Enabling and Accessing ESXi Shell

The ESXi Shell (formerly known as “Tech Support Mode”) is a Busybox embedded Linux environment which vSphere administrators can use as a direct command line administrative interface for the vSphere host. Everything one might want to do with the CLI (“run common system administration commands against ESX/ESXi systems”) can be done in the ESXi Shell for the local system. In addition, there are some commands and options that can only be run in the ESXi Shell. There’s also the added advantage of not needing to install the CLI package on a machine with network access to the vSphere host. It’s also where you’d run utility scripts like ghettoVCB for backup.

VMware Knowledge Base Article 2004746 provides the various ways to enable vCLI (vSphere Client and the Direct Console User Interface). In short, in the vSphere Client, you’ll use:
Inventory->Host->Configuration->Security Profile->Services->Properties->ESXi Shell
Options->Start and Stop Manually

While you’re there, you probably want to enable SSH if that’s how you’re going to access the environment. VMware’s guidance is to disable these services in production for security reasons. In fact, while you have either ESXi Shell or SSH access enabled, you’ll get a security warning. VMware Knowledge Base Article 2003637 tells you how to disable those warnings.

Terrific.  So how do you access the environment? If you have physical access to the host console or a out-of-band management (Cisco iLO, Dell DRAC, HP iLO, etc).

If you’re using SSH (and enabled it), you’ll use your SSH client of choice. On a Unix/Linux/BSD client, you probably already have one. If not, check out OpenSSH. On the Windows platform, a popular client is PuTTY. Do you use Chocolatey to install software on your Windows box?  If so, then you can use it to install PuTTY:

cinst putty

You’ll need account credentials with administrative access, of course.

And you’re all set!

Photo by *n3wjack’s world in pixels

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John White is walking the path to virtualization mastery.

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