VMware vSphere PowerPack beta, now with PowerCLI 4.1 and later support

If you’ve been following my blog you probably heard that we hit a bit of a stumbling block with our VMware PowerPack with versions 4.1 and 4.1.1 of the PowerCLI.  There are some changes in those versions that break compatibility with previous versions of the PowerCLI, and this prevented our PowerPack from working with either of those two versions.  I had also mentioned on my blog that I anticipated we would provide two separate versions of our PowerPack in the short term, one that works with PowerCLI 4.0 U1 only and another that works with PowerCLI 4.1 and later.  Well I’m happy to let you know that I just finished uploading a beta version of the VMware vSphere PowerPack with PowerCLI 4.1 support to the PowerGUI® website.  This version has been posted in the same document in the PowerPack Library that contains the other version of the VMware PowerPack, so now there are two files to choose from when you visit the VMware vSphere PowerPack download page:

  1. VMware.VIToolkit.powerpack.  This file contains the version of the PowerPack that requires version 4.0 U1 of the PowerCLI and that ships with PowerGUI Pro and PowerGUI 2.3.
  2. VMware.PowerCLI.4.1.powerpack.  This file contains the beta version of the PowerPack that works with PowerCLI 4.1 and later releases.

A number of you have been asking via twitter if we have PowerCLI 4.1 (and PowerCLI 4.1 U1) support, and now we do, in beta form at least.  The functionality between the two versions is identical, with the exception of two minor bug fixes in the beta version that I came across during testing that are not yet fixed in the other version.

If you want to try out the beta version of this PowerPack, here is what you need to do:

If you are using PowerGUI Pro or PowerGUI 2.4 and you have the VMware PowerPack and PowerCLI 4.0 U1 already installed:

  1. Open the PowerGUI Admin Console.
  2. Select File | PowerPack Management.
  3. Browse down to the VMware PowerPack and select it.
  4. Click on the Remove button to remove the VMware PowerPack.
  5. Click on OK to close the PowerPack Management dialog.
  6. Close the PowerGUI Admin Console.
  7. Uninstall PowerCLI 4.0 U1.
  8. Download and install PowerCLI 4.1 U1 (or 4.1 if you prefer).
  9. Download the VMware.PowerCLI.4.1.powerpack that is linked earlier in this blog post.
  10. Open the PowerGUI Admin Console.
  11. Select File | PowerPack Management.
  12. Click on the Import button.
  13. Browse to the location where you put the VMware.PowerCLI.4.1.powerpack file that you downloaded in step 9, select it, and click on Open.
  14. Click on OK to close the PowerPack Management dialog.

If you do not have the VMware PowerPack installed simply follow steps 7 through 14 in the list above.

At this point you should be up and running with the beta version of the VMware PowerPack with PowerCLI 4.1 U1 (or 4.1 if that is what you installed).

Please use the PowerGUI Forums if you have any feedback you want to share or issues you want to report regarding the beta release of this PowerPack.

Enjoy!

Kirk out.

PowerCLI 4.1 U1: Current state of affairs

UPDATE 10-JAN-11: To deal with the issues identified below, I published a beta version of the VMware vSphere PowerPack with PowerCLI 4.1 or later support.  You can read more about the beta and how to install it here.

Luc Dekens suggested that I share my concerns about upgrading to PowerCLI 4.1 U1 here so that the rest of the community could be aware of some of the details behind the issues between upgrading from PowerCLI 4.0 U1 to version 4.1 or 4.1 U1.  Ask and ye shall receive. Smile

Back in July 2010 I shared my concerns about upgrading to version 4.1 of the PowerCLI due to a number of breaking changes introduced in that release.  These changes were far reaching and have caused us challenges as we try to support the VMware community with our VMware PowerPack for PowerGUI®.  A little while later, Scott Herold sat down with members of the PowerCLI team and they agreed to put in temporary support for the old object model as part of their 4.1 U1 release, so going forward this seemed like it would give us a smooth upgrade path for our customers.  PowerCLI 4.1 U1 was released earlier this month, and it was supposed to address these issues while also including great new enhancements for the community.  Unfortunately we were not aware of the release schedule for the PowerCLI, nor were we provided early release versions to work with, so while we were working on our PowerGUI Pro and PowerGUI 2.3 releases which included (among many other things) the VMware PowerPack for the first time, we had no choice but to include a firm requirement in the installer for PowerCLI 4.0 U1.  This is why the VMware PowerPack will not install with PowerGUI Pro or PowerGUI 2.3 if you are using any version of the PowerCLI other than 4.0 U1.  As a result, the inclusion of the VMware PowerPack in PowerGUI has met mixed reviews because many community members expected it to work with PowerCLI 4.1.1 out of the box, however we had no knowledge of that release during our own release cycle so we simply could not build-in support for that release.

Now that PowerGUI Pro and PowerGUI 2.3 are released as well as VMware’s PowerCLI 4.1 U1 though, which is supposed to come with complete support for the old type names, I suspected that I would be able to manually upgrade my PowerCLI to the latest version and that my PowerPack would continue to function the way it did before, possibly having a few minor issues to deal with.  That suspicion has proved incorrect because of a number of problems.  Based on my initial testing, here are the issues that I see in PowerCLI 4.1 U1:

  1. PowerCLI 4.1 U1 still returns the same type hierarchies that were returned in PowerCLI 4.1, which are not compatible with the VMware PowerPack which is based on the 4.0 U1 types.  As indicated on the blog post titled “PowerCLI 4.1: A fork in the road”, these incompatibilities affect many community-driven content that is based on the PowerCLI, including the VMware PowerPack, the VMware Community PowerPack, books, blog posts, shared scripts on PoshCode, the VMware VI Toolkit Extensions module, etc.  I have tested multiple commands (Get-VMHost, Get-VM, Get-Cluster, Get-Datacenter) against multiple labs using PowerCLI 4.1 U1 and none of them show the old type names, so backward compatibility is still broken as far as I can tell.
  2. When you invoke a PowerCLI cmdlet like Get-VM, if you show all of the properties for those VMs you will now see warnings about properties that are to be deprecated in a future release.  The properties still work today, but the warning indicates they are obsolete and therefore they are not guaranteed to work tomorrow.  The trouble is you see these warnings even if you are not directly using those properties.  For example, if you invoke Get-VM and pipe that to Format-List * to see all properties, you’ll see warnings in the output before you see the results.  In this case the warnings are benign (unless there are other warnings mixed in that should get your attention), however it shows a disturbing trend that VMware has taken to changing PowerCLI object data such that scripts that work today are not guaranteed to work tomorrow unless they are updated when the existing properties are deprecated, causing multiple rifts between users are on the current release and those who don’t upgrade right away.  It means you will see multiple ways to do things in scripts over time that have different properties, and when you view those scripts you may or may not be aware of which is current so this is bound to cause some user confusion.  This also makes it difficult for anyone to consider upgrading if you use anything with scripts that are dependent on the PowerCLI (PowerPacks for example), because there is no guarantee with this approach that those will not break when you switch from one version to the next unless you are sure they have upgraded to support new releases as well where object properties may deprecate over time.  Blog content that normally could be published and left as is for a very long time may become out of date more quickly.  Books will have a much more limited lifetime if they don’t use the right properties.  And so on.

Breaking changes in any programming language are considered something to completely avoid unless those changes are absolutely necessary.  On those rare few occasions when they are necessary, there are mechanisms in place that allow you to reduce the impact of those breaking changes (side-by-side versions for example).  PowerShell has a rich Extended Type System that allows for type extensions so that you can evolve objects over time, using alias properties, script properties, code methods, etc. to allow you to continue supporting older versions while you upgrade your technology to new versions.  All of these together should give cmdlet authors enough flexibility that they don’t need to introduce breaking changes haphazardly like this.  Unfortunately I don’t feel that VMware gets this yet, but I continue to try to evangelize this and work with them so that this gets easier going forward.

If you have any questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks,

Kirk out.

A letter of apology to the VMware PowerPack community

UPDATE 10-JAN-11: I just published a beta version of the VMware vSphere PowerPack with PowerCLI 4.1 or later support.  You can read more about the beta and how to install it here.

I have heard via email and Twitter that quite a number of you were disappointed when you upgraded PowerGUI® Pro or PowerGUI® to version 2.3 only to discover that the VMware PowerPack does not work with PowerCLI 4.1.1.  Instead the VMware PowerPack today has a firm requirement for PowerCLI 4.0 U1.  I apologize for the disappointment that you have experienced with this and I felt I should take a minute to talk about the situation we are facing and let you know what our plans are going forward.

When VMware released version 4.1 of the PowerCLI, they completely changed the object model that they were using in earlier releases.  This change came with many undesirable and unwelcome side effects, effectively breaking backwards compatibility with many scripts that are built on top of the PowerCLI cmdlets, and the VMware PowerPack was no exception to the effects of those breaking changes.  We have been working with VMware to ensure that they are aware of the ramifications of changes like this, but it is an uphill battle because while they have said that they were committed to providing backwards compatibility for the old type names back into the PowerCLI in 4.1.1, our testing shows that this backward compatibility is not there like it should be.  Further, you may now start to see many warnings from scripts that previously ran without warning or errors because VMware is planning to deprecate many of the properties that were there in previous versions.  These warnings are a concern because they show that VMware is continuing to make changes that will break older scripts going forward without much communication at this point about why they are making those changes.  I am working with many other MVPs and vExperts in the community to give feedback about why this is really not a good idea, but unfortunately we haven’t had any knowledge about the changes in these releases any earlier than you have, so we haven’t been in a position to work closely with VMware to help prevent complications such as the ones introduced in the 4.1 and 4.1.1 releases.

Now we are faced with a decision about what should be done going forward.  I cannot simply do an upgrade for the VMware PowerPack to require 4.1.1 because existing customers who are using PowerCLI 4.0 U1 and who may not be able to upgrade to 4.1.1 right away due to internal policies will have a broken PowerPack on their hands if their PowerPack is auto-updated.  I can however create a separate version of the VMware PowerPack that does not auto-update to support users who have upgraded to PowerCLI 4.1.1 and who want to use the VMware PowerPack.  This will take some time though because the changes are not straightforward, and if you want a version of the PowerPack that has been put through the property quality control channels we will have to retest everything to make sure it works with the new version, which is no small feat for a PowerPack of this size.  I may also be able to create a version that works with both PowerCLI 4.0 U1 and PowerCLI 4.1.1, however I’m not very optimistic about that at this time.  There is also a VMware Community PowerPack available that I do not manage, and it suffers the same challenges.  All of this adds up to a lot of things to consider and a lot more work than should be required when looking at the right way to upgrade this PowerPack (and those considerations apply the VMware Community PowerPack as well as I just mentioned since it is partially dependent on the VMware PowerPack as well as the PowerCLI).

What will most likely happen is that we will create a version of the VMware PowerPack that requires PowerCLI 4.1.1 or later, and that we will try to support two different versions of the PowerPack for a while until we eventually deprecate the older version.  That is not what I would like to do, but my hand is being forced here so that is the only realistic option I see in front of me.  I may be able to create a preliminary beta version of that PowerPack fairly quickly, however it will not have been put through a full test cycle and it will not address the warnings that appear from properties that are being deprecated – that will require much more time and effort.  I will of course notify you when this beta version is available.  Our plan is obviously to support every new release of snapins and modules that come out that are used with our PowerPacks, ideally the moment that those releases become publically available, but usually providing that support is much easier than this so please bear with us as we work through the messy situation we’re in right now.

In the meantime I would recommend that you continue to use PowerCLI 4.0 U1 with the VMware PowerPack and the VMware Community PowerPack because it works very well and is something we can support today.  At the same time you can of course put version 4.1.1 of the PowerCLI in a separate VM so that you can work with both versions for a while — we are talking about a virtualization solution after all…

Thank you for your patience and continued support while we work through these challenges together.

Sincerely,

Kirk Munro

PowerGUI® Pro and PowerGUI® 2.3 are now available!

Today I am happy to announce that PowerGUI Pro  and PowerGUI 2.3 are now available.  This is a really exciting release for all PowerGUI users because there are a lot of cool new features in this release.

For PowerGUI Pro customers, we’ve spent quite a bit of time on MobileShell and made the following enhancements:

  • More mobile device support!
    MobileShell now supports iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4G, iPad, BlackBerry OS 5.0 and 6.0, Android OS 2.1 and 2.2, and even Windows Phone 7 OS devices!
  • Improved user experience for MobileShell on smartphones!
    Since smartphones have limited real estate for apps, we have redesigned MobileShell to better fit your smartphone device.  Now when you log in you will see your favourite scripts first, front and center, and optionally you can go to another tab if you want to do some ad hoc scripting.  If you are using an iPhone and prefer the old UI, you can specifically use that UI but the new UI is highly recommended for smartphone devices.  Larger devices such as desktop browsers and the iPad still use the old UI since they have more real estate to work with.
  • Improved favourite script management for MobileShell admins!
    Now admins can preconfigure the default favourites that are assigned to users when they first log on to MobileShell.  This makes it easier for you to set up the default commands you want available for your team once and then when they log in for the first time they will get assigned those commands automatically.
  • Role-based assignment of MobileShell commands!
    Admins can now associate modules with Active Directory users and groups so that when a user logs on to MobileShell, all public commands in any module associated with their user account or with a group they are a member of are automatically made available to them as favourites.  This allows you to manage your MobileShell commands in modules using the PowerGUI Script Editor, and whenever you publish a new version your MobileShell users will automatically have the commands from that version available on their handheld device when they log on!

We didn’t forget the freeware community either!  This release also includes the following features for both PowerGUI Pro and PowerGUI (freeware):

  • Virtualization support in PowerGUI!
    With version 2.3, the VMware PowerPack is now available as a core PowerPack included in the PowerGUI Admin Console.  This PowerPack is a fantastic way to manage your virtualization infrastructure.  If you want an example of how this might make a difference for you, have a quick look at this blog post.
  • HTML Reporting support in PowerGUI!
    We have had an Advanced Reporting PowerPack available for download from PowerGUI.org for a while now.  That PowerPack has recently been renamed the HTML Reporting PowerPack, and it now comes with PowerGUI.  This PowerPack allows you to generate HTML reports with features such as indenting, grouping, collapsible sections, and support for list or tabular format for any data you have in front of you in the PowerGUI Admin Console grid.  Just click on the “Create report…” action, configure the report you want to generate, and it will handle the rest for you!
  • Enter-PSSession and Exit-PSSession support!
    You asked, we answered.  Now you can use Enter-PSSession and Exit-PSSession from within the PowerGUI Script Editor to manage remote machines as if you were working on them locally.
  • Greatly improved snippet support!
    This one is a personal favourite of mine.  Snippets are a great way to create a lot of useful PowerShell functionality really quickly.  You just insert the snippet you want, fill in the input fields, and you’re done!  We have had this for a while, and now we have added more features to this support including:

    a) Support for user defined snippets!  If you have snippets you want to use in PowerGUI, you no longer have to have admin access to put them in the snippets subdirectory under the PowerGUI installation folder.  Instead, you can put them into your Documents\WindowsPowerShell\snippets folder and they will automatically be picked up by the PowerGUI Script Editor.  Even better still, if you have a snippet that comes with PowerGUI that you want to override, you simply use the same relative path in the snippets folder in your profile and your snippet will be used in place of the one that comes with PowerGUI!

    b) Support for snippets in modules!  If you import a module, and if that module has a snippets subfolder, then PowerGUI will recognize those snippets and they will be available in the Script Editor automatically.  This allows module authors to include snippets as part of their offering so that users can learn how to use the module commands much more easily!  If you author a module and share it with others, I strongly encourage that you add snippets to that module.  Your module users will thank you for it!

    c) Support for using snippets from any path on your system!  PowerGUI now uses a PGSnippetPath environment variable to decide where to look for snippets, allowing you to reference snippets from any path you include as part of that environment variable!

    Can you tell I love the snippet features? Smile

Of course we also included some bug fixes as usual.  One worth highlighting is that the PowerGUI Script Editor can now be used to debug files that are in a path containing paired square brackets.  We have had several customers let us know that they use these types of paths and that our new debugger wouldn’t stop on breakpoints for them, and this issue is now fixed.

This is a totally awesome release, and I’m really happy that I can finally share it with you!  If you are already a PowerGUI Pro or PowerGUI user, you’ll probably notice the auto-update notify you of the new release when you start it up very soon.  If you don’t want to wait though, you can always force PowerGUI to check for updates using the “Check for Updates” menu item in the help menu, or you can update it manually by downloading it from Quest SupportLink if you use PowerGUI Pro or from the PowerGUI.org download page if you use the freeware version.

I will be recording screencasts for some of these specific features very soon so that you can see how they work first hand, but don’t hesitate to try them out in the meantime and ask questions if you have any.  Also please share any feedback you have for this release, I’d love to hear what you think of it and what you would like to see in future releases!

As always, thanks for your continued support, PowerGUI would not be what it is if we didn’t have such a great community!

Happy scripting!

Kirk out.

VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack – now with Visio 2010 support!

Tonight I have published a new version of the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack.  This release (version 2.4.0) is the first release that provides near 100% feature parity between both PowerGUI and the Virtualization EcoShell.  I say near 100% feature parity because PowerGUI supports displaying progress dialogs during calls to Write-Progress but the Virtualization EcoShell does not, so PowerGUI users have a minor leg up over the Virtualization EcoShell experience.  Depending on what environment you are coming from, you will notice some of the following improvements to this PowerPack:

  • Visio 2010 support for vDiagram functionality
  • Charts for virtual machines, datastores, and resource configuration data
  • Progress bars during the rendering of diagrams created with the vDiagram functionality
  • Improved layout in the nodes in the tree
  • Simplified connection logic, making it easier for you to reuse scripts generated by the PowerPack
  • Additional minor bug fixes

Note that version 4.1 of the VMware PowerCLI is not supported with this release at this time, due to a number of issues.  For now the only supported version of the VMware PowerCLI is version 4.0 U1.

If you are an existing user of this PowerPack, you will automatically get notified about the new version.  If you haven’t looked at this PowerPack yet and you manage VMware vSphere, Virtual Center, ESX, or ESXi hosts, I strongly encourage you to give this PowerPack a try.  You can download it here.  It provides an excellent management experience over those VMware hosts, and it’s free!

As usual, many of the enhancements we add in these releases are based on customer feedback on the PowerGUI Forums.  If you’d like to see more improvements to this PowerPack, please speak up and let us know on the forums.  We’re always listening!

Kirk out.

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Virtualization EcoShell and the VMware Infrastructure PowerPack

Wow, have I been busy.  In case you hadn’t noticed from my blog posts late last year and early this year, I’ve been working very hard at putting together multiple back-to-back updates for the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack for the past several months.  This has involved working long hours with many thousands of lines of PowerShell script and figuring out how to do some really cool things with both PowerShell and VMware’s PowerCLI (formerly known as the VI Toolkit).  The end result is always fulfulling, and I’m usually pretty good at setting up the really cool functionality so that I can leverage it in any PowerPack so all my hard work pays off in the long run.

A few weeks ago I finished off yet another update with some really cool new features, however this update isn’t available for the PowerGUI admin console just yet.  That update is coming shortly after we release the next version of PowerGUI, which has some functionality that it is dependent on.  If you can’t wait until then though, you can take a look at the new functionality now as part of the first public beta release of the Virtualization EcoShell that came out on April 15th.

What is the Virtualization EcoShell?  The Virtualization EcoShell is a project started by Scott Herold that was designed to provide an administrative experience that is tailored for virtualization administrators.  It is powered by PowerGUI and comes with a script editor and an admin console just like PowerGUI.  The out of the box experience is different though because it doesn’t come with PowerPacks for Exchange and Active Directory.  Instead it includes functionality that virtualization administrators care most about.  At the moment this is simply the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack, but over time this will grow to include other virtualization-related administrative functionality (think: additional VMware features, functionality to work with virtualization platforms from other vendors, and capabilities to extend into important technologies surrounding virtualization such as storage).

If you want a preview of the next generation of the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack a little early as well as a look at a new virtualization administration platform, all you have to do is pop over to the Virtualization EcoShell site and download it.  You can install and use it side-by-side with PowerGUI, so you won’t need any secondary systems or a VM to run it on either.  Once you’ve taken a look, let us know what you think or what you would like to see next on the forums!  Your feedback directly influences the features we add, and we’re listening!

Kirk out.

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VMware Infrastructure PowerPack 2.1.5 released

The PowerGUI VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack seems to be really popular with people, so I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past four months significantly enhancing that PowerPack.  Some of the enhancements are things that we wanted to put in and others are things that community members had requested (note to the reader: if you like a particular PowerPack and would like to see it improved, speak up on the PowerGUI Forums…we really take your feedback very seriously! :)).  Today I just finished posting another release of the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack with a few more enhancements, and I’m particularly happy with this one.

This release greatly improves usability through the new icons that were added (and I mean *greatly* improves…the value the icons add is huge).  It’s also the first PowerPack release that takes advantage of some really cool Visio scripts that I’ve been working on.  The Visio scripts I’m referring to were largely inspired by Alan Renouf’s vDiagram script, although the Visio script I ended up with doesn’t look anything like the original.  I’m itching to talk more about those scripts, but I want to write a blog post specifically on that topic so watch for more on this soon.  For now I’ll simply point out that to use the Visio functionality, you have to download the additional VESI_Visio.zip file that was added to the VMware Infrastructure Management PowerPack document page and install it as per the instructions in that document (see the “How to enable vDiagram support” section).  Visio 2007 is required.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to attend VMworld Europe in Cannes at the end of February, this release contains the icons and Visio features that Scott Herold was showing off during that show.  You can see a live demo of the new features on Scott’s website, here.

If you want to learn more about this PowerPack, including version history and other details, you can go here.  You can download the PowerPack from that location as well.

Kirk out.

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