VMware Tools unleashed
Until recently new builds of the VMware Tools where tied to the ESXi builds. After updating an ESXi host you would have the ability apply a new build of the VMware Tools to your virtual machines. Now VMware decided to untie the build releases, given the VMware Tools enginering team the ability to provide the latest benefits as quickly as possible to their customers.
Prior to this change the ISO file that was downloaded with a new build would be placed on the local datastore of an ESXi host. When applying the VMware Tools to a virtual machine the ISO would be mounted form the local datastore and unmounted after the installation / update was done. Now that the VMware Tools aren’t included with the ESXi builds it is no longer possible to download them through Update Manager. You can now download them directly from the VMware site, but that still means you need to get the ISO ready for use.
Copying the ISO to every ESXi would be a time consuming task and luckily there is an alternative. It is possible to change the location where an ESXi host looks for the VMware Tools. On each host there is a location called the “ProductLocker”, which is a symbolic link that is created when booting a host. This link by default points to a directory on the local datastore. Fortunately for us the location that the symbolic link points to can be changed so that a shared datastore can be used.
First you would need to create a directory on one of your shared datastores like I have done in the screenshot below.
It doesn’t matter what name you give the directory as long as the sub folder has the name “vmtools“. In this folder you will place the new VMware Tools ISO file that you downloaded van the VMware site.
Next you will need to adjust the “UserVars.ProductLockerLocation” setting on each host (you could use host profiles to reduce the manual repetition). You can find this setting within the Advanced settings for the host using the vSphere (web) client. Change this setting so that it contains the path to the directory you created in the previous step. Make note that you do not enter the sub directory that is holding the actual ISO file. The host will automatically search the sub directory within the parent directory you entered.
Now that the configuration is changed we need to apply it. This can be done by either rebooting the host or manually by recreating the symbolic link. For the manual way you need to run commands from the ESXi shell. For ESXi 5.x or later you can use this command:
ln -s /vmfs/volumes/shared_datastore_name/vmware-tools /productLocker
After this you should be able to change to the productlocker directory and find the ISO file you placed on the datastore
No you can install or update the VMware Tools just like you would otherwise.
Furthermore VMware Tools for Linux (Open-VM-Tools or OVT for short) has been handed over to the Linux community enabeling the adoption of the tools in the Linux kernel main line. This means that customers don’t have to manage the lifecycle of the VMware Tools for certain Linux distributions anymore. Updating OVT will be done through the Linux update mechanic and you can no longer update them using vCenter.
For now the following distributions include OVT:
- Fedora 19 and later releases
- Debian 7.x and later releases
- openSUSE 11.x and later releases
- Recent Ubuntu releases (12.04 LTS, 13.10 and later)
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 and later releases
- SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 and later releases
- CentOS 7 and later releases
- Oracle Linux 7 and later
- Linux Desktops with Horizon by Anne Jan Elsinga
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- VMware Fling – ESXi Mac Learning dvFilter by Anne Jan Elsinga
- How to: Build a custom image with vSphere ESXi Image Builder by Erik Scholten
Sander Martijn is a Technical Professional for Conoscenza in The Netherlands. As a Technical Professional he works for different clients, building, troubleshooting and managing ICT infrastructures. He is a certified VMware VCP-DCV, VCP-DTM, several VSP and VTSP. Since 2015 he has been awarded vExpert status.