There are a few different ways to install VMware Tools on Linux. The quickest is to use the Operating System Specific Packages (OSPs) — an online repository of packages built for certain popular Linux distributions. When deploying Ubuntu in the datacenter, it makes sense to choose the Long Term Support (LTS) releases — version 12.04 “Precise Pangolin” as of this writing, which has OSP support.
It is easy enough to install the OSPs manually, but it’s even better to automate the process along with the OS deployment. Ubuntu uses Debian “preseeding” for automated installs, which is similar to Kickstart.
The following preseed directives will add the VMware Tools OSP repository, import crypto keys, and install the “nox” tools, which are appropriate for GUI-less servers (be sure to remove or modify the http_proxy setting for your environment):
d-i apt-setup/local0/repository string http://packages.vmware.com/tools/esx/5.1u1/ubuntu precise main
d-i apt-setup/local0/comment string VMware OSP Tools
d-i preseed/late_command string in-target sh -c "export http_proxy=http://proxy.example.com:3128; wget http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-RSA-KEY.pub -O - | apt-key add - ; wget http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-DSA-KEY.pub -O - | apt-key add - ; apt-get update"; apt-install vmware-tools-esx-nox
Perform an automated PXE install and your vSphere VM will be ready for service: