Uniquely identifying VMs in vSphere Part 3: Enhanced Linked Mode & Cross VC-vMotion

Back in 2012, I had published two articles which provides details and guidance on how to uniquely identify a Virtual Machine for both a vSphere and/or vCloud Director environment. The primary use case for this information was for customers or partners who have developed their own provisioning solution which requires them to track their VM assets throughout their lifecycle, usually in some sort of configuration management database (CMDB).

Although these articles are almost 5 years old, the content is still very relevant today and I still continue to reference them both with customers, partners and even some of our internal R&D folks. Most recently, I had a question about whether the guidance in these article were still applicable or whether they would be impacted by some of the new VMware technologies and capabilities that had been introduced since writing those articles such as Enhanced Linked Mode (ELM) and Cross vCenter vMotion (xVC-vMotion).

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vSphere Content Library PowerCLI community module

I was recently doing some work with the vSphere Content Library and I needed to extract some information using the Content Library API. I was hoping there were a few out of the box PowerCLI cmdlets but to my surprise, there was only one cmdlet called Get-ContentLibraryItem which did not get into the level of details that I was looking for, which was on a per-file level rather than item-level. I had also search the web to see if anyone had built any functions and although a few existed, none that did the very basics which was retrieving all libraries, library items and library item files.

Not having worked with the Content Library APIs before, I figure this would be a good learning opportunity and created a PowerCLI module called ContentLibrary.psm1 which contains the following functions:

  • Get-ContentLibrary
  • Get-ContentLibraryItems
  • Get-ContentLibraryItemFiles

Before you can make use of these functions, make sure to connect to the CIS endpoint of your vCenter Server using the Connect-CisServer cmdlet.

Here is a screenshot of the vSphere Web Client showing all available Content Libraries:

Here is an example of retrieving the same information using the following command:


Note: You also have the ability to filter for the name of a specific Content Library by using the -LibraryName parameter

Here is a screenshot of the vSphere Web Client showing the individual Items within a Content Library:

Here is an example of retrieving the same information using the following command:

Get-ContentLibraryItems -LibraryName Test

Note: You also have the ability to filter for the name of a specific Content Library Item by using the -LibraryItemName parameter

Although the granularity when using the vSphere Web Client is at a Content Library Item, using the Content Library API, you can get additional information on the Item itself which is then composed of a set of files. The following command will allow you to retrieve all Files or you can use -LibraryItemName parameter to filter on a specific Item.

Get-ContentLibraryItemFiles -LibraryName Test -LibraryItemName TinyVM

Using vSphere Guest Operations API on macOS Guests? 

I have written a number of articles exploring the usage and some of the cool tricks that the vSphere Guest Operations (GuestOps) feature provides which you can be found here, here, here and here. I have been a huge fan and supporter of GuestOps since the early days where it was formally known as the VIX API. Having used GuestOps across many different GuestOS types including Nested ESXi, I have to admit, I had never tried it against an Apple macOS guests. I recently had a customer reach out who was looking to use the GuestOps API via PowerCLI (Invoke-VMScript) to automate updates against his guestOS templates that span across Windows, Linux and macOS (from 10.7 to latest). The customer was able to get all guestOSes working except for macOS.

Since I had never tried this before, I spun up my Apple Mac Mini which happen to have a macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) guests running. I tried using the vSphere API GuestOps directly to see if this was a PowerCLI and/or API issue. I too ran into issues and after enabling VMware Tools debugging on the guests (which you can find more details below), I found that it hit the following error:

[Jun 28 06:35:42.805] [   debug] [vix] >VixToolsImpersonateUser
[Jun 28 06:35:42.925] [ warning] [vmsvc] Failed to set gid for user root


Reaching out to Engineering regarding the problem, I came to learn that this particular issue was due to a syscall change made by Apple starting with macOS 10.10.3 and newer. Although the change was a positive thing from a security standpoint, it did break the GuestOps functionality. The good news was that this was already resolved with VMware Tools 10.1 or later. When I had initially provisioned the macOS guests, the latest VMware Tools at the time was 9.10.5. After I applied the latest version which is currently 10.1.7, the issue went away and I was able to successfully use the GuestOps API on my macOS guests.

Below are examples of running the system_profiler SPSoftwareDataType command using both the Invoke-VMScript cmdlet as well as the vSphere API and PowerCLI to consume the GuestOps APIs. Both approaches delivers the exact same outcome, the one benefit of using Invoke-VMScript is that if you want to easily return output from a given command, the cmdlet already does the heavy lifting. If you notice in the native vSphere API case, you do not get output but rather just the PID ID. If you want to return the output, you need to first save it into a file and then download the file to your client system, which may not be ideal for interactive usage but it all depends on your use case.

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How to convert vSAN RVC commands into PowerCLI and/or other vSphere SDKs?

A common request that I see come up from our field and customers is getting specific vSAN Ruby vSphere Console (RVC) commands to be made more generally available in other vSphere CLI/SDKs like PowerCLI for example. Funny enough, many folks do not realize that this functionality has been there since vSAN 6.2 and specifically with the release of the vSAN Management APIs which exposes all vSAN functionality programmatically whether you are consuming it from the vSphere Web Client, Embedded Host Client or from RVC. All of these tools have been built using the vSAN Management APIs.

Although we have supported a variety of vSAN Management SDKs (language bindings) since its first release, I will say that PowerCLI consumption of the vSAN Management API has only been made available recently with PowerCLI 6.5.1 and it supports the latest release of vSAN 6.6 and can go all the way back to vSAN 6.2. Even with PowerCLI support, I still continue to see vSAN RVC requests come up time after time and it seems like folks still have not made the connection that RVC is just simply using the vSAN Management API just like UI does.

What is even more interesting is that the source code of RVC can be viewed by anyone to see how each command is implemented and which APIs are being used. RVC is built using rbvmomi (vSphere SDK for Ruby) which provides access to both the vSphere and vSAN Management APIs. Given the number of requests that I have seen, I am going to assume that this is not common knowledge and I figured the best way to show how this work is with a real world example. I decided to take the vsan.check_limits RVC command and create an equilvenet PowerCLI script that uses the vSAN Management API to provide the exact same information.

Note: You will need to know how to use the vSphere/vSAN Management APIs and knowing a little of Ruby can also help. If you are new to vSAN Management APIs, have a look at this blog post on how to get started.

Here is a screenshot of running the vsan.check_limits RVC command:

Here is a screenshot of running the PowerCLI script that I have created:

As you would expect, the data is exactly the same since they both consume the same underlying vSAN Management API.

So, how do we get started?

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New Nested ESXi 6.x Content Library 

A few years back I had showed how you could create and host your own 3rd Party vSphere Content Library which allows customers to decouple their content from the underlying vSphere environment and centralizing their content and making it available to number of vCenter Servers by simply just having an HTTP(s) endpoint. The other huge benefit is being able to take advantage of the existing web content tools for optimizing delivery or retrieval whether that is replication, caching, etc. and not relying a single vCenter Server for providing Content Library publication. In addition to showing how to create your own content libraries, I also had built my own 3rd Party vSphere Content Library which contains a variety of my Nested ESXi Templates (empty VM shells) running on Amazon S3 which can be consumed by anyone as long as you are running vCenter Server 6.0 or newer.

Although the empty Nested ESXi Templates were quite useful for myself and customers, it would have also been nice to include my pre-built Nested ESXi Virtual Appliances which I had recently updated to support vSphere 6.0 Update 3 and vSphere 6.5d (vSAN 6.6). Thanks to Dana Nourie, who runs our wildly popular VMware Flings Program, was kind enough to help me with the content hosting and now anyone can also subscribe to my Nested ESXi VA's and automatically have the content sync down using the vSphere Content Library feature.

To get started, just create a new vSphere Content Library and enter the following subscription URL: https://download3.vmware.com/software/vmw-tools/lib.json 

You can either download the content immediately or only when you need to use it. I recommend the former since its only two images which totals up to a whopping 1GB 😉

Once the creation of the Content Library has been completed, you should see the following two Nested ESXi VAs in the library which are now ready for deployment!

For more information about the Nested ESXi 6.0u3/6.5d VA's and how they work, please have a look at this blog post here. For more information about the Nested ESXi Templates and how to subscribe to the 3rd Party vSphere Content Library, please have a look at this blog post here.