Managing your VMware vSphere Homelab without vCenter
Running standalone/free 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 home lab - 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.
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.
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.
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.