Scruffy_Nerfher
Contributor
Contributor

Physical Parallel Port No Longer Supported in ESXi 5.x?!

We have a very, very antiquated system running some old software (from about the year 2000) that requires a parallel port dongle to validate the license.  It seems that version 5.x of ESXi is no longer incorporating physical parallel port integration (read output) as was previously avaialble in versions ESXi v3.x & 4.x.  (I've also confirmed this per page 131 of the ESXi user manual, "Note:  If you are changing the parallel port on a virtual machine that runs on ESXi 4.1 or earlier host, you can send output to a physical parallel port on the host or to an output file on the host.  This option is not available with ESXi 5.0 or later.")  I can definitely understand shelving legacy type devices and support but, of all things, physical parallel port output?!

Before I found that little caveat, as quoted from the ESXi 5.0 user manual, I'd tried a USB-to-parallel adapter, a couple of cheap cards and even the only card I could find (per the forums) that was known to have worked (the Axxon AXLF616KB parallel port PCI card).  Admittedly, though, that last card was from an ESXi v3.x posting in the forums...but I was pretty much desperate at this point, especially considering that, to replace this parallel port, dongle-driven software, would be about $9,000!

Is there simply no way to output to a physical parellel port with ESXi v5.x?

0 Kudos
3 Replies
juthi
Contributor
Contributor

Hello. Just saw this so not sure if the case is still open or not but...

a) Dongles are very hardware driven beasts. Specifically the dongle security interface port (parallel port for your case), must be physically visible to the protected dongle device driver package. This is to permit the required bit-banging handshakes that occur between the protected s/w and the protection dongle key. Having said this, USB to xx convertors will not work.

b) Have you been in touch with us on this installation ? If not, please do so and we will assist further.

c) We have had excellent feedback from clients with our adapters on VMWARE since 2002 (our first IC0534KB adapter; now LF616KB is recommended for Universal PCI bus; LF811KB for PCIe).

d) Believe there may be a misunderstanding on the ESXi statement but some quick Q&A will narrow down this install.

Specifically, ESXi 4.1 or earlier host, you can send output to a physical parallel port on the host or to an output file on the host. This option is not available with ESXi 5.0 or later.

So, ESXi 4.1 or earlier host does not support a physical parallel port on the host.

Next, ESXi 5.0 does not offer this option since it does support physical parallel ports (according to KB 1003129),

"VMware ESXI 5.0 supports physical serial and parallel devices. However, ESXi 4.1.x and earlier versions do not."

Please contact us for further support. Thanks.Smiley Happy

Regards

Kumar Bhatia

kumar[at]softio.com

Axxon Computer Corporation

0 Kudos
Scruffy_Nerfher
Contributor
Contributor

Hi, Kumar.

I can only go by the ESXi manual, specifically pg. 132, in the NOTE section at the top (as described in my entry).  I've attached the .PDF'ed page from the ESXi 5.x manual.  I would love for ESXi to be able to support parallel port pass-through, but I don't believe it does.  (PLEASE, prove me wrong.  This is one of the few times I would welcome it! Smiley Happy)

Jointly, I spoke with a VMWare engineer about this issue.  He stated he was aware that parallel port pass-through was no longer supported and I'd postulated if upgrading from ESXi v4x to 5.1 would grandfather-in the setting (as a greyed out, albeit active option).  After several days, he replied,

"My engineer confirmed that an upgrade to v5/5.1 will deactivate parallel pass through…so it’s not grandfathered in from the previous configuration. At this point, I think the only solution would be to run the server on an older version of ESXi."

If you feel there is a viable work-around for this functionality, I would most assuredly be interested in speaking with you and troubleshooting.  You are welcome to PM me with your contact information, or I can PM you with mine.  Whichever you'd prefer.

Regards,

David

0 Kudos
juthi
Contributor
Contributor

Hi David. It was very early in the morning when I replied to your post so misunderstood the KB statement for the support of "serial / parallel devices" as "serial / parallel ports" Smiley Sad

However, it appears that ESXi 5.x offers support for PCI passthrough for VT-d compatible host systems. If you have a PCI passthrough compliant system, it will be worth testing with our adapter.

Specifically, if it is not too much trouble and you are a friendly tester Smiley Happy :

a)  apply the ESXi 5.1 release but note the possible panic issue which is reported to be resolved as documented in KB 2039030.

b) after the above install, seat our adapter and confirm the adapter is detected for the PCI passthrough/VMDirectPath.

c) which security dongle key do you wish us to support ?

Please email / phone us with all of the dongle / guest OS details and we will attempt to get your operational. Thanks.

Regards

Kumar

kumar[at]softio.com

Axxon Computer Corporation

0 Kudos