ESXi Going Forward, Is It Really All Doom and Gloom?

ESXi vs. ESX – warning, this is a rant! 🙂

I recently participated in a discussion thread on LinkedIn in the VMware Certified Professionals group that got to be a little lively.  In this discussion, outside of the original poster’s question, a side discussion began on ESXi vs. ESX and all the trouble that it entails.  One poster in particular, a former VMware TSE (tech support engineer), really preached doom and gloom about the product’s future with the announced phase out of ESX and transition and continuation of ESXi as the VMware flagship product.

I personally have mixed feelings about the decision.  I love ESX and have been working with the product for years now.  I like the accessibility and control that the service console provides and thus far have been willing to tolerate the overhead of the Console Operating System (COS) and some of the associated problems as a trade-off for the control that it provides.  Apparently there are people that are far more upset about this decision by the powers-that-be at VMware than I am though, and in one case the former TSE even said that he would look forward to seeing people ‘crumble’ when they have problems with ESXi and no console access.  As I’m running this blog, and try to provide information and help to people at their fingertips, I would never wish ill on my fellow techies or the organizations that employ them.  Well maybe a few… <grin>.

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The argument was made that without the COS, you would effectively be unable to deal with errors and only have rudimentary troubleshooting ability on the appliance.  I use the term appliance because that is in effect what VMware is providing in ESXi.  The limitation of control on the IT professionals that are intended to manage said appliance is the perceived problem.  At no point in the discussion did said TSE that is preaching doom and gloom address the fact that VMware is doing quite a bit to build out and leverage the remote management interfaces of ESXi. 

Let’s look at the appliance management paradigm:  An example of another appliance that IT professionals might work with are managed switches and routers.  Those routers don’t have built in screens and keyboards in which you work with them, you work with them through an interface from a remote system or console and if VMware believes that they can build a solution that is solid enough to warrant status as an appliance, why would we not want them to?  Loss of control on our parts? (Our = IT Pros).

Software is built around the rules, not the exceptions.  Of course you need a way to manage and deal with exceptions when they occur, and good software handles as many exceptions as it can independent of user interaction.  The TSE, which based on the job description itself, has had to deal with tons of exceptions is, in my opinion, a little biased in his assessment of the products feasibility.  Was he on the phone with the same client everyday?  Did he speak to every client over the course of a year?  Who had these exceptions and why?  All these questions come to mind when someone who works with problems everyday seems to be of the opinion that everyone has and will have the same problems.  And those problems will never be corrected at the base.  Anyway…

VMware released vCLI, PowerCLI, DCUI, and a console “Tech Support Mode” for remotely managing ESXi, and this is all in addition to the vSphere Client.  Is it perfect?  Maybe not. Can it be better?  Likely so since it’s not perfect, but will it meet client needs and requirements?  To my knowledge, it already is.  If it wasn’t, VMware wouldn’t be making the play that it is.  If the company’s stock price and market share are any indication of success, along with how the company has done over the last several years, I don’t think VMware has much to worry about.  No offense to VMware’s former TSE’s, but maybe you don’t have the whole picture.  How many times does someone have to get under the hood of their car?  How many people go out and buy diagnostic equipment to read codes off the computers of modern cars?  You don’t.  You pay a mechanic to do it.  If you hire a mechanic, is that mechanic the end-all of everything that happens with that car?  No, on occasion that mechanic is going to have to call a dealership or the manufacturer.  So if the internal VMware admins can’t handle an issue with the tools provided, they are going to have to do what they have to do today with ESX.  Call up a TSE for assistance.  Do we really believe that the TSE is going to say, “oh I’m sorry, we removed the service console so now we can’t help you.  Have a nice day.” <click>

For once a company is removing complexity from one of their products, which by all means should make the product more stable, and people are freaking out about it.  If I could give you 2 products, one with 50 moving parts, and the other with 10 moving parts, which would you want, provided that the products did the same thing?  Now what if the 10 moving part product was less expensive?  Which would be easier to manage and maintain?  Hmm…  ok, software may be a little different, but after the transition period and all the kinks are worked out, then which would you want? 

Common sense… it’s what VMware’s decision makers are exercising.

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Yes there’s going to be some pain, undoubtedly… but if you’re in IT and anywhere near this blog, aren’t you used to pain associated with technology and changes?  So what’s new about that?  In the end, we may be working with a product that is more like an appliance, and frees us up to do all the other things that end up on our oft overly filled plates.  Like building out domain controllers and Exchange Servers and SQL clusters in the ever changing landscape of corporate IT.  If ESXi were to morph into a plug-and-play appliance that I didn’t have to worry about, am I really going to have a fit over that?  Isn’t that the goal of any solution?

I’m not psychic so I don’t know if it’s going to work out perfectly or not, but with the brain power and good decisions that VMware has been making since the company’s inception, I’m placing my bet on them and taking doom and gloom speech with a grain of salt, the same way I treat politics… <yech>.

In an industry when everyone is screaming “MORE MORE MORE”, VMware is saying we’ll give you more with less.  You don’t have to agree, but we all have to wait and see.

If you do believe in the doom and gloom, vote with your wallet and/or your feet.  Seek a job not related to VMware and invest in VMware’s competition.  If you know that much about it, why not apply for an executive job at VMware and change the landscape or work on a competitor’s product.

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” – Frank Tibolt

Sound off! 

I know people may have strong opinions and feelings about this as do I, so if there are any comments, all I ask is that you’re respectful of me as well as other people who may comment.  Comment moderation is on so rudeness will be either not approved or removed.  The same for flames.

If you happen to be the former TSE that I’m talking about, and you know who you are, or another TSE that agrees with the former TSE’s points, I mean no harm, but have honest disagreement with your assessment of the circumstances. 🙂

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