ESXi 5.5 free and direct host management gotchas and workarounds 6

There has been a lot of talk in the VMware Communities regarding a shortcoming in management techniques for users of the free version of ESXi 5.5, as well as users trying to manage an ESXi host directly in a vSphere environment.

The problem is that the traditional C# based client cannot edit the settings for virtual machines running hardware versions above version 9, which is the default with ESXi 5.1.  Unfortunately(? for this case…) ESXi 5.5 introduces hardware version 10 for virtual machines.  Users have been reporting scenarios where they need to edit the settings of their virtual machines but are unable to do so with only the traditional client.  This would be the case if you do not have access to the new web client, which only comes with a full vSphere environment.  This situation is also a problem for users that do have a full vSphere environment, but their vCenter Server is offline for whatever reason (think failure scenarios).

A few work arounds exist for this catch-22 situation.

  1. You get yourself an evaluation license of vSphere so that you can use the web client, however, this will expire after 60 days.  With your evaluation license you can take advantage of the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA), which is another VM you would have to introduce into your environment.  This technique really only helps the free ESXi users.
  2. It is possible to downgrade your virtual machine’s hardware version using the free vCenter Converter Standalone product.  Simply “convert” your VM to a new destination while choosing an older hardware version in the wizard.  This is also mentioned in KB article 1028019.
  3. If you are running VMware Workstation 10, you should be able to point it at the host containing your version 10 virtual machines and edit their settings as appropriate.

One last recommendation…  If you are an enterprise user and are concerned about being able to recover your vCenter Server virtual machine during a failure scenario, you may want to consider leaving the hardware version at 9 until there is a more permanent fix from VMware.

VMware is aware of the management limitations revolving around the new web client dependency with version 10 virtual hardware and I remain confident that we will see a fix for this in an update in the very near future.