VMware is working on a new feature that will let vCenter Mobile Access VMware users manage their infrastructure from mobile phones.

Using vCenter Mobile Access (vCMA) IT administrators would, for example, be able to search for virtual machines in the data center or migrate virtual machines from one host to another using VMware's vMotion feature. The company paints a scenario where IT administrators will be able to restart a virtual machine when sitting in a meeting or get an alarm when attending a kid's soccer game.

In order for the tool to work, users will first have to a vCMA server, which comes in the shape of a virtual appliance. The vCMA server must be connected to VMware vCenter or any of the ESX servers that is going to be managed.

A demo, using a BlackBerry emulator, shows a user logging onto the server using the vCenter IP address, user name and password. The next screen shows a number of icons, including search, migrate, site recovery, scheduled tasks and alarms that the administrator can select.

VCMA, which is going to be previewed next month, has been designed to be used from mobile phone browsers, so it should work on a wide variety of devices, writes VMware's Ben Kolin on a forum dedicated to the new tool. VMware has done some testing with Symbian (Nokia E71), iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile, according to Kolin.

The announcement also underscores a current trend to allow IT departments to do more using mobile phones, giving administrators greater flexibility. This is what VMware wants to achieve with vCMA, according to Fredrik Sjöstedt, director of EMEA product marketing at VMware.

But what users can do is limited by the smaller screens, according to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner. The small screen makes it more difficult to get a good overview, and to ensure that everything is done correctly, he said.

The same concern is echoed by Lars-Gunnar Nyqvist, head of IT at Kommuninvest of Sweden, a public sector owned and guaranteed credit market company

"I'd feel safer using a real keyboard," he said, but will still have a look at the tool to see what it can add.