm you should be good to go.

Now all bets are off for this method (though that is what the question asked) if your application is such that instead of accessing the COM1, COM2 device names, it loads some vendor device driver that wants to directly control the PCI card and its ports. For example, I have some FAX boards that work that way.

If that is the case you will need to look at VMDirectPath. This facility allows you to in effect, dedicate the pci card to a particular virtual machine. As with most things there are some limitations in this approach. Look at http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1010789 for more info on VMDirectPath

Good Luck
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by:bgoering
ID: 34879813
oh, and the limit is 4 serial ports per virtual machine
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by:garycase
ID: 34880114
As noted, the limit is 4 ports per virtual machine -- HOWEVER, once a port is directed to a specific VM,. it cannot be used by another VM at the same time.
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by:DareDevilE12
ID: 34880344
As it seems the first solution cannot help me, because I need to see eight serial ports total, four per card.
So bgoering the other solution you mention, for VMDirectPath seems to have possibilities, because as I mention before, the application read the signals from PLC machines, and it very possible to have direct control at the serial cards.

Best Regards
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by:bgoering
bgoering earned 1500 total points
ID: 34880383
OK, give it a shot and let us know how it works out for you
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