VMWARE - esx, vsphere, vcenter, ws - how it all works together

I am new to the Virtual Machine world and I need some help figuring out the correct group of products and how they work together successfully!

I might have some some things wrong, so let me know where.

I have a server built and loaded with vmware esx v4.1.0 and that was the base os I loaded on it.

Then I used vmware vsphere client from my Win 7 Pro 64 bit PC to connect to it and load virtual machines.  I built a couple Windows Server 2008r2 vm's and a 2011 sbs vm.  They all work fine and the concepts are catching on slowly.

I then wanted to start cloning the Win 2008r2 vm's so I started looking into that and I ended up using vmware workstation 8 because I was led to believe cloning would work with that product.  It seems to work very similar to vsphere client except that I cannot delete a vm from the workstation, only the vsphere client

So I did more research and determined I need to use vcenter in conjunction with esx to clone?  Not sure what it does or why we need it or where it goes.  I ended up building a vm on the esx server with Win 2008r2 and loaded Vcenter server.  I can connect to it with workstation 8, but now what?  My vm's only show up under my connection to the esx.

I would like to clone the vm's are get a good way to backup the vm's.  I also have not installed the vmware tools on the vm's, how is this done correctly?

What is the best way to set this machine up and do I need any more software??


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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You can use VMware Workstation 8.0 to connect to vCenter, but why not use the vSphere Client, you have on your PC.

Highlight a Virtual Machine using the vSphere Client, and Click Clone (make sure the VM is OFF)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Clone a VM
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
To install VMware Tools on the VMs, Select the VM, Right Click, and Select Guest, Install/Upgrade Vmware Tools. Make sure the VM has a virtual CDROM attached

Open a Console to the VM, make sure you are logged in As Local or Domain Administrator, and if Autoplay does not start, click the CDROM in the VM, and run the setup program, and follow, and accept the defaults, make sure you restart the VM when prompted.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
VMware have now introduced the ability to manage some features from VMware Workstation.

But to fully Manage a ESX host or vCenter, use the IP address or hostname of your vCenter server, in the vSphere client, and connect direct to vCenter server to manage through vCenter.

Also make sure you have added the ESX host to vCenter, by selecting Add Host, and follow the Wizard. (you'll need to create a Datacentre folder first!)
I empathize with you @tjwib29...when I first got involved with VMware products, it was quite daunting. As @hanccocka mentioned above, to Clone using the vSphere Client, you can't log into the ESXi host directly, you need to log into vCenter Server (and add your host to vCenter) to have the Clone capability. If you want to make a copy/clone of your VM, you have a few other possibilities, one that is recommended as well as mentioned above, and that is to use vCenter Converter Standalone too.

Since you wanted a bit more explanation on how VMware works, I'll explain that for you. First of all, you have the basics down pat. You can install ESXi on a host and use it for free (with the free license key installed), and download/install the vSphere Client on your local workstation to manage the host, create VMs, etc. Now, for more advanced features of VMware vSphere (and to not have to use a secondary utility/tool like Converter Standalone), you can download/install vCenter Server in a Windows-based machine, beit physical or virtual machine (VM recommended). Once installed, instead of pointing to the IP or hostname of your host when using the vSphere Client, you use the IP/hostname of the server you installed vCenter on. Once logged into vCenter, you then create an object called a 'Datacenter', which is basically just folder/container type object that houses all resources - hosts, VMs, resource pools, vApps, etc. You can rt-click on the Datacenter you created and select 'Add Host' and add your ESXi host. Once it's added, you will then see the VMs you created directly on your host. You can then use the features of vCenter, assuming you have the proper licensing version. vCenter has features such as Cloning, Template creation, High Availability (HA), Clustering, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), VMotion, Storage vMotion, etc. The benefit of using vCenter to log into, instead of directly to the ESXi host is not only the features listed above (which are good in and of themselves), but a central management interface. You can add all your hosts to vCenter and manage them all from there, instead of having to log into each host individually.

So, to Clone, you can use vCenter (easiest since no other software is needed; see @hanccocka's 1st screenshot). If you don't have licensing for vCenter, you can still have it installed and use ALL features of it for free as a trial for 60days. There is no need for you to use Workstation for anything. All you need is with the ESXi host, vCenter Server, and vSphere Client.

Yes, it is extremely highly recommended (but no, not required) that you install VMware Tools in your virtual machines (VMs). Reason? Well, several reasons -> potentially be able to do time synchronization (unless you have a domain time server, which if you do VMware recommends using that instead of syncing with the ESXi host), drivers (VMware Tools install provides needed OS drivers for better functionality of mouse, keyboard, and network adapter), as well as 'heartbeat' with vCenter functionality (req'd for other vCenter features such as VM Monitoring, which is a feature of a vCenter CLuster setting.

If you want to back up your VMs, that is a whole other task to tackle. The best answer for you there depends on the budget you're willing to spend, and the edition of vSphere you have in your environment. Veeam Backup & Replication is the best tool to use, but requires a paid version of vSphere. The lowest paid version, Essentials, is all that you need. But, if you are using vSphere Hypervisor (name of the free ESXi version), there are methods you can use, but are a more manual/non-scheduled/VM downtime process.

Hope that helps. Please let us know if more info is needed.

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