PowerGUI, vEcoshell (VESI), PowerCLI and ESXi

What do these 4 products have in common?  One is being discontinued, while the remaining two help to ease transitions to ESXi and improve automation.  Let’s take a look:

PowerGUI and VESI

PowerGUI is a free tool from Quest Software that does what it’s name suggests — it provides a GUI interface to Microsoft’s PowerShell automation framework/scripting interface.  It’s a visual shell of sorts for Powershell.  You can create a combination of queries and actions and then either run them from the GUI, or switch over to the “script” tab and see your actions in Powershell script format.  This is great for people like me who know just enough about scripting to be dangerous — you can construct your query/task in the GUI and then modify the details in the exposed script.

PowerGUI being used to explore the local registry, then...

...switch to the script tab to see the script you "built"

I’ll share just one example of how I’ve used PowerGUI in the past.  An Active Directory team was attempting to migrate users off of a legacy domain and they needed to figure out which users were still active so that they could contact them.  With PowerGUI this was no problem at all.  Within minutes and using only the GUI I had constructed a query to look for all users in the domain for whom the last login time was greater than 30 days old.  Then I made some adjustments to include key fields that they wanted in the CSV output and viola!  Anytime they needed a report on most any AD attribute I’d be able to construct the query quickly in PowerGUI.  I’ve used it to automate Active Directory and SQL server tasks and much more.  If you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself to take a few minutes to check it out.

Now while there were VMWare powerpacks available for PowerGUI they only went so far.  Vizioncore (now Quest) developed a more robust GUI specifically for VMware environments (Hyper-V support was later added) called vEcoshell.   I won’t bother to detail all of the differences here but it had some great features including best practice queries built-in for things like “snapshots older than 7 days” and finding how much whitespace could be saved by using vOptimizer (which can also re-align on a 64K boundary).  Chances you that you’ll be surprised at how much white space is available to be reclaimed.  I’ve been using vEcoshell over the past few years and I’ve found it to be an indispensable tool for managing vSphere environments.

Bad News, Good News

The bad news is that vEcoshell is no longer being developed, but the good news is that this development has moved to PowerGUI in the form of a PowerPack.  If you download the current version of PowerGUI and then the VMWare PowerPack, you will have the same functionality that vEcoshell was intended to provide.  Quest is also leveraging this in their products, such as vRanger Pro 5.0 which will ship with a PowerGUI powerpack to open up new possibilities for managing backup and replication tasks.

PowerGUI with VMware PowerPack and Best Practice Queries shown

[There are some great reports also available but I don’t have any that I can quickly and safely share]

Now there is one catch.  When I downloaded the current PowerGUI version it forced me to “downgrade” my PowerCLI to 4.0 Update 1 before it would install.  This would be an issue for some as there have been some significant improvements in PowerCLI 4.1.1 including ESXCLI and ESXTOP.  The good news is that there’s a fix — you can follow the steps here to install a beta version of the PowerPack that will support PowerCLI 4.1.1.  I’ve followed these steps and so far have not encountered any issues.

Migrate to ESXi With Confidence

As Duncan Epping points out here, the time is now to start migrating to ESXi.  There’s been little doubt that the bare-metal architecture of ESXi is superior to the old Service Console architecture.  Less code, less patching, better security, boot from flash…you get the picture.  The big concern has always been “how will I manage my servers and/or run my scripts without a service console?”.  Well PowerCLI has really advanced over the last few releases and combined with PowerGUI (and the vMA which Duncan writes about here) and when armed with these tools, there really is no need for a Service Console.  Even if you don’t know PowerCLI, PowerGUI is a great place to start as it can shield you from the actual code with a nice GUI interface.

Do yourself a favor and start exploring the new PowerGUI, as well as begin to take steps to migrate away from the Service Console architecture.  For additional resources on migrating to ESXi, be sure to check out VMware’s ESXi Migration Info Center.

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