MultiSSH: Productivity Multiplier for Managing Multiple Servers like ESXi

As I develop software, I rarely need to manage several servers using SSH at same time. If I do, I just manually connect to each server and type same commands over and over. Of course, it takes much time for the repeated work. More importantly, it’s very hard to repeat the steps consistently across multiple servers especially when there are more than 4 servers.

While working on my client projects recently, I learned a new tool called MultiSSH that can connect to many servers and display them in sub-windows, each of which looks the same as normal terminal but smaller as it share the desktop with other sub-windows. You can type in a command once, and execute it on all servers. The output of the command displays in each sub-window, therefore it’s very easy to do comparison across servers. You also click in any sub-window and interact only with that server behind.

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Although you can use it to SSH to any servers, I normally use it with servers of same types, for example, all ESXi servers, or all CentOS servers. Then, I don’t need to worry about which command works and which don’t.

To install the MultiSSH tool, you just type in the following on Ubuntu:

# apt-get install mssh

To use the tool, just type in the following comamnds and have 4 sub-windows:

# mssh

Because the servers are on the same subnet, you can use the following shortcut command:

# mssh 192.168.1.{2,3,4,5}

The number of windows do not need to be an even number, or times of 4. When you have odd number of servers, the sub window sizes may be different to fill the big rectangle application window.

After using the MultiSSH for a little while, the content of each sub-windows may vary quite bit. To re-align up, I found an easy trick to reset all the sub-windows (assuming you connect to Linux or ESXi):

# clear

While there is no real limit on number of servers to connect, the sub windows become too small to use when it’s above 16. Beyond that, you really have to think about automation with scripting SSH. Check out my other post on SSH in Python.

Update: Thanks to Cody Bunch, there is a very similar tool called csshX for Mac users. Also thanks to Bob Plankers for recommending Capistrano for server automation.

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One Comment

  1. Komissar Klefisch
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Available with the best terminal program ever SecureCRT for years…

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