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A master class in CLIs and ESXi commands

While the vSphere Web Client is useful for managing VMs, it isn't always the most reliable. In this collection of tips we explore how and why you should use CLIs and ESXi commands.

When it comes to managing VMware VMs, the majority of IT administrators rely on the vSphere Web Client to manage and supervise their virtualized data centers. However, while the vSphere Web Client is easy to use, it isn't always practical. There will come times when the vSphere Client isn't readily accessible, forcing you took look for an alternative management tool, or you may need to perform a more complicated task such as setting up automated actions across multiple VMs. In either of these instances, it would be necessary to use a command-line interface in place of a graphical user interface.

A Command-line interface (CLI) visually prompts the user to enter a command in a specified line, resulting in a response from the system. Though using a CLI can be intimidating, it can save time and effort, offer a simple, stable interface, and increase scriptability. While the vSphere Client remains more common for day-to-day management, CLIs are steadily gaining popularity. Take a look at these tips to get more acquainted with CLIs and ESXi commands.

Benefits of a proper ESXi installation

The first step to putting ESXi to good use is to install it. While this may seem obvious, a proper ESXi implementation is a bit more complicated than simply installing the hypervisor on your chosen server platform; it requires care and precision, with attention to factors like firmware features and storage configuration. Though you could install ESXi with a traditional first-person installation wizard, you can customize your installation with a CLI. Using the PowerShell "image builder" command set allows enterprises to retain control over patch or distributed version by creating ESXi image updates and patches. Ultimately, investing time and effort in the ESXi installation process and using a CLI over a conventional wizard can help users prevent unexpected errors and reduce time spent troubleshooting for the future.

Twenty-five handy ESXi commands

VMware vCenter Server serves as the hub of vSphere's management system, allowing for the management of multiple ESXi servers and VMs through a single console application and enabling the use of a number other vSphere features, including VMware High Availability and Fault Tolerance. Due to this, a working vCenter Server is essential to any functioning VMware environment -- and that's where the trouble starts. The unfortunate reality is that vCenter isn't always readily available, either due to a system failure or when you're working from a remote location. Connecting directly to a host with the vSphere Client is a simple fix, but certainly not the most effective method of controlling your VMware environment.

When it comes to executing actions across multiple ESXi hosts or VMs, you'll find that, compared to the vSphere Client GUI, VMware CLIs are far more suited to the task.

That's where the ESXi Shell comes in, working as a temporary management tool in the absence of vCenter Server and as a powerful troubleshooting tool. While troubleshooting ESXi through the command line can be tricky, with this list of basic Linux and ESXi commands, you'll be well on your way to getting your VMware environment back up and running.

Choosing the right CLI

ESXi Shell isn't the only CLI option VMware provides; administrators can also choose from vSphere CLI and PowerCLI. While all three bear similarities, some are better suited to certain programs than others. Some users may find one CLI preferable, while others might strike a balance between all three. In the end, it all boils down to which CLI best fits your needs.

VMware CLIs for your ESXi toolbox

Many IT administrators instinctively turn to the vSphere Client graphical user interface (GUI) to manage VMs in their vSphere environment because it is simple and comfortable to use. However, simple and comfortable doesn't always necessarily equate to most efficient. When it comes to executing actions across multiple ESXi hosts or VMs, you'll find that, compared to the vSphere Client GUI, VMware CLIs are far more suited to the task.

As mentioned earlier, VMware provides three CLI options, each with its own unique capabilities. These CLIs are powerful management tools, but can sometimes be tricky to use. If you're new to CLIs, PowerCLI has proven to be an excellent beginner's choice. A flexible and effective tool in its own right, PowerCLI has less of a learning curve than its counterparts. Once you've become acclimated to using a CLI, you can determine which one best meets your needs, and can be well on your way to getting the job done right.

The management appeal of ESXi Shell

The vSphere Client can easily handle most management tasks in a vSphere environment, but some tasks require a certain something more, namely, direct access to your ESXi host. ESXi Shell allows administrators to take on these more complicated tasks and engage in advanced troubleshooting by executing VMware and Linux commands through the ESXi CLI. One such command, esxcli, enables storage, network, system and software maintenance tasks. By using ESXi Shell, administrators have access to greater management capabilities, such as monitoring log files and managing storage devices, and can enjoy an overall richer vSphere experience.

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