Managing your VMware vSphere Homelab without vCenter
Running standalone/free VMware vSphere ESXi Hypervisors without vCenter means you're missing out on some of the features- creating templates, cloning, moving VMs from host to host etc. There are ways to get vCenter licensing on your homelab - VMUG Advantage and the vExpert Scheme are a couple of good examples -however there are some workarounds you can do to imitate some of the functionality.
With Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows 10 comes great responsibility! in Microsoft PowerShell you can now power on your hosts via there IPMI/ILO interface (if you have IPMI connected hosts obviously!). with the commandlets you can:
- Get Information on the IPMI connected host (Get-PcsvDevice)
- Power On an IPMI connected host (Start-PcsvDevice)
- Power Off an IPMI connected host (Stop-PcsvDevice)
ESXi Embedded Host Client
VMware Labs has created a web management interface for ESXi that installs directly on the ESXi server.
All you need to manage ESXi is a browser. No extras required (no Java, no Flash, even works from Safari on an iPad)!
Simply download the installation file from VMware, ssh into your ESXi host and install it. No reboot required.
When installed the server can be managed from https://servername/ui
PowerCLI won't let you do anything you're not licensed for- just because the Move-VM cmdlet exists doesn't mean it will run and let you vMotion guests- but you can use PowerCLI to move or copy VMs, there's just a bit of thinking involved to put the script together. For example, to move a VM between independent ESXi hosts with no shared storage we could
- Shutdown the Source VM on the Source Host (see the Shutdown-VMGuest cmdlet)
- De-register the Source VM on the Source Host (see Remove-VM)
- Mount the Source Datastore as a PowerShell Drive (see Get-Datastore and New-PSDrive)
- Mount the Target Datastore as a PowerShell Drive
- Move the VM files (so all the config files, VMDK's etc) between the two Drives (see Copy-DatastoreItem)
- Register the (now Target) VM on the Target Host (see New-VM -VMFilePath)
- Power on the Target VM (see Start-VM)
All of these steps are available at the Free licensing level and higher.
There's lots of functionality available through the ESXi Shell- remember, as with PowerCLI, you still don't have access to unlicensed features just because you're using the command line.
- How to Copy VMs Directly Between ESXi Hosts Without Shared Storage
- Using SCP to copy files to or from an ESX host
This free tool from VMware allows you to move Virtual Machines between different infrastructures so can be used, amongst other things, to cold-migrate between ESXi hosts.
Veeam Backup, right from the free offering, allows you to backup a VM and this backup can be restored to a different target host- in effect a cold-migration with an intermediate step.
Veeam on Open Homelab
Someone else's vCenter
Creating an OVF/OVA template requires vCenter, but you can deploy them direct to an ESXi host. So if you have access to a VCenter somewhere outside your homelab (an employer perhaps) then you can use that to create the OVF files and then deploy them back at home.