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How VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant bridges the ESXi management gap

VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant fills a gap in ESXi by acting as a service console, which enables you to run scripts and load third-party applications. But the requirements for VIMA are steep.

The VMware ESX service console is used to run scripts and load third-party applications so that you can manage your ESX host systems and virtual infrastructure. VMware ESXi, however, doesn't have a service console. VMware has created Virtual Infrastructure Management Assistant (VIMA) to fill that gap. VIMA also provides an avenue for centralized scripting for VMware ESX servers – a much needed feature. Fortunately, VIMA is free and easy to install if you have proper instructions.

What is the VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant (VIMA)?
VIMA is a new free virtual appliance that you can download from VMware. As it uses open virtual machine format (OVF), it is easily imported into your VMware infrastructure.

Once running, VIMA offers:

  • A point to run VMware ESX server scripts, infrastructure-wide
  • An installation point for third-party applications that need access to the VMware virtual infrastructure
  • A management point for ESXi servers, providing the ability to perform the above functions – scripting and third-party application access to the VMware infrastracture (note that software developers may need to modify their application)
  • A central point for virtual infrastructure logging

Furthermore, multiple ESX hosts can be managed without additional authentication (over what you would have with a single ESX host), and existing ESX server service console scripts can also be run on VIMA with minor modifications.

In other words, you can think of VIMA as a centralized service console for all VMware ESX servers. For those using VMware ESXi, VIMA provides not only centralized management but also many the service console features that were lost when you opted to use ESXi over ESX.

What is VIMA made up of?
VIMA is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 64-bit virtual appliance with a number of applications installed inside it. Applications installed include VMware Tool, Perls command line tools that function similarly to the ESX service console commands, the VI Perl Toolkit, Java JRE 1.5, a VMware authentication component called vi-fastpass, a VMware logging component called vi-logger, and a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) server.

Combined, these applications work as a single appliance to help you better centrally manage your ESX or ESXi servers using scripts, ESX commands or third-party applications.

What are the requirements to run VIMA?
Normally, I skim right past requirement, assuming that my servers or OS is up-to-date enough to run just about any application or OS. I can tell you, however, that in the case of VMware's VIMA, you certainly need to pay attention to requirements as there are one or more requirements that I venture to guess only about 50% of virtual architectures fulfill.

The requirements for VMware VIMA are:

  • A 64-bit ESX or ESXi host having either an AMD Opteron rev E (or later) or an Intel EM64T with VT support processor
  • The VMware Infrastructure Client
  • 512 MB available memory

The requirement that many IT admins may not have satisfy is the 64-bit host requirement. If you try to start VIMA on a 32-bit host, you will get an error that looks like this:

Click to enlarge.

What this means is that the host CPU is not compatible with the CPU requirements for the virtual machine. There is no workaround for this- you just need to run VIMA on a 64-bit host with VMware ESX or ESXi.

10 things that you need to know about VIMA
There is no graphical (GUI) interface for VIMA as VIMA is a command-line tool since it's designed to act as a service console, which is also strictly command-line interface. There are a few things you should know about using VIMA:

  1. There are two accounts on the VIMA guest VM: vi-admin and vi-user

     

  2. The vi-user account is used for read-only access to the VMware Infrastructure

     

  3. Prior to using the vi-user account, you must specify a password for it using the command: sudo passwd vi-user

     

  4. To log in as the VIMA administrator, login as vi-admin and the password you specified when the VIMA guest first booted

     

  5. Just about all VIMA commands start with vicfg-xxxx. There are also the older esxcfg-xxxx. You can find both types of commands in /usr/bin:

    Click to enlarge.

     

  6. VIMA log files are located in /var/log/vmware/vima

     

  7. You have to add ESX hosts to VIMA so that they can be managed. ESX hosts aren't automatically found by VIMA.

     

  8. To add ESX hosts to VIMA, use the following command:
    sudo vifp addserver (esx host to add)

    Here is what it looks like, along with the vifp listservers command output, showing the server was added:

    Click to enlarge.

    When you add the server, you will see an entry in your VI client task list, like this:

    Click to enlarge.

     

  9. Once servers are added, you need to initialize them with vifpinit (esx host)

     

  10. Finally, test a vicfg-xxxx command and make sure you can run the command without any authentication on the remote ESX host, like this:

    Click to enlarge.

VIMA bonus tip: You can specify the server that you want to run your vicfg command on, using the –server parameter. Notice how I run the same command on to servers, below, all without any authentication:

Click to enlarge.

Check out the next tip in this series for step-by-step instructions on how to download, install, and perform basic configuration on VIMA.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Davis (CCIE #9369, VCP, MCSE) is the Director of Infrastructure at Train Signal, Inc. He has written hundreds of articles and six video training courses – including the Train Signal VMware ESX Server video training series. His websites are Happy Router.com and VMwareVideos.com.
 

This was last published in December 2008

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