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.