software development, virtualization

Introducing the H9Labs Search Bar Plug-in for VI3

Better Late Than Never

Dang the inter webs are fast! Before I was able to get a blog post up describing the new plug-in and how to use it, the Twitter world was already alive with news of my latest creation. I suppose I should be flattered, but I do like to stay ahead of things with all the right documentation in order to reduce confusion. Well, better late than never I suppose…

A Brief Explanation

As some of you may know, I have released a new VI3 plug-in via H9Labs called the Search Bar Plug-in for VI3. The plug-in adds search capabilities to VI3 clients through an integrated search bar in the upper-left hand corner of the client. This functionality is present by default in VMware’s recently announced vSphere4, but severely lacking in VI3. I, along with my CTO, Dave McCrory (who gave me great advice on the plug-in and produced the H9Labs graphics for it), figured we would simply back port the search capabilities from vSphere4 into VI3.

The H9Labs Search Bar Plug-in for VI3 in action
The H9Labs Search Bar Plug-in for VI3 in action

Installing the Plug-in

The plug-in should be simple to install. Simply go to the Hyper9 Store and download the installer (free registration required). Because I am now working for Hyper9, you will have to create a free account to access my software. I’m sorry, but those are the breaks necessary to pay a mortgage in today’s US economy.

Once you have the installer simply double-click on it to launch the installation wizard. The only value you should have to enter is the name of the Hyper9 server you want to the plug-in to interact with. If you don’t have a Hyper9 server I highly recommend that you download one and give it a try at Hyper9.com. If you do not have or do not wish to try a Hyper9 server at this moment then you can simply leave the field blank and click next. Once the installer has completed, you may launch the VI client.

Using the Plug-in

Once the VI client has finished starting up you may notice a few additions to the interface.

A close-up of the H9Labs Search Bar Plug-in for VI3
A close-up of the H9Labs Search Bar Plug-in for VI3

For one, there is now a new button in the main toolstrip. This is the Hyper9 button that will launch the Hyper9 interface directly from within the VI client. If you did not specify a Hyper9 server during installation then this button will simply take you to the Hyper9 website.

The second addition is a little more obvious: there is now a text box located next to the VMware logo in the upper-right hand section of the VI client. Pretty cool huh? Kids, if you want to try adding components directly to the VI client, I will give you this hint. Remember, you’re working in .NET, and you can basically do whatever you want to a program running in .NET by attaching to running memory and manipulating it as you see fit. We in the biz call it gleaming the cube. Okay, we don’t really call it that. Well, okay, I have no idea what the biz is. I’m just saying, that you too can modify the .NET client, but aside from telling that it requires some serious reflection (<– HINT, HINT) on your part, I cannot give your further pointers.

VI admins can use the search bar to find items in the VI inventory by using pattern matching on names and IP addresses (for VMs and hosts). The search bar’s drop-down menu divides results into several categories.

  • Clusters
  • Datacenters
  • Datastores
  • Folders
  • Hosts
  • Networks
  • ResourcePools
  • Templates
  • VirtualMachines

You can also short-cut searches to a specific type of object by prefixing the search pattern with the following text:

  • ccr:
  • cr:
  • dc:
  • ds:
  • folder:
  • host:
  • ip:
  • net:
  • rp:
  • template:
  • vm:

All of the prefixes should be self-explanatory except for perhaps the cr: and ccr: prefixes. Those match compute resources and cluster compute resources, or as the latter is more commonly known, clusters.

One of the really cool features of the plug-in is that when you find the item you are looking for, double-click on it with your mouse or highlight it and click Enter and the VI inventory will change views to display the item. For example, if you are currently looking the the Hosts and Folders view and you click on a Datastore, the inventory will change to the Datastore view. Cool, huh?

At any time in the VI3 client a VI admin can use the key combination Ctrl-Shift-f to jump directly to the search bar. While in the search bar a user can type a search and then use the down arrow key to move into the search results and then use the Backspace or Escape keys to go back to the search box.

You can also simply strike the Enter key while typing in a search and the VI client will transition to the integrated Hyper9 interface and submit your search query to the Hyper9 server, leveraging the wondrous and magical powers of Hyper9. Additionally, you can right-click on hosts and VMs in the VI inventory tree and then click on the Hyper9 menu item to search for that item in the Hyper9 interface as well.

That’s All I Have to Say About That…

If you have any questions, check out the search bar’s support forum at the Hyper9 community portal. I will leave you with this screen cast walking you through how to use the plug-in by Hyper9’s resident genius, Zahid Ghauri.

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