Just about every company today has either implemented server virtualization or is about to. Once they virtualize with vSphere and vCenter, it may not be immediately evident that they need additional management tools. All hypervisors come with some form of backup and performance reporting built-in. However, with just a little use, you’ll quickly discover that these backup and performance tools only offer the most basic functionality and you will almost always need more.
While speaking at user groups, writing articles, and doing podcasts about virtualization, I get asked a lot or end up talking about virtualization tools. Many times, new (or even long-time) VMware admins ask me “what tools do you recommend I use with vSphere?” Of course there are numerous tools available (both from VMware and third-parties) but in this post let’s stick to the top VMware management tools.
Thus, here is my list of the top 10 VMware management tools:
Note: these tools are just “in my opinion” (no formal study was done). These tools are listed in no particular order. And, these tools are not a complete list of all virtualization management tools (in other words, there may be other good choices for virtualization management available, besides the ones listed here).
Backup – once you virtualize with vSphere you can continue to use your traditional physical server backup tools but it is very inefficient and you won’t be able to take advantage of the backup & recovery benefits that virtualization offers. Many admins don’t know that vSphere comes with its own backup and recovery tool – purpose built for virtual infrastructure protection. VMware Data Recovery (or VDR) is included (free) with every version of vSphere, starting with vSphere Essentials Plus. It scales up to 100 VMs (so it isn’t for every size company) and it is a good solution for smaller organizations and remote sites.
Capacity and Performance – by using vCenter and the vSphere Client, you will get basic performance charts and graphs. However, what you really need is intelligent information that tells you things like “how long before I have a capacity bottleneck?” and “is utilization unusually high today and where is it coming from?” vCenter Operations (vCOPS) is VMware’s relatively recent entrance into the performance and capacity analysis tool category is making a strong showing with their newest release.
Figure 1 – vCenter Operations (vCOPS)
There are the enterprise backup and performance tools, covered above, and then there are general admin tools that every admin should have. Here are some examples:
- SSH and SCP – Every admin needs to be able to SSH to the command line and SCP to the local filesystem on ESXi hosts. To do that, you need a SSH and SCP client. Examples of tools are the free: PuTTY and the free Veeam FastSCP.
- VMware Labs – offering tons of free tools (that they call “flings”) like vBenchmark, Project Onyx, and Boomrang, a virtualization admin’s tool belt isn’t complete without these. One of the newest tools from VMware Labs is vBenchmark.
Figure 2 – vBenchmark from VMware Labs (free)
- Type 2 Hypervisor – VMware Workstation & Fusion – the best way to create a virtual environment on your own desktop or laptop system is to use VMware Workstation or Fusion. You can build a virtual vSphere lab or build VMs that you later move into vSphere. It’s a tool that a VMware admin shouldn’t be without.