Unless you have been on vacation or hiding under a rock then you have heard the latest buzz in the industry that vSphere 4.1 has been released. There have been a lot of blog posts on the topic already including one of our own.  The thing I want to hit on for this post is the fact that this release will be the last release for full version of ESX.  Moving forward on any new releases of ESX will be strictly ESXi.  Anyone that knows me over the years knows that I have not really been a big fan of getting rid of the full version ESX.  Call me old school and the fact that I have spent a great deal of time developing the automation used in the environments that I have supported over the years and have been really happy with what I was able to accomplish via kickstart and the command line.

Up until now I have been really fighting this evolution to ESXi.  When you find something that works well, change can be a little unnerving.  On that note, VMware has really addressed a great deal of my concerns with the release of vSphere 4.1 ESXi.  One of my biggest concerns with ESXi in the past was not having the supported method to perform mass scripted installs like we do currently with ESX. With this release we now have the ability to perform scripted installs with ESXi in a method similar to kickstart.  Another cool addition in this release is SSH can be enabled for ESXi from the vCenter client. Tech Support Mode or TSM is now a fully supported method of access to ESXi. For more information on that see Using Tech Support in ESXi 4.1 (1017910).

There are other methods to configure ESXi via PowerCLI using PowerShell and the vSphere CLI (vCLI).  PowerCLI has really found its place in the VMware Virtual Infrastructure with several third party vendors using PowerShell in one way or another to perform different tasks to the environment. One of the tools using PowerShell is vEcoShell. This is a great community driven area where PowerShell scripts can be shared and enhanced. For those of us that really like the look and feel of the command line interface VMware also has the vSphere CLI (vCLI).  The vCLI is a remote scripting environment that will interact with the VMware ESXi hosts to enable host configuration through scripts and/or specific commands.  The cool thing about the vCLI is it is one console that can be used to access all the hosts in your environment and it replicates nearly all the equivalent Service Console commands we have known and loved.  One of those commands is ESXTOP, which is really the best way to monitor all aspects of the host performance.  For more information, Check out the vSphere Command-Line Interface Documentation.

There are some other features that have been added, like the ability to boot VMware ESXi from the SAN.  Native Active Directory support has now been added so your ESX/ESXi hosts can be member servers in your Active Directory Domain.

As much as I have not really been on board with ESXi in the past I think VMware finally has an answer to all my concerns and I find myself in the position to really start recommending VMware ESXi to my clients moving forward.  As stated earlier in the post, this is the last release of the full version VMware ESX.  If you have been stalling and or procrastinating on the migration from ESX to ESXi your time is running out and now would be the time to start the preparation and planning for this migration.

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Steve Beaver (153 Posts)

Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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6 comments for “vSphere 4.1 and ESXi

  1. Andre Gironda
    July 15, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    I have never been a fan of ESX or ESXi.

    I really think that Hyper-V Server (HVS) is superior. First of all, you can BitLocker the Host. You can install drivers for third-party products such as UPSes or hardware telemetry. The Host is malleable, unlike ESXi (which has all of the negative associations of an x86 OS, and none of the benefits of an embedded OS — which it’s trying to be — like Cisco IOS).

    Secondly, HVS is license-free with no expiration of doom to set it. Sure, ESXi is also like this, but once you connect it to vCenter it is not. I am not convinced that the August 12 2008 Licensing Timeout Issue (kb.vmware.com/kb/1006716) will not repeat again, potentially to the devastation of the entire planet.

    Finally, HVS and Windows Server 2008 can have Cygwin or anything else installed, in addition to already have powerful APIs and management interfaces available (GPO, ADSI, WMI, et al).

    Some of the features in vSphere are clever — I will give you that. However, I’m sure that most of them can be mirrored with SCVMM. Instead of migrating to vSphere 4.1 — think about upgrading your ESXi to HVS, your ESX to WinServer2k8, and your vSphere/vCenter to SCVMM.

  2. sbeaver
    July 15, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    That is one point of view for sure but while you focus your comparision on the free version, once you get to the enterprise level I really feel there is no comparison between Microsoft’s and VMware’s offering today when you consider things like SIOC, NetIOC, LBT, Memory Compression, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Microsoft has come along way in the virtualization space and will continue to do so. I think, in the future, you will actually find heterogeneous hypervisors in the enterprise.

  3. July 16, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    Creo que es un paso más en los avances tecnológicos, que llega para mejorar la eficiencia y comportamiento en entornos basados en cloud computing, permitiendo mayor escalabilidad y rendimiento.
    Un paso adelante necesario en la evolución de la tecnología.

    Translation:
    I believe that it is a step more in the technological advances, that arrive to improve the efficiency and behavior in surroundings based on cloud computing, allowing to greater scalability and yield.
    A necessary step forward in the evolution of the technology.

  4. Andre Gironda
    July 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Maybe you should do a comparison of MS server virtualization vs. VMware’s. I have no idea what “SIOC, NetIOC, LBT, Memory Compression” are or why I would want that. Can I live without these?

    I know what BitLocker, Cygwin, WMI, and GPO are. These seem to be important Enterprise features that I cannot live without.

  5. July 18, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    SIOC -> Storage IO Control, NetIOC -> Net IO Control, LBT -> Load Based Teaming, Memory Compression is an memory overcommit technology. Please refer to vSphere 4.1 Released – More Dynamic Resource Load Balancing for more details on these. For a cluster of virtualization hosts, these tools come in very handy. For single servers, not really.

    I will talk to Steve about such a comparison.

    Best regards,
    Edward L. Haletky aka Texiwill

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