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Using VMware Infrastructure Client search tools in a VMware ESX infrastructure

VMware Infrastructure Client features search tools that index virtual and physical resources, track server performance, and monitor a VMware ESX environment; and that rival third-party tools like Splunk and VKernel.

Sooner or later, you're going to want to know something specific about the virtual machines (VMs) in your VMware environment, such as which VMs are configured for a certain amount of RAM. Although using it successfully requires some know-how, the VMware Infrastructure Client (VI Client) offers ways to search your infrastructure. There are also several third-party options that offer increased search functionality. in this tip, we'll review the existing third-party options and go over how to use the VI Client to search your infrastructure with specific queries.

What to search your VMware infrastructure for
VMware infrastructures can grow quickly. More servers, more virtual machines (VMs), more scheduled tasks, more security roles, more configured alarms, and so on. Sooner or later, you will need to find something and may not be able to or know how to. Here are some queries that you may want to know the answer to:

  • Which VMs have 512 MB configured for the VM RAM?
  • Which VMs don't have VMware tools installed?
  • Which hosts have more than two CPUs?
  • Is there an alarm created with the work "bob" in the description?
  • Did anyone create a security role for the help desk group?
  • What tasks has the user "administrator" performed this week?

As I mentioned earlier, you can find the answers to all these questions with the VI Client built-in filter functions and I will show you how. But first, let's talk about the future of search in VMware infrastructure and what some third parties have to offer.

What is the future of searching in VMware infrastructures?
While I didn't see a big announcement at VMworld 2008, in every demo shown of VMware's next version of ESX and the VMware infrastructure there was a very prominent Search bar at the top of VI Client. To me, this search bar reminded me of the Google search bar for Internet Explorer or Firefox. That search bar was in every single window of the VI Client. While I cannot say what this search bar can search for or what its limitations might be, we can deduce that VMware realizes the need for improved search functionality within the VI Client, that VMware recognizes the current filtering and search funcationality needs improvement, and that VMware has improved search functionality coming down the pipe in the next version of ESX and the VI Client. Also, we can deduce that as many third-party companies are offering vastly improved search functionality for VMware infrastructures, and VMware engineers have realized this is something they can do themselves.

Third-party options offering search functionality
There are actually a few third-party options for searching your VMware infrastructure (and forgive me if I leave anything out). Here is my list:

Splunk for VMware
Splunk is known for log management, but they have ventured into delivering answers from the data that they collect. Recently, the have begun collecting VMware data for hosts and VMs and now offer what they call "IT Search" to allow you to search that VMware-related data. Splunk does more than just search, however. It can plan, optimize, monitor performance and perform root cause analysis for your entire IT Infrastructure., Splunk is much more than just search. At Splunk's website, you can watch a video that demonstrates its searching features. There is a free version of Splunk and commercial versions as well.


Click to enlarge

VKernel SearchMyVM
As you can see from the graphic below, SearchMyVM gives you a Google-like interface for your virtual infrastructure. It can answer questions such as, "Do I have any attached CD-ROM drives on any VMs?" so you know if you can use VMotion. SearchMyVM runs as a VM appliance inside your VMware infrastructure. There is a free evaluation and, according to the website, prices start at $199.


Click to enlarge

Hyper9
Currently in beta (see my blog post on
how to receive a free beta invitation), Hyper9 focuses not only on searching but also on collaboration, consolidation of current and historical data, change management and analytics. Thus, like Splunk, although searching your virtual infrastructure is a great feature of it, Hyper9 can do more than just search.


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Using the VI Client to search your VMware infrastructure
Today, there are some useful filtering and searching features built inside VMware ESX and the VI Client. The questions in the first part of this article can all be answered using the filtering capabilities of today's ESX/VI Client. This feature is indeed called filtering, not search. The current filtering feature, however, is not turned on by default to appear in your VI Client and, if you wish to use it, filtering must be turned on for every VI client window.

To turn on filtering for a particular window, you just go up to View, then down to Filtering.


Click to enlarge

Enabling filtering works like a checkbox that applies only to the current level of the inventory that you are on and the current tab that you are on. Thus, if you enable filtering at the data center level for the virtual machines, if you go to a particular ESX host, then to the virtual machines tab, you will have to enable filtering again. This is a design drawback. In my opinion, if you enable filtering, it should be enabled across the board, on every tab in every view.

Let's look at some ways that the VI Client's built-in filtering can help you. To demonstrate that, let's answer the questions that I posed at the start of the article:

Note: for all of these examples, you will also need to enable the column in the display that you are looking for to see the results.

Which VMs have 512 MB configured for the VM RAM?
To answer this, I went to my data center Virtual Machine inventory view, enabled filtering, enabled only VM "Memory Size – MB" and entered 512 in the filter box, like this:


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Which VMs don't have VMware tools installed?
To answer this, I went to my data center Virtual Machine inventory view, enabled filtering, enabled only "VMware Tools Status" and entered Not Installed in the filter box, like this:


Click to enlarge

Which hosts have more than two CPUs?
To answer this, I went to my data center Hosts inventory view, enabled filtering, enabled only "CPU Count" and entered the number two in the filter box, like this:


Click to enlarge

Is there an alarm created with the work "bob" in the description?
To answer this, I went to my data center Alarms view, enabled filtering, enabled only "Description" and entered Bob in the filter box, like this:


Click to enlarge

Did someone create a security role for the help desk group?
To answer this, I went to my data center Permissions view, enabled filtering, enabled only "User/Group" and entered Help in the filter box, like this:


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What tasks has the user "Administrator" performed this week?
To answer this, I went to my data center Tasks and Events view, enabled filtering, enabled only "Initiated By" and entered Administrator in the filter box, like this:


Click to enlarge

In summary, the next version of VMware ESX and the VI Client is expected to have additional search features, but it is unclear what its functionality will be like. Today, there are a number of third-party options for searching your VMware infrastructure such as Splunk, VKernel SearchMyVM and Hyper9. Most importantly, you need to know that there is a lot of power in the current version of VMware Infrastructure 3, and by following my instructions you should be able to harness the search power of the existing filtering/searching capabilities.

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