Installing VMware Tools OSPs in SLES for VMware

Virtual machines are not fully functional until VMware Tools are installed in each guest operating system.  If you are using SLES for VMware, there is an alternate approach that you can use to install Tools.  Regardless of the virtualization platform, in-guest tools ensure the best performance for any VM.

In this article, I will walk you through the process of installing VMware Tools on SLES for VMware using the VMware Operating System Specific Packages (OSPs).   These pre-built packages are designed especially for the most popular Linux distributions so that native package managers can be used.  The package manager for SLES is called zypper.

Traditionally, Tools are installed from one of several ISO images that ship as part of VMware vSphere.  While it may be tempting to install VMware Tools on SLES for VMware using the vSphere Client, do not do this:

Unless you have software development packages installed in your guest OS — not a great strategy for production servers — the VMware Tools installation will not succeed.  Part of the installation requires gcc to compile kernel modules and will fail:

This is where OSPs come in.  Setting them up is not a challenge for experienced Linux administrators — the OSP documentation clearly explains how to configure everything.  Here is the process to get Tools up and running on SLES for VMware:

And here is part of the process in action:

After rebooting the VM, the vSphere Client will report that VMware Tools are Unmanaged.  This may be an unfortunate choice in terminology, but what it means is that Tools did not come from the vSphere ISO images — they are OSP Tools.

VMware Tools provide optimized drivers for guest operating system devices as well as the balloon driver needed to overcommit memory.  Hopefully this overview gives you a jump start on getting the most out of SLES for VMware.

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7 comments

  1. Brad Clarke’s avatar

    The drawback to using this method is you sometimes have to wait for VMware to release a new package before you can use a new kernel version. If you’re quick to install security updates you may have to choose between a working VMware Tools and a fully patched kernel.

    1. Eric Gray’s avatar

      Brad,

      Are you using a distro-provided kernel? I’m curious how often an update breaks OSP Tools in your experience.

      I just updated a SLES for VMware VM from 2.6.32.12 to 2.6.32.19 and the OSP Tools continued chugging along just fine without any intervention on my part.

      Eric

    2. Neil’s avatar

      Nice article Eric. 😉

    3. John Laur’s avatar

      I have found the OSP packages to be terribly cumbersome, and as Brad Clarke says above, they aren’t ever kept in line with the OS security updates. To even come close to being usable, I have to patch the OSP sources and rebuild new packages. The “Unmanaged” nomenclature in the VI client is absolutely absurd and makes it difficult to determine which of your VM’s has out of date tools. These tools have build numbers the same as the others and with a small tweak or two you can get the “Unmanaged” message off of there. I’ve even had VMWare support tell me to install the tools because it says “Unmanaged”

      I really appreciate vmware providing these packages, but they leave quite a bit to be desired.

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