This is a guest post by Brian Atkinson.
Almost 1 year ago, when VMware vSphere 4.1 was released, VMware announced that vSphere 4.1 would be the last release to support both the ESX and ESXi hypervisor architectures. So with a year in the books and another vSphere release lurking somewhere in the future, now might be a good time to ask "How prepared am I for ESXi?" Hopefully many have already taken the opportunity to move to ESXi and are enjoying the improved security, decreased patching, increased reliability and simplified management that it offers. For those that have not, there are few things to start thinking about.
ESXi is different from the very beginning. For starters, the download size is about half of the ESX equivalent. ESXi installation is simplified to a few steps, and gone are the days of partitioning and Linux GUI installers. While this is a good thing, build guides, business continuity, DR and other documentation will need to be updated to reflect these changes.
Configuring ESXi via the vSphere client is nearly identical to configuring ESX. Aside from a few changes in the management network interface, syslog configuration and tech support options, everything is nearly the same. This is a bonus in that for operations staff there will be minimal, if any, changes.
After installing ESX, the next step is typically to start installing the various agents and applications. Things like SAN agents, multipathing software, backup agents/software, hardware monitoring, UPS software, and many others can be included here. Each of these agents or applications will need to be verified for ESXi compatibility. Hopefully the manufacturers have done their work and have software ready for ESXi. As far as installing agents and applications, this process has changed as well. The vihostupdate command will be one of the new methods for managing installs. Since the processes and products are different, documentation will again need to be updated to reflect these changes.
Another difference is the DCUI, which is accessed at the console of the physical ESXi server. This menu driven interface makes setting up networking, changing the root password, etc a process that no longer requires the use of the command line. The Local TSM (Tech Support Mode) is there, but many of the commands used in ESX have been deprecated. One of the often used commands that has gone missing is esxtop. Those that were used to using esxtop for performance troubleshooting will need to get comfortable with using resxtop instead.
Any scripts that were used in ESX will need to be reviewed as well and either replaced or moved into the VMware vSphere PowerCLI, vSphere Command Line Interface (vCLI) and/or VMware vSphere Management Assistant (vMA). Build guides and/or BC/DR documentation will need to be updated to reflect these changes.
Occasionally it is necessary to patch hosts. Those that used esxupdate to accomplish this task will find that the vihostupdate command has essentially replaced it. Here is yet another instance where procedures and documentation will need to be updated.
Another announcement also made nearly 1 year ago was that new major or minor versions of the vSphere platform beyond vSphere 4.1 will not be supported with VCB. However, other enhancements for storage and backup providers have been added, such as the VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection.now would be a good time to see if the backup tools and strategies currently in use take advantage of these new capabilities and are going to be compatible moving forward.
What can be done now to start getting ready?
- Read the ESXi documentation
- Install ESXi in a test environment or VMware Workstation
- Install and use the VMware vSphere PowerCLI, vSphere Command Line Interface (vCLI), or the VMware vSphere Management Assistant (vMA)
- Inventory current ESX agents/software/scripts and verify compatibility for ESXi
- Start identifying processes currently used and how these can be accomplished in the new environment
- Review Build Guides, Operational Guides and Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Guides to identify where changes will need to be made
- Get FREE training on ESXi
Are there any additional resources that would help?
- VMware ESXi and ESX Info Center
- Migrating to VMware ESXi White Paper (PDF)
- VMware Technical Resource Center Technical Papers
- ESX vs. ESXi: Convincing your boss to move to ESXi
- VMware Knowledge Base
- VMware ESXi 4 community forum at VMTN
Brian is a vExpert and holds the VCP certification. He has been contributing to VMTN forums since 2007 as vmroyale. He has served as community moderator since 2010.
Brian was a technical editor for Eli Khnaser's "Exam Cram: VCP4 VMware Certified Professional VCP-410 Exam" book.
Brian currently works as a Sr. Systems Engineer in Richmond, VA. He enjoys cycling, motocross and music.