To be completely honest, I have not played with VMware Workstation in quite awhile as my day-to-day job primarily revolves around our Enterprise suite of products. In a recent meeting that I was in, I picked up on some interesting tidbits about the latest version of VMware Workstation 10 and after giving it a try in my lab, I thought I would share one very cool feature that you may be aware of (there is actually a lot of cool features in latest release, check what's new here).

The very first thing I noticed is that unlike other downloads from VMware in which you need to register the product and get an evaluation key. VMware Workstation can be downloaded without any registration and you can start the 30-day free trial immediately after installation! I think that is a really slick and can also come in handy if you need to install Workstation right away for something. Make sure you download from this page here by clicking on "Try for Free" instead of going to www.vmware.com/downloads

One of the capabilities that Workstation introduced probably a couple of releases ago was the ability to connect to a remote system whether that is another Workstation instance, vCenter Server and even an ESXi host. At the time I assumed this was to enable users to easily cold migrate a Virtual Machine that was created locally onto one of these remote targets.

What I did not realize was that you could do a lot more with this capability than to just copy offline Virtual Machines. To my surprise I found that you could fully manage the Virtual Machines on these remote targets including changing the virtual hardware configurations such as adding memory, cpu, disk, etc. guestOS as well as provision new Virtual Machines. The VM Console is fully functional leveraging VMRC and you can even connect to Free ESXi instances and get same capabilities you had with the legacy vSphere C# Client.  The other neat thing about this is you can also manage your Virtual Hardware 10 VMs even though the latest vSphere C# Client does not allow this because VMware Workstation 10 is vHW10 aware.

Here is a screenshot of managing my Free ESXi host which is running on my Apple Mac Mini as well as my vCenter Server. As you can see you can have multiple connections open up which is quite useful, especially if you have a couple of Free ESXi hosts in which you would like a single pane of glass to manage.

Another nice feature is the amount of backwards capability it provides for vSphere. You can go as far back as vSphere 4.1 (vCenter Server & ESXi). To prove this in my environment, I provisioned a Nested ESXi running on vSphere 4.1, 5.0, 5.1 and 5.5 and connected them all to Workstation. This is another great way to manage standalone ESXi hosts if you still need to run older versions.

Lastly, you do not need to be running the Windows version of VMware Workstation to get these benefits. You can also do the same using Workstation for Linux and here is a screenshot of running Workstation on an Ubuntu desktop.

As you can see this is just one of many new and cool capabilities of VMware Workstation 10 and I have to say for $250, this is a steal to be able to easily manage not only your VMs running locally but also remote systems like vCenter Server, ESXi hosts including Free ESXi which is a huge deal IMHO. The Workstation team really knocked it out of the park and I am glad I had the opportunity to check out their latest release. I also hope VMware Fusion will be getting these capabilities in the near future! Simon, I hope you see this 😉

9 thoughts on “How cool is that!? Using VMware Workstation to manage your ESXi hosts (including Free ESXi) & VMs

  1. Workstation 8 was the first one to provide server connectivity, though you could only upload, not download the ESXi hosted VM with Workstation. Workstation 9 was the first version that had that functionality fully enabled.

  2. This is lovely, and I had overlooked it. But why oh why is this not supported in Fusion Professional for the Mac? We shouldn’t have to run OSs like Windows in order to control our ESXi boxes.

  3. Can’t see any performance graphs or configure the host at all which really limits the usefulness of this and certainly is no match for the vsphere c# client (why doesn’t it include what is available in that?). When you access VMs by ssh or rdp primarily, console use is rare and how often do you change cpu/memory other than during creation (which you can’t do solely through this because there is no access to storage settings). This doesn’t currently seem to be adding much value over a text editor and vmplayer.

Thanks for the comment!