VMware Skyline is the new incarnation of VMware’s previous tool called vCenter Support Assistant. The main purpose of the tool is:

  1. To proactively analyze a vSphere environment (vCenter, ESXi, vSAN, NSX) and alert the customer when it finds potential problems, such as configuration problems, known problem driver versions or performance data.
  2. To automate the job of creating support bundles and uploading them to VMware Support Services
  3. (Future feature) Assist in upgrading the environment.

This blog post will go through the major details of VMware Skyline, and compare its features to another product, called Runecast Analyzer, which is much more competent in some of the areas, and which also does not send potentially sensitive customer IT environment metadata out of the datacenter/country.

Skyline is free to use for anyone with a VMware Production Support agreement. The on-prem part consists of a virtual appliance that you install in your vSphere environment and connect to vCenter Server and/or NSX Manager. The installation process is neatly described in a step-by-step guide at https://skyline.vmware.com/get-started/

The appliance needs to be paired with the back-end, which is hosted in VMware Cloud Services. This means you will need a VMware Cloud Services account and an organization to connect Skyline to, which is not always easy to get set up. You can find more information about VMware Cloud Services on https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Cloud-services/ – If you want to use your MyVMware account instead, it’s also possible for now.

Do make sure that your company security policy allows for vSphere/NSX metadata such as VM names and IP addresses to be sent to a cloud service, probably abroad, depending on where you live.

Once you’re all set up, you now have three interfaces:

1. The main web UI in the cloud service at https://skyline.vmware.com/advisor/ – Here you will see the proactive recommendations (see screenshot below, showing one of the proactive warnings) as well as the Log Assist feature which is one of the places where you can create and upload the support bundles to support cases.

2. The other main interface is the Skyline plug-in items that show up in the vCenter Server web UI. (Correction: The screenshot below shows the vSphere Health section that’s associated with VMware’s Customer Experience Improvement Program, not Skyline. There is in fact no Skyline vCenter Plugin, which would explain why I didn’t find any documentation on it) 🙂

The plugin also provides a feature to upload a file directly to an existing VMware Support Services Service Request (see screenshot below). (Correction: This is also included in vSphere, and is not added by Skyline.) This is not as easy as doing it in the Skyline Advisor web interface above, since here we have to create and download the support bundle and then manually type the SR# and upload it.

3. The Skyline appliance also has an admin interface, but you will only need to visit it when changing features, connecting to vCenter/NSX, troubleshooting etc. (See screenshot below)

 

(Full disclosure: Real Time Services where I work is a reseller partner of Runecast)

Most of my customers will probably want to install VMware Skyline to use the Log Assist feature, since it streamlines the upload of support bundles. However, the number of proactive checks is pretty bleak compared to Runecast Analyzer’s 1500+ checks. The screenshot below shows a small part of them:

 

Runecast can also detect issues by continuously analyzing the logs from the ESXi hosts (and soon also vCenter Server, NSX Manager and Horizon)

It also keeps all the logs and configuration data locally in your datacenter, rather than sending them out/abroad to a cloud service, plus it supports checking VMware Horizon, which Skyline doesn’t.

Another great feature is the dashboard and the reports, that you can use to visualize and track the progress of your stability/security/hardening work to show your organization that you are making progress (hopefully). 🙂

 

In summary, I recommend everyone to install and evaluate both VMware Skyline and Runecast Analyzer, since they both have very useful and unique features.

Let us know if you need any help or guidance around these two products.