In my opinion, the Guest Operations API in vSphere is still one of the most powerful Virtual Machine capabilities that is available to vSphere Administrators and anyone else who integrates with the vSphere Platform. The Guest Operations API allows users to perform guest operations (running commands, transferring files, etc) directly within the guestOS as if you were logged in. Valid guest credentials are still required and once authenticated, the operations are then proxied through VMware Tools. Networking is not even required which makes this a handy feature for troubleshooting and can even extend into application level provisioning through a single API.

Obviously, I am a huge fan of this capability and have used it myself on more than one occasion. However, one limitation that I discovered awhile back when using the Guest Operations API with Nested ESXi VMs is that it threw some very strange memory related errors. It was only recently did I find out that there was a known issue with the VMware Tools for Nested ESXi, both the installable VIB and the pre-installed version in ESXi 6.0 on how the guest operations are executed. The good news is that for now, there is a simple workaround that can be applied when using the Guest Operations API.

You will need to add the following option, which runs the command under a specific resource group in the ESXi Shell:

'++group=host/vim/tmp'

Here is an example if I were to run the 'echo' command:

/bin/echo '++group=host/vim/tmp' "hello world"

A more interesting example would be to issue ESXCLI commands using the Guest Operations API, perhaps configuring the welcome message?

/bin/python '++group=host/vim/tmp' '/bin/esxcli.py system welcomemsg set -m "vGhetto Was Here"'

Notice, we need to pass in the resource group command to the "python" binary versus ESXCLI binary. The reason for this is that /bin/esxcli is really just a symlink to /bin/esxcli.py which is just a Python wrapper. The actual command being launched is the python interpreter and the arguments to the command is /bin/esxcli.py and the ESXCLI arguments itself.

For those who prefer to consume the Guest Operations API without having to directly use the vSphere API, you can use PowerCLI and use the Invoke-VMScript cmdlet. The problem with that is due to the way the cmdlet has been abstracted, the necessary underlying API details can not be accessed due to certain assumed defaults which can not be overridden or extended. This is a general problem that I have seen in more than one occasion where the abstraction is to make the consumption of the API simpler but in certain cases, it can also inhibit the use of the underlying API feature.

In this case, we will actually need to call into the vSphere API and using PowerCLI as an example, I have created a script called runGuestOpsInNestedESXiVM.ps1 which implements the specific Guest Operations APIs to issue commands to a Nested ESXi VM.

Here is an example of running the script and configuring the welcome message using ESXCLI:

guest_operations_api_nested_esxi

Thanks for the comment!