PXE Manager for vCenter paves the way for easy deployment options

For vSphere environments, it's critical to be able to automate low-level tasks for ESXi servers. Virtualization expert Rick Vanover previews the new PXE Manager tool for vSphere.

As VMware vSphere matures, the option to move to ESXi for the hypervisor of choice for enterprise virtualization does too. The VMware Labs team recently released PXE Manager for vCenter, which allows the ESXi host state (or firmware) management and provisioning to be done by a standards-based network boot service. The functions included with this initial release are:

  • Automated provisioning of new ESXi hosts stateless and stateful
  • ESXi host state (firmware) backup, restore, and archiving with retention
  • ESXi builds repository management (stateless and statefull)
  • ESXi patch management
  • Multiple vCenter support
  • Multiple network support with agents
  • Wake on LAN support
  • ESXi host memory test
  • vCenter plugin
  • The ability to deploy directly to VMware vCloud Director
  • The ability to deploy to Cisco UCS blades

This is a lot of features for providing low-level management of ESXi servers. Further, this goodness is only available for ESXi; hence, it's another nudge to get on the move to the hypervisor of the future in the VMware arena.

The installation of the PXE Manager service is straight-forward. Some of the installation steps are shown in Figure A after the Windows install (vgpxe-x64.exe) is completed. Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.
Once installation is complete, the plug-in can be added to a vSphere Client connected to the vCenter Server. This will run the Windows install on the local computer that is running the vSphere Client (Figure B), which may or may not be the vCenter Server. Figure B

Click the image to enlarge.
Once the plug-in is ready, a number of new host-based features start to show up within the vSphere Client. In my personal lab, for example, my primary ESXi host has a number of new options in the tab visible by the plug-in created by PXE Manager as shown in Figure C and Figure D. Figure C

Click the image to enlarge.
Figure D

Click the image to enlarge.

Give the new PXE Manager a try in your test environment; there are a lot of powerful features in this tool that are targeted to future features of vSphere. PXE Manager is free download from VMware Labs.