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Obtaining server health status in VMware ESX and VMware ESXi

VMware ESXi can easily provide you with information about a server's CPU, memory, storage and more, but getting this info from ESX Server requires some additional steps.

Quick access to information about a server's CPU, memory, storage, fans, temperature and power status can be useful...

to any system administrator. Obtaining this information, however, is different between ESXi and ESX Server. In VMware ESXi, this collective information is called the health status, but in VMware ESX, accessing this information is not as cut and dry.

For those who are unfamiliar with the difference between the two, ESXi is the "skinny" version of ESX server. ESXi does not have a Linux-based service console where any software can be installed. So how do you obtain server health status on the two different versions of VMware ESX Server? Let's find out.

How do I obtain server health status with VMware ESXi Server?

Obtaining server health status with VMware ESXi Server is easy. To do this, just open your VMware Infrastructure Client (VI Client), select the ESXi server in the inventory, click on the Configuration tab, then on Health Status (shown below).


Click to enlarge

As you can see from the screenshot, the health status for this Dell 2950 server provides you the status for the following components:

  • Processor / CPU
  • Memory
  • Storage – Controllers, enclosures and disks
  • Fans and temperatures
  • Power supplies

On ESXi, this health status feature is built in and there is nothing specific you need to do to get this working. It supports hardware that is supported by ESXi and hardware that supports this level of health reporting.

As ESXi has no service console, there is no way to install any third party software to improve the level of reporting or get more information.

How do I obtain server health status with VMware ESX Server?

The full version of ESX Server, on the other hand, is quite different. Even in version 3.5, there is no Health Status option if you go to server configuration. In fact, there is no way to get that health status information in the VI Client for a server running the full version of ESX.

For an example, let's use a Dell 2950 server in contrast to ESXi. To obtain the same type of health status information as with ESXi's feature, you must install the Dell utilities in the service console. To do this, use the Dell DVD entitled "Dell Systems Management Tools and Documentation - P/N W473G Rev A00 May 2008" and insert it into the VMware ESX Server DVD drive.

To install the utilities, log into the service console of that ESX Server and mount the DVD with the follow command:
mount /dev/cdrom

Then, change the directory into the proper Dell Server Admin install for Linux by typing:
cd /mnt/cdrom/SYSMGMT/srvadmin/linux/supportscripts

Next, install the Dell Server Admin utilities:
./srvadmin-install.sh -b -w -s -a –r

Here is what it looks like:

 


Click to enlarge

When finished, open a port in the service console firewall (security profile) for the webserver port that the Dell Server Admin utilities will use to provide the web interface (port 1311) by typing this:
esxcfg-firewall -o 1311,tcp,in,DellOpenManage.

Next, change the directory out of the mnt directory and eject the DVD:
cd /
eject /dev/cdrom

After the tools have been installed, open a web browser and go to https://servername:1311 to access the Dell Server Admin web interface.

Next, go to System, then Main System and see the Health status of all the system components (as you see in the graphic below).

 


Click to enlarge

From there, you would select Fans to see the status of the fans, just as you would with ESXi health status (as you can see below).

 


Click to enlarge

The Dell Admin utilities provide more detail on the server, its health, components, and firmware than the VI client does in ESXi. On the other hand, you have to physically install the Dell Admin utilities on the ESX Server, which you don't have to do on the ESXi server.

Conclusions

In closing, I find it interesting how ESXi and ESX server are still different in this aspect and how, to gain similar information, you must take very different steps. I am not here to say which platform (ESX or ESXi) is the best for you, only to point out the differences. Either way, it will be critical for you to know the health of your server as a VMware ESX Server Admin.

About the author: David Davis (CCIE #9369, VCP, CWNA, MCSE, CISSP, Linux+, CEH) 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 June 2008

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