Even the best virtualization platforms (like VMware vSphere) or operating systems (like Windows 2008) aren't entirely self-sufficient. In the real world, you can't live life as a VMware administrator without certain third-party tools.
With certain categories of tools, there may just be one tool that fills that role but with other categories, there might be two or three products that are very good. This makes choosing just one tool in the category hard. For that reason, I have included some "alternates" for each of the major tools I recommend.
Here's my top 10 list of tools that a VMware admin can't live without:
- VMware vSphere Client - I have to give the first position on this list to the vSphere client. Without it you won't be able to do much with vSphere and it is the program that we, as VMware admins, will likely spent 90% or more of our time with.
- PuTTY -- PuTTY is a free secure shell, or SSH, client that you can use to connect to your ESX hosts and manage them from the command line. It is super small and you don't even have to install it. What could be better? Alternatively, you can use the commercial SecureCRT. In addition to other advanced features, SecureCRT can save usernames and passwords to allow you to automatically log in.
- Veeam FastSCP -- Every admin must have a SCP client so that he can move ISO images and virtual machines to and from his ESX servers. Better yet, FastSCP is totally free. It can also be used to schedule simple backups of your ESX servers.
- VMware Workstation -- As a VMware admin, using your desktop to create and test virtual machines (VMS) is the best way to go. While not free, Workstation is the best option as it has powerful features and you can easily move VMs from Workstation to your ESX hosts. I would never be caught without Workstation on my desktop.
- Veeam Backup and Replication -- Every admin needs a virtualization-specific backup program. Veeam backup and replication is one of the best-known virtualization backup solutions (and one of my favorites). It offers super-fast incremental backup, file-level restore, support for Microsoft Visual SourceSafe (VSS), and near-continuous data protection (CDP) with built-in replication. Alternates: Vizioncore vRanger and VMware's Data Recovery.
- Veeam Monitor Free Edition -- As a vSphere admin you really need a third-party monitoring tool to monitor the performance of your infrastructure over time. Veeam Monitor free edition is one of my favorites. It also comes in a commercial edition. Alternate: Vizioncore Foglight.
- VMware PowerCLI -- Want to run a script and automate your virtual infrastructure? PowerCLI uses Microsoft PowerShell to do this for vSphere. PowerCLI is totally free and there are tons of resources out there on how to use it, especially from the PowerCLI community at VMware.com. I also recommend Hal Rottenberg's video training on PowerCLI.
- XtraVirt vSphere Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Plug-in -- This free vSphere plug-in allows you to connect to your vSphere virtual machines using RDP, directly from the vSphere console.
- Ultimate Deployment Appliance (UDA) -- This free virtual appliance allows you to deploy tens or hundreds of vSphere virtual machines in a completely automated method, in almost no time at all.
- VMware Communities (VMTN) -- Finally, my favorite "tool" is the VMware communities. It is here that I go to find all the answers to my vSphere technical questions and it is a tool that I just couldn't be without as a VMware admin.
David Davis is a VMware evangelist at TrainSignal.com . He has a number of certifications including vExpert, VCP 4 and CCIE #9369. Davis has also authored hundreds of articles and video training courses at Train Signal, his most popular course being the VMware vSphere 4 video training course. His personal website is VMwareVideos.com . You can follow Davis on Twitter or connect with Davis on LinkedIn.