Those of you who know how to operate ESX 2.x pretty well should already be familiar with vmkfstools -i and -e. These are used to import and export virtual disks to/from Service Console storage. The process, as you know, converts the virtual disk from the COW/Sparse format (sequence of files less than 2GB+metadata file) to/from the monolithic (flat-file) format.
In ESX 3.x vmkfstools -i is still there, as is -e. But -e switch is depreciated and instead its functionality has been “rolled-up” into vmkfstools -i.
So, to “export” a monolithic disk into the COW/Sparse format to a /vmimages style location, this is the command you would now use:
vmkfstools -i /vmfs/volumes/local-esx1/dc1/dc1.vmdk -d 2gbsparse /vmimages/dc1.vmdk