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Top 10 VMware tips of 2011

Our annual top 10 list includes tips on ESX to ESXi migrations, snapshots and – not surprisingly – anything related to VMware’s recently released vSphere 5.

2011 was a big year for VMware, and it gave our expert contributors plenty to write about.

VMware released several key products in 2011, including the much-anticipated vSphere 5, View 5, vCloud Director 1.5 and mobile management offerings Horizon Mobile and the Mobile Virtualization Platform. The reigning virtualization king also released upgrades for its hosted platforms, Workstation 8 and Fusion 4.

The latest release of VMware’s virtualization platform, vSphere 5, brought an array of new features, but users were up in arms about the vRAM licensing policy. The release also rang in the era of ESXi as VMware’s sole hypervisor, sparking a lot of interest in  ESX to ESXi migrations.

As VMware made an even bigger name for itself across the virtualization, cloud and applications markets, users tapped into a range of VMware tips. From ESXi management to snapshots and vSphere 5 features to the VMware iPad app, we count down the top 10 VMware tips of 2011.

10. Five silly VMware administrator mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, even VMware admins, but there are a few common mistakes that can be easily avoided. For instance, it’s simple to rename a virtual machine (VM) in vCenter, but many admins forget to also update its associated file and directory names. Admins should also watch out for network naming, which can screw up vMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler if it’s not properly configured.

9. Using VMware vSphere Hypervisor to build a free infrastructure
ESXi is the cornerstone of the vSphere platform, but it’s also available standalone as the VMware vSphere Hypervisor – a  free version of ESXi targeted at small VMware environments that don’t require features such as load balancing, live migration and power management.

8. Five vSphere 5 features that flew under the radar
Storage enhancements were the most talked-about new vSphere 5 features. But VMware also made other important additions: a new version of the Virtual Machine File System, vMotion and  Storage vMotion enhancements, the ability to prioritize VM traffic with Network I/O Control, and SplitRx Mode, a new method for network packet receive processing.

7. Configuring the ESXi firewall in VMware vSphere 5
VMware introduced an ESXi firewall in vSphere 5 to improve security. The firewall in ESXi 5 is service-oriented and stateless, evaluating each packet that passes through the network. VMware admins can configure it through the vSphere Client or the command line.

6. Five big changes in VMware vSphere 5 to consider before updating
Not everyone is jumping at the chance to upgrade to VMware vSphere 5. Some things to think about include vSphere 5’s new memory-based licensing,  having to manage and deploy ESXi from the command line, changes to VMware High Availability, and the revamped vCenter Server and Web client.

5. Installing vCMA and VMware iPad app for remote vSphere management
Remote infrastructure management was an especially hot topic this year, and VMware got in on the game with vCenter Mobile Access (vCMA) and the vSphere Client for iPad. The vCMA interface provides an interface from which to perform basic administration functions from a browser, and is the foundation for the vSphere Client for iPad.

4. Two ways to patch VMware ESXi Installable
VMware vSphere 5 brought changes to ESXi patching. ESXi patches are now delivered as full-image updates that completely replace the hypervisor image, and they are broken down into firmware update or VMware Tools updates. In addition, admins now have to patch the free version of VMware ESXi Installable via the vSphere Command Line Interface.

3. Deleting VM snapshots without wasting disk space
Plan ahead to accommodate for the disk space used by snapshots. The amount of extra space snapshots require depends on a lot of factors, and understanding snapshot disk usage can mean the difference between having enough resources and overloading your system.

2. How VMware snapshots work
Snapshots are an important topic for VMware users, because of the role they play in backup and recovery. This tip explains how snapshots work, how to work with multiple VMware snapshots to create different restore points for a VM, and lists important snapshot caveats.

1. Installing and configuring VMware ESXi
It probably comes as no surprise that the most-read tip of 2011 covers installing and configuring VMware ESXi, as more admins move from ESX to ESXi and upgrade to vSphere 5. There are a lot of different deployment options for ESXi, but once it’s installed, ESXi can be configured using the built-in Direct Console User Interface.

Editor's update: Check out 2012's top VMware tips.

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