Ease into ESXi with the VMware Management Assistant

The VMware Management Assistant, or vMA, could help you ease into COS-less ESXi as it utilizes many of the same commands. Learn more about it and get an installation step-by-step tutorial.

The VMware Management Assistant, or vMA, is a remote command-line utility that allows you to send commands to either an ESX "classic" host or the ESXi host. I think the vMA will become increasingly significant to VMware admins as they begin the transition from the old "Service Console" way of doing things to using ESXi.

More on the VMware Management Assistant
- Why users say 'nay' to the big ESX-ESXi switch

- How VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant bridges the ESXi management gap

- Using VMware's new vSphere command-line interface vCLI

- Two options for installing the VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant
As you probably know, there isn't a supported way to interact directly with an ESXi host, so many Console OS (COS) guys might be tempted to wean themselves off of their dependency on PuTTy/Secure Shell (SSH) access with the vMA. Many of the commands you know and love are almost exactly the same when you use the vMA, so it should be easy to get up and running with it.

"Old school" COS administrators will especially appreciate that the commands are exactly the same as the ones on the ESX classic host in many cases -- they just get executed remotely.

The vMA ships as a virtual appliance in VMware's Open Virtual Machine (OVF) format. Personally, I find it much better than its competitor, the vCLI. The vCLI ships in either Linux or Windows format and is installed on your management PC. The trouble with the vCLI is that it is too darn slow! I always recommend the vMA to my students for this reason. Your ESX hosts can be added to the vMA in much the same way as adding ESX host to vCenter; using something called "FastPass" it is possible to set up the vMA in such a way that you authenticate to it once without having to repeatedly log in to each ESX host to send instructions.

Installing the vSphere Management Assistant

  1. Start by first downloading the vMA from VMware's website at this location:
  2. Once the .ZIP file has been downloaded, extract it using whatever your preferred unzip tool is. Save it in a location accessible to your vCenter server to facilitate the import of the OVF file.
  3. To import the .OVF into vCenter, in the main menu go to File, and Select Deploy .OVF
  4. Use the Browse button to locate the .OVF file Confirm the OVF template details and accept the EULA
  5. Next, give the vMA a name and folder location in the vCenter Inventory.
  6. Next select a datastore to hold the vMA.
  7. You will need to select a vSwitch portgroup which will place the vMA on the same network as your ESX hosts – this network location needs to be accessible to your desktop management PC so you can connect to the vMA, which in turn connects to the ESX hosts. In my case I retained the default "VM Network" which resides on the vSwitch0 management virtual switch
  8. After clicking Next and Finish the download will begin.
    Time for a well-earned cup of coffee! The download will take about three minutes via a Gigabit connection.
  9. Once imported, power-on the vMA for the first time.
  10. Next, interact with the first-boot wizard, which allows you to set the vMA IP details.
  11. The final step involves setting a password for the vi-admin account. This is the primary account you will for vMA authentication.
    Note: You might like to add an entry to your DNS server for the vMA, as you might prefer to use SSH with something like the PuTTy client rather than interacting directly with the virtual machine console.

In part two of this series, I'll explain how to configure user accounts and enable FastPass for ESX hosts. Stay tuned.

Mike Laverick (VCP) has been involved with the VMware community since 2003. Laverick is a VMware forum moderator and member of the London VMware User Group Steering Committee. Laverick is the owner and author of the virtualization website and blog RTFM Education, where he publishes free guides and utilities aimed at VMware ESX/VirtualCenter users, and has recently joined SearchVMware.com as an Editor at Large. In 2009, Laverick received the VMware vExpert award and helped found the Irish and Scottish VMware user groups. Laverick has had books published on VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, VMware vSphere4 and VMware Site Recovery Manager.

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