Little secret those new to virtualization often miss - ESXi 6.0 continues to be mostly headless, just as it was for all prior VMware hypervisor releases

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 7 2015 in
  • ESXi
  • Virtualization
  • There is no local GUI. So there is no local keyboard/video/mouse access to Windows, Linux, or any other VMs. There are no add-ons that'll give ESXi such abilities. That's all done from other systems on the same network, using vSphere Client, vSphere Web Client, VMware Workstation, or VRMC.

    Yes, with Hyper-V installed as a Windows Server role, you can juggle and locally use multiple VMs, but not with VMware's ESXi 6.0, installed on a dedicated system, and designed to be left running mostly headless in a lights-out datacenter.

    Over the nearly 4 years TinkerTry has been around, among the thousands of comment, it's quite often that folks watch and read stuff, but haven't yet given ESXi a try themselves. What becomes apparent when reading their comments is that many don't realize that the local console will look like this, and isn't used for much else.

    This is VMware ESXi's Direct Console User Interface.

    There, I said it, for folks looking to kick the tires, let it be known that unless you're willing to go through some pretty advanced passthrough gyrations that some gamers find intriguing, you're highly unlikely to be using the local KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) for anything but the initial installation of ESXi, followed by optionally hard-coding the IP address and other network settings. Then you walk away. So makes sense to simply tuck this server away in a far corner of your home, gigabit networked to the rest of your stuff.

    These are the reasons IPMI enabled mobos by Supermicro and Tyan and others are featured on, or even out-of-band KVM-over-IP solutions, such as the Lantronix Spiderduo I used to create this crystal clear screenshot, seen at right.

    Yes, this means you're not actually outputting the video from any of your VMs to the local VGA port on your ESXi server known as a host. ESXi is installed locally on that dedicated-to-virtualization system, and all the VMs are accessed from other systems that are likely on the same home network.

    If juggling a few VMs on one 8GB or 16GB of RAM workstation is what you're after, VMware Player, VMware Workstation, Virtual box, or the many competitors out there are generally much better choices.

    While they won't be able to squeeze quite as many VMs out of your hardware as the enterprise-class Type 1 hypervisor that ESXi is, they'll likely be more what you we're looking for.

    If juggling dozens of VMs on an efficient home server equipped with 32GB of RAM, then ESXi is a great way to go.

    Admittedly, my site is geared toward the IT Professional with intermediate to advanced skills, but so much of what I do reaches out to make things much easier for the newbie, novice, or whatever hopefully more endearing term you want to call the nice folks that are newer to IT. Especially my popular no-steps-skipped videos.

    I hope this article helps reduce the confusion just a bit!

    See also

    Accessing Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) from an SSH session (2039638)

    See also on TinkerTry

    Superguide: VMware vSphere
    Did you know you can get to the ESXi local console UI from an SSH session?

    click the image to visit Chris Wahl's fun article about Jeramiah Dooley and others finding this gem of a tip first