This year, David Davis and I are doing our encore presentation at VMworld for Top 10 Free Tools For VMware vSphere of 2011. If you want to download the presentation with highlights of video demos, you can do so here... CIM1940 Presentation (warning, its 105mb!!). Time wasn't on my side this year to complete a matrix to be able to rank free tools based on a point scaling. These tools, in my opinion, are the best of what 2011 has had to offer. I have also gone through and done testing of whether or not it works with vSphere 5. The tools aren't ranked in any particular order.
RVTools has been on the Top 10 list before and it rightfully deserves to be on here as well. The heart of RVTools is it's excel like feel and it gathers absolutely every single piece of virtual and physical hardware inside your environment. Do you need to know which VMs are consuming the most memory or configured with the highest amount of vCPUs? Of course you can do that with PowerCLI, but this is so much easier. The program functions about 95% with vSphere5. The only pieces that don't work are parts of the vNetworking where a VM sitting on a vDS doesn't show an actual port-group name. The fact that you can export this information out to excel is really handy for quick custom reports.
VMTurbo has really been a confusing product in the past year. VMTurbo had a few different utilities from Watchdog and VM Reporter, and then consolidated them all into a single product offering. VMTurbo now offers a single product and the community edition is the free version of that. What I really like is that this product doesn't have the restrictions other tools put in place. It can manage a single vCenter Server, but the amount of hosts is unlimited. It's truly the ONLY FREE complete infrastructure monitoring tool. The tools pulls vCenter statistics for things such as storage latency and IOPS and you can even drill down into hosts and view CPU ready stats from esxtop. Go down a layer further to the VM and you can get ballooning or swapping statistics over a period of time. In addition to all this great monitoring, you also get a vast array of free reports that can come in handy. There is also a section called Recommended Actions that can assist you in problem detection and VM right sizing.
Xangati has been here before and makes it's way back into the top 10. The Xangati for vSphere appliance lets you monitor only a single host, but you can have an appliance for every host if you desire. Likewise, it allows you to monitor the top 10 talkers. Xangati also comes with 3 different interfaces, the VDI Interface, VI Interface, and Classic Xangati. The interfaces are just really cool when they show up to the minute near-real time statistics of your environment. Xangati has a major focus on networking and this newest release also touts a bunch of new storage metrics. It can detect show latency and IO stats from different paths to a datastore from a host so you can see if a fabric or switch path is causing problems, and it also now supports NFS statistics. Xangati also release a WMI integration that allows Xangati to communicate to the VMs so you can see which processes on a VM are using resources. Xangati also pushes forward with its health engine. The health engine calculator takes a baseline of what your environment currently looks like, and if it deviates from the norm, the percentages will increase or decrease. The appliance also comes with Xangati's featured DVR-like recording capabilites. Xangati for vSphere is almost 100% functional with vSphere 5 except for port groups on dvSwitches.
7. vSphere Client for iPad & vCMA
This is going to be a glimpse into what the future of VM administration will look like. It all starts off by deploying the vCenter Mobile Access virtual appliance from VMware Labs and then downloading the free vSphere Client app from iTunes. The great thing about this product is that it truly frees you from your desk and you can access your environment without having to carry a laptop with you. The app itself doesn't have a ton of features, but it's an incredible start. You can get VM statistics, host stats, perform vMotions, and start/stop VMs. I would like to see a console connection come to the app, but I'm sure it's a lot harder than i give credit for. It's 100% functional with vSphere 5 and ready to go!
Ricky cleaned up this tool at the request of a few people and it now easily ranks as one of the "cool" tools. The Plug-in has the capabilitiy to register a plug-in to the vSphere Client or the vCenter server for a local personal view or a global view. The plug-in will take any webpage, whether it's internal or external and make it a tab in a vSphere Client view. So if you use any monitoring tool or SAN configuration tool that has a web admin page you can now view it all from inside the vSphere client. Heck, you wanted google.com as a tab inside the vSphere client you can do that as well. The product is about 90% functional with vSphere 5 in regards to the drop down of the different view points in the vSphere client. Most of them work though. In the demo video below, I'm showing how I was able to put my Synology DS411 NAS administration portal into the datacenter view of the vSphere client.
This tool is borderline "rockstar" status and can easily be seen as a future integration to the vSphere client. This tool brings in functionality that nothing else has before. I wrote about how this tool saved my butt before on Error Upgrading VMware Tools vSphere 4.1 and it can still bring all that great functionality into vSphere 5. VGC is geared towards mass administration of virtual machines and can dive into guest files and processes. Take 15 minutes out of your day and watch the two videos below of all the features withing VGC because there are just too many to list.
OK, so this isn't a tool for a datacenter or even a SMB, but this is perfect for all those home labbers out there. If you are a VMware vExpert, VMware Certified Professional, or VMware Certified Instructor you can get two free socket licenses of Veeam's famous Backup and Replication software as well as production licenses for Veeam Monitor, Reporter, and Business View. I have to give David Davis credit for bringing this into the Top 10 during our Free Tools session because I can honestly see this one being more important to admins than Veeam's Monitor Free Edition. Even if you're not a home labber, this is great for testing out the software for an unlimited time trial. Maybe they will update it soon for their new Veeam version 6 release!
William Lam is a rockstar. William has put many hours into hacking every piece of code he can run against ESXi and has done a good job at filtering through the MOB and every single file and folder within the hypervisor to exploit everything he finds. The vGhetto Script Repository has over 100 different scripts written in Perl that use Remote vCLI to execute a bunch of different functions. You can expect more to come as well because William is a very active member of the VMTN community. Some of my favorites include:
ghettoVCBg3 to do free backups of your VMware environment
VKernel has a wide set of free tools, but the one that continually stands out to me is SearchMyVM. This free tools runs as an appliance and will index your entire vSphere infrastructure and will let you do google-like searches. Do you need to know how many VMs have over 4GB of provisioned RAM, with hard drives bigger than 50GB and start with the letter S? This application will let you do in-depth searches. Haven't you always wanted to let other people do their own searches so you aren't being bothered with generating reports all day? This application will free up some of your time.
This set of free tools ranked number 1 on last years free tool list and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. When you combine these three products together it becomes Voltron. Yes, I just used a Voltron reference! These three products bring with them a set of tools that can't be found in anything else. PowerCLI is the framework that makes it all possible. PowerGUI is the interface that enables anyone from a beginner to advanced user to become proficient. The PowerPack is the secret sauce that brings added functionality to every vSphere admin. Quest is currently working on updates for vSphere 5, but most of the functionality was there with the PowerCLI vSphere 5 beta I had been testing. Try it out and you will know why this tool continues to be on the Top 10 list.