Fellow SearchVMware.com blogger Andrew Kutz has done it again with his release of the integrated SSH plug-in for use in the VMware Infrastructure Client (VIC). This plug-in saves ESX administrators the hassle of launching Putty or another mechanism to start a session to the ESX host. Details on the plug-in and the download link are available on this post in the VMware communities thread and I had a chance to use the plug-in for a while successfully.
Installing the console plug-in is straight forward from the ConsoleClientSetup-0.1.5.msi and it is easily added from the plug-ins menu in the VIC. Once added, each ESX host in your inventory will have a new tab called Console that performs in a similar fashion that the Console tab does for virtual machines. The difference is that authentication to the ESX host is passed through the plug-in. This requires that SSH be enabled on the ESX host, and should you wish to use the root login there is a slight configuration to enable root SSH access which is explained here on the ITKE by David Davis.
The console tab now visible on the far end of the VIC and is context-sensitive so it is only displayed when you have an ESX host selected in the left windows pane. Once installed the plug-in allows you to authenticate directly to the host with a username and password:
Now it is very easy to log into the ESX host and perform simple tasks such as running esxtop, pinging the console, and enabling visibility to the file system within ESX. Note that as long as you have the console connection established, it runs as long as your VIC session is running. So use the disconnect link when you are complete with a session. If you close the VIC, the session is disconnected from the ESX host. Here is my session running the esxtop command while in maintenance mode from within the VIC:
While this plug-in definitely makes a quick look to the ESX console quite accessible, there is one limitation that I came across. The resolution of the embedded VIC console is not as scalable as a Putty session. This is especially noticeable if you are running some of the esxcfg-xxxxxxx commands. Take for example running the following command:
esxcfg-mpath -l -v
This command has 140 positions of text on the longest line, which is visible on one line in Putty if you have the resolution. For the console plug-in, the width is limited to 80 positions of text, and for long commands they should be run in pipe fashion to show the full output. For the example above, this iteration would be as follows:
esxcfg-mpath -l -v | more
Important note on plug-ins
While the ESX plug-ins work in the VIC, they are not supported by VMware. With this warning, adequate testing is required to ensure that you do not have any issues in your environment that may effect live systems. As a matter of practice, I do not install any non-essential components on the Virtual Center server so a tool like this would be best suited on client systems only. All that said, Andrew has put out another great plug-in to make administration of an ESX environment more centric to the VIC. I can’t wait for his next plug-in!