Maintaining VMware: Three Common Virtual Machine Tasks

by Robert J. Shimonski [Published on 24 Feb. 2009 / Last Updated on 24 Feb. 2009]

Some common administrative tasks you will perform as a VM administrator.

Introduction

The line between PCs and VMs is beginning to blur – only seemingly separated by how physical components are arranged and utilized. Much of the same maintenance tasks you would do on a PC now apply to a VM. For example, you still need to install software and deploy desktops. So, how is this done virtually? In this article, we will look at some common administrative tasks you will perform as a VM administrator.

Making new Virtual Machines Quickly

The VMware VirtualCenter (or VC for short), is used for centralized configuration and management of your VM infrastructure. Many times, as an administrator you are asked to ‘build a new VM’. What this means is that someone is asking you to create a new system for them to utilize. To the person who will use this system, it's transparent as to how it's deployed to them – let us take a closer look at what happens behind the scenes. 

Clones, Templates and ISOs are an administrators savior when working with VMware. To those who have spent years installing software such as applications and operating systems on bare metal hardware, this could not be any easier. For those using Symantec Ghost, Sysprep or any other form of cloning software, you will find this even easier. You no longer need to image a system with VMware. 

Now, you can use ISO’s to set up your initial VM. By mapping an ISO image to your newly minted VM, you can pull just about any operating system imaginable into your VM inventory. Yes, you have to still be weary of 32 vs 64 bit operating systems and the fact that some OS’s still have issues during installation, but it could not get any easier. Once you have mapped and set up your VM, you can easily ‘duplicate’ it for further rollouts. For example, if you have a need for 30 Windows Vista Ultimate VMs, you could create one of them and then create a template out of it and use it for cloning purposes.

When cloning, you can easiely deploy a new VM from a template via ‘Virtual Machines and Templates’ as seen in figure 1.


Figure 1

Once you have a completed set of templates (for Linux, Windows or other) you can then deploy whichever you need quickly and easily.

Keeping your Virtual Machines  Secure and Healthy

When working on your new VMs, you will have the same exact configuration settings to make a desktop system. Hotfixes, Service Packs, and updates need to be downloaded and installed. You will still have to customize your systems and set up networking, domain connections and other advanced configuations. Figure 2 shows Windows Vista being updated via ‘Windows Update’ in the VC console. 


Figure 2

Next, it is wise to configure your firewall, automatic updates, spyware protection and UAC (for example). Make sure you also intsall Antivirus software!


Figure 3

As you can see, from defragging your hard disk to retooling your security, it is important that when working with a VM, you follow the same steps you would with any system. These are often forgotten about because new administrators sometimes tend to think that since VMs are contained within VMware, then there is some confusion as to how they are accessed or secured, such as using Remote Desktop for remote administration of your VM. Make sure you check your VirtualCenter logs and reports for issues on how VMs are operating within the ESX enviroment and then use Vista’s performance statistics. By checking both, you will know if you are running out of resources too quickly. 

Using VMware Tools

To create the ultimate experience, install VMware Tools on top of your new VMs. This will help you work with the VM while using the VC. Figure 4 shows VMware tools properties which can be invoked from the System Tray (systray) icon. Here you can configure many options which will give you a better experience when working in the VC.


Figure 4

In the figure you will be able to see that you can configure specific options, such as, how time synchronization is performed on the client VM as well as which devices should be connected. You can enable or disable removable devices in the Devices tab. When synchronizing the time, you should specify whether you want the guest OS (VM) to keep the same time as the VirtualCenter.


Figure 5

You can also select which removable devices can be connected when starting the VM. In Figure 6, the IDE (hard disk), and NIC are selected.


Figure 6

Custom scripts may also be used in this case. You can write a script and invoke it here, which can be used to run commands, map drives and so on. These are used to map specific power states. A default script for each power state and is included in VMware Tools. These scripts are located in the guest operating system in C:\Program Files\VMware.

For example, if you wanted to suspend the guest operating system via a script, you can use the suspend-vm-default.bat file.

Next, if you want to shrink your virtual disks with VMware Tools, you can use the Shrink tab. The Shrink tab lets you prepare to export a virtual disk to another system using the smallest disk file size. Use the shrink option to save space that will be eaten up by your VM files.


Figure 7

Laslty, the About tab basically gives you some info on the product, as well as to alert you to the fact that the service is running. Here you can also find the VMware Tools build number. This helps you verify your VMware Tools version in use.

Summary

In this article we reviewed some of the most basic configuration steps you will take when working with a new VM. You should be familiar with updating systems, doing performance maintenance and intsalling and configure VMware Tools.

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