One of the questions we get asked when customers move to a virtual environment is how they might go about installing things like the Wavelink Enabler on a device that needs to hook up using Activesync in a cradle. Obviously we’ve extolled the benefits of VMs quite a bit on this blog, but then you need to do something which doesn’t look like it can be done from a VM. Well, we’re glad to report that not only can you hook USB / Activesync to a VM, but it offers more flexibility than you probably thought.
First, get yourself a network USB hub. There’s a few out there, such as the Belkin F5L009 and they cost about $80. They have USB out one side and an Ethernet port out the other. Next, install the driver software on each VM you intend to connect to USB. You may also need to add USB drivers to the VM (such as in VMWare 3.5 ESXi), so add the USBD.SYS file from a regular XP machine into the c:windowssystem32drivers directory.
Once you’ve installed it, connect whatever devices you have to the hub. Then, in your Avalanche VM bring up the utility that came with your USB hub. You should see a directory of devices connected into the hub. You then simply click on the device (such as a mobile terminal for example) and it’ll connect just like it was running and locally attached. You’re now free to install an Enabler and get your device up and on the network.
Most USB hubs allow multiple PCs (or VMs) to attach to the hub at the same time. So now you can connect devices to VMs at will, without physically plugging and unplugging of cables. Most hubs support daisy-chaining as well, so expect a hub to support up to 15 devices. With this flexibility of virtualizing the environment and now virtualizing the USB connections themselves, administrators avoid having to put in the legwork to connect the right device to the right machine. Keep your devices in one place and connect as you need via a click.