Q. Can I install software into the ESX Service Console?

A. While ESX uses a Linux-based environment for the Service Console, which you can connect to using the VMware vSphere client, the environment is highly customized for the purposes of ESX and isn't designed to have other software installed unless absolutely necessary.

It's often asked if antivirus should be installed in the Service Console and the answer is generally no, because the Linux environment of the service console is very lightweight and has high security, so it's very resilient against viruses. Running antivirus software on the Service Console could cause performance problems, and generally antivirus software should be installed in a virtual machine (VM). Remember that viruses can't pass between VMs through the VMKernel. If you have to install antivirus software in the Service Console, make sure it's designed for the Linux version and is configured as minimally as possible.

Some legitimate third-party software in the service console could need to interact directly with the hardware. Make sure these application get installed on a service console that runs directly on the hardware.

If you install third-party software, you should also be mindful of the limited memory the service console has by default and consider increasing the memory (up to the maximum of 800MB, if needed) from the default of 358MB. See this VMware page for more about changing the memory of the service console. For more details, see this PDF, which outlines key files that can and cannot be changed by third party software.

Related Reading:

Check out hundreds more useful Q&As like this in John Savill's FAQ for Windows. Also, watch instructional videos made by John at ITTV.net.
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