What is VMware CLI?

Command Line Interface (CLI) for VMware is not just a feature but a cornerstone for effective virtualization management. Think of it as the hidden trapdoor that takes you straight to the control room of a spaceship. It’s less fancy than the graphical user interface (GUI), but it gets you direct access to the nuts and bolts of your VMware environment.

Importance of CLI over GUI

While GUIs are visually appealing and easier for beginners, they can be restrictive. The CLI allows for a level of granularity and automation that you simply can’t achieve with a GUI. It’s like comparing a multi-tool Swiss knife (CLI) with a regular knife (GUI); both have their uses, but one clearly offers more functionality.

Carbon Hypervisor Screen
Carbon Hypervisor Screen


Setting Up the VMware Environment

Before you start commanding your virtual empire, you’ll need to install VMware and set up your virtual environment. This is the equivalent of setting up your chess board before starting the game. You’ll need to ensure you have the proper hardware requirements, software dependencies, and sufficient storage space.

Gaining CLI Access

Once your environment is set up, gaining access to the CLI is your next step. This usually involves opening a terminal window within your VMware environment or connecting remotely via SSH (Secure Shell). It’s like unlocking the door to your control room with a special key.

SnapShot Master Power On
SnapShot Master Power On

Virtual Machine Management

Creating a New VM

A virtual machine (VM) in VMware is like a simulated computer running within your physical computer. Creating a new VM via the CLI is akin to setting up a new office in an empty room. You need to define its size (disk space), capacity (RAM and CPU), and connections (networking). The primary tool for this is a configuration file with a .vmx extension, which acts as your blueprint. Here, you define parameters like memsize, numvcpus, and ethernet0.connectionType.

Starting, Stopping, and Suspending VMs

Just as you wouldn’t leave all the devices in your house running when you’re not using them, you also need to manage the state of your VMs effectively. VMware CLI provides simple yet powerful commands for these operations. For instance, the vmware-cmd /path/to/vm.vmx start command fires up your VM, while vmware-cmd /path/to/vm.vmx stop will shut it down. To pause it, you’d use vmware-cmd /path/to/vm.vmx suspend, effectively freezing the VM’s state for later use.

CLI Commands: The Core Syntax

Essential Commands for Beginners

As a beginner, you don’t have to know all the commands; you just need to master a few to get started. Here are some essentials:

  • vmware -v: Displays the installed VMware version.
  • vmrun list: Lists all running VMs.
  • vmware-cmd: The Swiss Army knife of VMware CLI, used for various operations such as creating, modifying, and controlling VMs.

Advanced Commands for Seasoned Users

For those who are more comfortable, diving deeper into VMware CLI’s command set can unlock powerful functionalities. Commands like vicfg-vswitch for intricate network configurations or esxtop for real-time system monitoring are tools that offer granular control over your environment.

Network Management

Configuring Virtual Networks

Networks are the highways that data travels on, and managing them efficiently is paramount. VMware CLI allows you to configure virtual switches, port groups, and more. For example, to create a new virtual switch, you can use the vicfg-vswitch command:

vicfg-vswitch --add vSwitch1

This command is akin to laying down a new highway for your data to travel. You’re essentially giving your virtual machines more lanes to move data around.

Understanding NAT and Bridged Modes

In VMware, the NAT (Network Address Translation) and Bridged modes define how your VM interacts with your network. Bridged mode allows the VM to appear as its own entity on the network, whereas NAT places the VM behind a private network. It’s like deciding whether you want your kid to have their own room (Bridged) or share it with a sibling (NAT). The CLI lets you toggle these settings, tailoring each VM’s network access according to your needs.

SnapShot Master Home Screen
SnapShot Master Home Screen

Storage and Disk Management

Creating Virtual Disks

The primary command for creating a new virtual disk is vmkfstools. For instance, to create a 10GB disk, you would run:

vmkfstools -c 10G NewVirtualDisk.vmdk

This would allocate a 10GB disk with the label “NewVirtualDisk.”

Managing Disk Space

Over time, as data accumulates, you might need to expand your disk. The CLI makes this straightforward:

vmkfstools -X 15G NewVirtualDisk.vmdk

This resizes the disk to 15GB. This action is similar to extending a partition on a physical drive. But remember, you’ll also need to resize the partition inside the VM to make use of the new space.

Resource Allocation and Monitoring

Allocating CPU and Memory

Let’s say you have a VM that’s sluggish and needs a power boost. You can reallocate resources like CPU and RAM using various CLI commands or by directly editing the VM’s .vmx configuration file.

vi /path/to/your/vm.vmx

Inside this file, you can modify the numvcpus and memsize parameters to adjust the number of CPUs and RAM size, respectively.

Monitoring Tools in VMware CLI

Awareness is key to maintaining a healthy virtual environment. VMware CLI has commands like esxtop for real-time monitoring. It shows you an ocean of metrics like CPU usage, memory usage, and network stats—think of it as your personal weather report for the virtual environment.

Automation and Scripting

Basics of Scripting in VMware

Automation is the art of teaching your systems to do tasks without your manual intervention. In VMware CLI, this often involves writing scripts that use a series of CLI commands. Simple scripts can automate tasks like backups, while more complex ones can handle failover procedures and more.

Real-World Scripting Examples

One practical example might be a script that takes snapshots of all running VMs. Such a script would loop through all active VMs, using the vmware-cmd command to create snapshots. This is a time-saving tool that could be invaluable in a production environment.

Security Aspects

Secure Login and SSH

Secure Shell (SSH) allows for secure remote access to your VMware host. SSH is like a secure tunnel in a mountain; it ensures that no unauthorized users can snoop on your data as it travels.

Encryption and Data Protection

VMware CLI also offers options to encrypt your virtual disks, making unauthorized access to data almost impossible. It’s like installing a high-tech security system in your home, making it impenetrable to burglars.

Table of VMware CLI Commands and Their Explanations

CommandParametersDescriptionExample Usage
vmware -vN/ADisplays the installed VMware version.vmware -v
vmrun listN/ALists all currently running VMs.vmrun list
vmware-cmdMultipleA multipurpose command for VM operations like creating, modifying, and controlling VMs.vmware-cmd /path/to/vm.vmx start
vicfg-vswitch--add, --deleteManages virtual switches.vicfg-vswitch --add vSwitch1
vmkfstools-c, -XUsed for disk operations like creating and resizing virtual disks.vmkfstools -c 10G NewVirtualDisk.vmdk
esxtopN/AProvides real-time monitoring for ESXi and associated VMs.esxtop
vicfg-nics--listLists all the network interfaces on the host.vicfg-nics --list
vicfg-vmknic--addAdds a new VMkernel NIC.vicfg-vmknic --add -i -n
vim-cmdMultipleAnother multipurpose command for managing VMs and ESXi hosts.vim-cmd vmsvc/power.on VM-ID
vicfg-route--add, --deleteAdds or removes routes in the VMkernel.vicfg-route --add
vicfg-dns--dnsConfigures the DNS servers used by ESXi.vicfg-dns --dns
vicfg-user--adduserAdds a new user to the ESXi host.vicfg-user --adduser new_user --password password
vicfg-advcfgMultipleAllows for advanced configuration options for ESXi.vicfg-advcfg -g /Net/FollowHardwareMac
vicfg-syslog--serverSpecifies a syslog server for logging.vicfg-syslog --server syslog.example.com

This table provides a quick reference for the most commonly used CLI commands in VMware. Each of these commands plays a vital role in configuring, managing, and optimizing your virtual environments. Feel free to bookmark this section for easy future reference.

This wraps up our in-depth exploration of managing VMware through its CLI. The CLI offers an unparalleled level of control and customization, making it an essential tool for VMware users of all levels. From managing VMs and networks to automating complex tasks, CLI offers a robust set of features designed to make your life easier.

Carbon Hypervisor Screen
Carbon Hypervisor Screen


So, what’s the verdict? Is CLI a rudimentary, old-fashioned tool? Far from it! In the context of VMware, CLI is a powerful, intricate system that can streamline complex tasks, optimize resource allocation, and even bolster security measures. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, there’s always more to learn and explore in VMware’s CLI.


  1. Is VMware CLI difficult to learn?
    • While it has a learning curve, the VMware CLI is highly rewarding to master, offering capabilities that the GUI often can’t match.
  2. Can I manage multiple VMs at once with CLI?
    • Absolutely, automation and scripting capabilities allow you to manage multiple VMs simultaneously.
  3. Is CLI secure for remote management?
    • Yes, with SSH and various encryption options, CLI is designed with security in mind.
  4. Can I use CLI to monitor real-time system performance?
    • Yes, tools like esxtop provide comprehensive real-time statistics.
  5. Where can I find more resources to learn VMware CLI?
    • VMware’s own documentation is an excellent start. Online forums, webinars, and courses are also available for deeper understanding.

I hope you found this guide both informative and engaging! Feel free to explore the expansive world of VMware CLI.