VMware Lab engineers are at it again. This internal group of VMware developers and engineers has been tasked with creating interesting plug-ins, dubbed "flings," for the VMware vSphere and vCenter product lines that are made available for download to the entire VMware community.
These free yet unsupported tools are generally fun and useful product gap fillers, but they also come with a set of caveats. VMware says flings are intended to be played with and explored, but warns they shouldn't be used in a production environment. If you are the adventurous type -- or if your organization hasn't yet virtualized its mission-critical applications -- perhaps these flings will find their way into your production environment. Like anything else, it may come down to a risk/reward scenario.
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VMware's latest fling, called PXE Manager for vCenter, is a management tool designed to support automatic PXE boot (network boot using preboot execution environment) and automatic customization of large numbers of VMware ESXi systems. For large-scale deployments, this is important because it simplifies the setup and management and helps remove the need for large numbers of installation media. The drawback for some will be that this fling supports ESXi and not the more popular and more widely installed ESX.
For those who've already moved to or begun deploying ESXi hosts in their environment, this latest fling offers much more functionality. In fact, the PXE Manager vCenter plug-in is said to allow automated provisioning of both stateless and stateful ESXi hosts; perform ESXi host state (firmware) backup, restore, and archiving with retention capabilities; manage ESXi build repositories; perform ESXi patch management; provide support across multiple vCenters; support multiple networks with agents; and provide a wake-on-LAN capability, as well as the ability to deploy hosts directly to VMware vCloud Director and to Cisco UCS blades.