The vSphere Management Assistant (vMA) is a Linux-based virtual appliance that is designed to consolidate administrative tasks. The vMA offers these features:

  • vSphere command line interface. I’ve recently favored having the vSphere CLI installed within Windows to do some basic administrative tasks. Most frequently, I use on the vSphere CLI to update ESXi hosts since the GUI-based utility was deprecated from the free hypervisor offering. This is not to be confused with PowerCLI, the vSphere PowerShell implementation.
  • Script interaction without repeated authentication: The vMA can run scripts or agents that otherwise interact with vCenter and ESX(i) servers without repeated authentication.
  • vCenter and ESX(i) log collection: The vMA can collect logs from each of these server types for analysis. This is through a component on the vMA called vi-logger.
  • Active Directory integration: The vMA can join an Active Directory domain to allow a consistent set of permissions to be used for interaction to the vCenter or ESX(i) servers.

As a virtual appliance, the vMA only requires 5 GB of hard drive space and 512 MB of RAM. Be sure to check out the vMA guide on the VMware website for full documentation of this virtual appliance.

Installing the vMA

The first step is to download vMA from the VMware website. (This link in this blog is for the version 4.1 of the vMA; be sure to use the correct edition if older vCenter Servers are in use.) The download is approximately 439 MB as a .ZIP file, so it will need to download and be extracted locally.

Once the file is downloaded and extracted, there are four files for the virtual appliance, all with the same name: vMA- There are four file extensions: .cert, .mf, .ovf, and .vmdk that define the virtual appliance. In this example, 268837 is the build number of the vMA.

To import the virtual appliance, select the Deploy OVF Template from the file menu within the vSphere Client (Figure A).
Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.

Point the wizard to the extracted files from the download, and follow the wizard prompt (Figure B).
Figure B

Click the image to enlarge.

The wizard will then ask for a name for the vMA. Virtual appliances deployed through an Open Virtualization Format (OVF) template will be enumerated as any other virtual machine in vSphere. For more information about OVF, read the Open Virtualization Format resource on VMware’s website.

When the name of the vMA is assigned, you should give think about the virtual machine name. In my virtualization practice, it is a good idea to ensure that management appliances retain the same nomenclature strategy as normal virtual machines.

The wizard will then prompt if thin provisioning is to be used for the vMA (Figure C). The appliance is only 5 GB, so fully allocating it on disk should be easy to accommodate in most situations.
Figure C

Click the image to enlarge.

Configuring the vMA

Once the vMA is installed in the vSphere Client, it is ready to be powered on and a networking configuration wizard will start; this is where a DNS name can be configured (IP address settings and DNS client configuration are specified). Figure D shows this for a vMA powered on for the first time.
Figure D

Click the image to enlarge.

The next step is to set a password for the built-in user: vi-admin. This is not necessarily the account used to interact with vCenter, but it will be the account used to operate the vMA. Once the password is set, the vMA is ready to accept connections. Figure E shows the password being entered on the vMA, and it is ready for connections.
Figure E

Click the image to enlarge.

VMware KB TV offers step-by-step instructions on how to deploy the vMA from the OVF.