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Top 10 Free vSphere ESX Tools and Utilities

**UPDATE** 9/8/2011 - This list has been updated to Top 10 Free VMware vSphere Tools and Utilities for 2011

 

**Update** 7/22/2010 If you want to dive into performance, take a look at VM Advanced ISO. Free Tools for Advanced Tasks

 

Over the past month I have installed and tested almost every single tool on my previous blog post of A List of FREE VMware vSphere Tools. I will be doing a demo of these Top 10 tools and utilities at the next Kentuckiana Virtualization Users Group meeting on May 21st. (note: I did not put any free tools from VMware in the top 10. Why? Alot of products from VMware are awesome, I just wanted to give other vendors and contributers of the VMware community a chance to shine.)

 

How the scoring went down:

  1. Can It be used on ESX, ESXi, and vCenter?
    • 1 point for standalone ESX, 2 points for standalone ESXi, and 2 points for vCenter
  2. Ease of installation
    • 1 to 5 points on ease of installation
  3. Feature Rich
    • 1 to 5 points based how many different features are included
  4. How well does it perform
    • 1 to 5 points based on how well it's main feature performs
  5. Can this be used as an everyday tool?
    • 1 to 5 points based on if it's a one time use or if it can be used everyday. More points for an everyday tool

 

 

Without further ado, here are your Top 10 Free products to use with VMware vSphere

 

 

Tied for 9th. Trilead VM Explorer & Xangati Free

Product ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
Trilead 1 2 0 4.5 4.5 3 4 19
Xangati Free 1 2 0 3 5 5 3 19

 

Trilead VM Explorer

Best Use: Free VM Backup for Free ESXi (not sure if this violates VMware's TOS).

This utility packs some great features. It allows you to do easy copy/write functions to your datastores once you have your ESX or ESXi hosts added to the server list. You can add your vCenter server, but then you can't find any VMs, but, you can add your ESX(i) servers individually (max 3). Next, I tried the backup component. The backup component took a long time to run. Perhaps it was because it was my lab and not optimal hardware, but I maxed at 5MB/sec. If you are using Free ESXi, this is about as easy as it comes. The one thing you don't get on the free version is a scheduler, so your backups are not automated within the application. The GUI is very easy to navigate and has a nice looking interface that are very appealing compared to most free utilities. Included is a datastore browser so you can easily move files back and forth between your datastores. A negative side of this product was that running on ESX, it needs the root account to have SSH access which is a large security hole.

 

 

Xangati Free - Best Use: Network Centric monitoring tool for up to 10 "identites"

The UI is the very core of the Xangati Management Suite. A great solution for performance and network monitoring. Read my article Xangati Releases a Top 10 Free Tool

 

 

8th. EMBOTICS V-Scout vAlarm

  ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
V-Scout 1 2 2 3.5 4 4 3 19.5
vAlarm 0 0 2 5 2.5 5 5 19.5

 

EMBOTICS V-Scout - Best Use: Trending graphs and expiration date of VMs (END OF LIFE SEPTEMBER 2010)

To install, you have to have a server or machine available as a webserver and will need to install a database for keeping records of the data. Once the install completes, go through another set of instructions to activate your free product. Once done, navigate to the https of the server and you have to enter a local username and password for the program, unlike Veeam where AD is integrated. Once you log in, you must add your ESX or vCenter servers and let the data be collected over a period of time. This step also makes changes to your VMs, but from what I could tell, it was only in the Comments section. Once that has completed you can start managing your VMs and some features give you the ability no other program offers. If you have a large inventory and you know certain machines are slated to be deleted or removed at a certain date, you can set an Expiration date on them (This would be a good concept for contract renewals of VMs if you are a cloud provider). Then running reports when needed to view Expired VMs. There are also sections called Approval State, Suspected and End of Life, but all you can do is change it to either yes or no and I don't see much benefit in that. The coolest report is in the trending. You can grab a set of dates and it will report back how many VMs were used, the amount of CPU and RAM usage, so you can gauge what sort of trending growth or decline your environment is seeing. In addition, it has a bunch of free reporting features for inventory.

 

 

vAlarm - Best Use: vCenter Alarms on your desktop

Besides needing vCenter it’s a great little monitoring feature. If you don't want to go through the hassel of configuring all those alarms through vCenter, this will flash a warning on the taskbar of your desktop that an alarm has been triggered in virtual center. From your desktop you can view the details. The setup and install process is a very simple click next type of install.

 

 

 

Tied for 6th. vGhetto & VKernel Capacity Modeler

  ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
vGhetto 1 2 2 2 5 4 4 20
Capacity Modeler 1 2 2 2.5 4 5 3.5 20

 

vGhetto - Best Use: Scripts for Management of VI

The install can be a bit of a pain. There are plenty of repositories to install before launching and executing anything this pack has to offer. Figuring out how to navigate isn't easy (even the windows installer), but once you figure out what's going on, it's a script repository with loads of useful information. The scripts aren't easy click next type of scripts, so be prepared to use the --help command. once you specify certain parameters the end result was worth the trouble. My favorite scripts are the vmwarevSphereHealthCheck & changeBlockTrackingManagement. William Lam, Luc Dekens, and others have done an incredible job on creating some of the best automated scripts vSphere has to offer that you can't find in packaged programs. Some scripts have dependencies for them to be able to run. If a script isn't running check the vGhetto Repository page and look at the particular script

 

 

VKernel Capacity Modeler -Best Use: Capacity modeler for your VI

The limitations of this are as follows: Up to 3 ESX/ESXi hosts or only 1 vCenter server. This will give you the what-if scenario before you deploy new VMs. This will really come into play if you have an environment where server sprawl is an ordinary thing. If a particular department has asked for 3 servers, when they just got 4 servers last week, what sort of constraints will it have on your virtual environment? The program will tell you what resources you have available, and if you load these 3 new VMs with certain specs and applications, you can see where you might bottleneck or fail.

 

 

5th. VKernel SearchMyVM

ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
1 2 2 2.5 4 5 4 20.5

Best Use: Quick Search for any component in your VI

The install process is a bit confusing like all VKernel free tools. You have to download a package and use the standalone VMware converter to convert the package to a VMDK. Next you power on your new VM, and do a quick networking configuration setup and then access the VM through a web interface. The VM is packed with search features. Add any ESX(i) or vCenter instance to it and let it start collecting data of your environment. It's an easy script builder to search and query for nearly anything in your environment. There are some built in scripts, but you have the ability to script anything possible.

 

 

4th. vSphere Mini Monitor 2.0

ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
0 0 2 4.9 4 5 5 20.9

Best Use: Alerts for changes made within the VI

How many VMware administrators do you have in your building? Do you know what others are doing within your VI? Unless you go through and check the vCenter logs everyday you won't know exactly who did what and when. This awesome tool is a small 2mb file that will notify you if certain events happen inside of vCenter. It doesn't work with single ESX or ESXi servers, but vCenter only. If someone logs in, creates or deletes a VM, vSwitch, datastore, etc., the program will notify you through 4 different channels (taskbar, email, twitter, or RSS). really cool! I docked off .1 from the install because according to David Davis' video instructions, you have to set the program to run with administrator privileges.

 

 

Tied for 2nd. Veeam Monitor Free Edition & RVTools

  ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
Veeam Monitor 1 2 2 3 5 5 3.5 21.5
RVTools 1 2 2 5 4 4 3.5 21.5

 

Veeam Monitor Free Edition - Best Use: Top VMs & Alarm Repository

You may want a dedicated server for this utility. It needs a MSSQL database for its transactions. It has a very nice GUI and pulls host and VM stats and you can even watch stats go by in real time. One of the nice features is to see the top VMs which shows CPU/Network/Memory/Disk/Swap usage which seperates it from vCenter. Nearly all the stats can be see from vCenter, but this lumps everything together and pulls only 24 hours of data. If you want to generate reports, want longer than 24 hours, or want modeling features you have to pay for the retail version.

 

 

RVTools -Best Use: Quick inventory of whole VI

Great tool to have a quick overview of your environment. Everything from Host to individual VM info is availble for hardware to datastores. It's a great tool for anyone looking to verify that each host has some of the same configurations or to give a quick insight into your VMs to see if any individual one has been configured with an incorrect vCPU or RAM amount. The simple export feature makes this handy for any type of reporting.  Everything in here can be done via PowerCLI and VESI, but this program doesn't require you to have powershell installed.

 

 

1st. vEcoShell & VMware Community PowerPack

ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
1 2 2 2 5 5 5 22

Best Use: Quick management of your VI

What can you say, a shell that brings all the benefits of easy PowerCLI scripting into one place. The install is a bit of a pain because you have to install Windows PowerShell, then VMware PowerCLI, then you install the vEcoShell. I combined the powerpacks and VESI into one because it's essentially products built on top of PowerCLI. Over 200 scripts are built into vEcoShell out of the box and Alan Renouf's Powerpack adds another couple hundred. Take administration to a whole new level without have to do all the dirty PowerCLI scripting. The vEcoShell also gives you the ability to save certain scripts, edit scripts to fit your environment, and build from the ground up. Hands down the best free tool any administrator can ask for. If you pay any attention to the online community, you can see that administering vSphere from the GUI just isn't going to cut it any longer. This is a great way to get your feet with with PowerCLI.

 

**UPDATE (GET STARTED NOW!)** - June 4th 2010, vEcoShell - "Making Hard Tasks Easy" - Link Coming soon for WebEx...

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

  ESX ESXi vCenter Ease of Install Feature Rich Performance Everyday Use Total Points
vDisk Waste Finder 1 2 2 5 1.5 5 2 18.5
Veeam FastSCP 1 2 2 5 2 4.5 2 18.5
Plug-In Wizard for vCenter 0 0 2 4 2 4 5 17
Hyper9 Guess My OS Plugin 0 0 2 5 1 5 2.5 15.5

 

Vdisk Waste Finder - Handy tool for every once in a while use if you don't use Thin Provisioning. It will connect to any ESX(i) or vCenter instance and grab the usage of virtual disks of space used vs allocated. You set a percentage that you want to report back if the VM has over the specified amount of disk space. From there you can decide which disks should be re-sized and you can even realign them if necessary.

 

Veeam FastSCP - Everyone who deals with VI everyday knows about this awesome free product. It allows you to easily transfer files back and forth between your ESX(i) hosts.  Great tool, but I wanted to let some lesser known ones stand out

 

Plugin Wizard for vSphere vCenter - Didn't get a high score because it's a vCenter only tool, but I feel it's a very worthy tool. We all have many management pieces that are web-based, whether it's SAN web-interface, Veeam or Vizoncore backup, tools, etc. You can create a tab within virtual center to show any webpage you want (internal or external). I feel its a very useful tool but READ THE DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO USE IT. If not done properly, you will register a non-working plug-in to vCenter and will have to hack around to get it removed. Once it's registered properly, you can enable and disable through the plug-in screen

 

Hyper9 GuessMyOS Plug-in - This is more eye-candy rather than a utility or tool, but still a cool integration into vCenter. Simple click, next, install, and it will change your VM icons to the type of OS. Only downside is that it changes your template icons as well and you can't discern what's a template vs a VM.

 

 

VMware Cool Tools

Take some time to check out the products from the guys over at VMware Labs. Some of my favorites include:

Onyx - It's like excel macros, but now it's done in PowerCLI for VMware. This application sits between your desktop and the vCenter/ESX(i) server, and will record the moves you make and translate that into a PowerCLI script that you can save and run again when necessary

esxplot - a GUI tool for all your esxtop stats. really cool for performance trouble shooting

VGC - the vmware guest console give you the ability to see INTO the VM. You can view, start, and kill the processes running on the VM from this console

vCMA - vcenter mobile access will let you access your vcenter sever from any mobile device.

 

 

I wanted to extend my thanks to those who contribute free tools to the VMware community. You made this an enjoyable experience.

Xangati Free 1 2 0 2.5 5 5 3 19.5

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