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Ok, we all know (or should know) the ESX Service Console isn't actually a Linux system, but a custom Linux distribution running inside the ESX hypervisor, in order to allow its management.

Yet, regardless of that, questions arise: if one were to install all of the required programs (X11, Gnome/KDE, etc.), would the Service Console actually be able to run a graphical environment? Or would it be unable to access the server's graphic hardware due to the underlying hypervisor?

I'm not saying this would be a good idea; and I'm quite confident it's not even possible. But today I was discussing the issue with a friend... a friend which, BTW, thinks ESX is only some kind of program running on a Linux system, and the VMKernel is some sort of Linux kernel module. An all-too-common mistake.

Anyway, would X be able to run in the Service Console?
Did anyone ever actually manage to make it run?

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In the full ESX (not ESXi) it's probably possible, but why would you want to? The hypervisor should be as thin as possible (this is the concept behind ESXi), and adding a fat GUI that will suck up RAM and CPU doesn't make much sense...

Also, Re: the service console -- My understanding is that the non-i version of ESX is actually a Linux system (fully-fledged installed Linux distro) with an in-kernel hypervisor and hypervisor daemons. You can kill off the ESX daemons and treat it just like a regular linux box, though it's pretty striped down.

This is why there is no "service console" in the ESXi family -- If it were simply a built-in VM with special access privileges there would be no reason to deprecate it :-)

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I definitely don't want to do it, but I'm curious about the technical issue (and have a bet going with my friend) :-) – Massimo Aug 5 '10 at 17:09
Also, the SC actually is a VM; much more in ESX 4 than in 3.5, where it was something quite more hybrid... yet, it's the VMKernel which runs things, the SC is only a little more than a fancy user interface; it doesn't even see the VM processes (compare top with esxtop). – Massimo Aug 5 '10 at 17:11
That's probably true Re: ESX4 - the last time I had a hypervisor with a service console was in the 3/3.5 days and while it was definitely not seeing "everything" it was able to poke the hardware pretty directly. If 4 can render stuff on the console I'd imagine it can handle at least a basic X server though... – voretaq7 Aug 5 '10 at 18:44
Aside: ESXi (at least 3.5) does have a "service console" (from which you can enable SSH), it's just unsupported. You can do things like twiddle the datastore and resize disks from it. But it is incredibly minimal vs. the (customised RHEL?) console of paid ESX. – Andrew Aug 5 '10 at 22:45

We agree that you must not mess with the hypervisor, but how about if a VM could access video card? This would give that server workstation capabilities too.

Also, not having to mess with video cards makes vmware team life easier.

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