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What is VMware vCenter Server Appliance?

Prior to vSphere 5.0, we can only run vCenter on Windows Server, either on physical or virtual machine (VM ). Since vSphere 5.1, VMware provide an option to run vCenter in the form of VM appliance.

vCenter Server Appliance ( vCSA ) is a package system based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 64 bit. In early versions of vCSA, it includes IBM DB2 database that sufficient to manage maximum 5 vSphere host or up to 50 VM. In vCSA 5.5, VMware replace IBM DB2 databases with vPostgres and increase capability so that each vCSA can handle up to 300 hosts and 3000 VM.

Just like Windows -based vCenter Server, vCSA can also be managed using web access or via vSphere client, although VMware improving web based applications so that most of the new features can only be managed through vCenter Web Access client.
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The advantages of using vCenter appliance

  1. Deployment Simplification, the system configuration mostly done by using web, installing the Windows-based vSphere client is not mandatory. Web client interface can be accessed either via Windows or Linux or Mac
  2. Lower license costs, because we do not need to buy a Windows license for vCenter Server and Windows client (XP, Vista, 7 , 8 ) for vSphere client as if using Windows based vSphere client
  3. Universal Access. We can manage vSphere environment by using browser
  4. Future models. Some applications such as VMware vSphere Data Protection can only be accessed using vCenter Webclient

Disadvantages of Using the vCenter Appliance

  1. vCenter Linked Mode. Link mode option for vCenter integration not available on vCSA
  2.  Microsoft SQL Server Database. vCSA doesn’t  support  Microsoft SQL Server database
  3. IPv6. vCSA access using IPv6 currently not supported

Appliance Deployment

vCenter appliance can be downloaded via http://vmware.com/download in the form of an .ova and .ovf file as well. Prior to deployment, prepare the following matters :

  • Resources capability to deploy VM with minimum 8 GB of memory, at least a dual core processor with a minimum capacity of 125 GB disk (use thick provisioning mechanism) . vCenter Appliance can run as a VM on VMware vSphere or VMware Workstation
  • vCenter Server Appliance (OVF+VMDK or OVA version), can be downloaded from VMWare website
  • Proper DNS settings to identify for vCenter and host naming resolution

To deploy vCenter Appliance, please do the following :

  1. Open the vCenter Client and connect to the destination host
  2. Select the menu File | Deploy OVF Template
    vavai-excellent-vmware-vcenter-appliance-deployment
  3. Select the .OVA or OVF file
  4. Follow the deployment wizard instruction
    vavai-excellent-vmware-vcenter-appliance-deployment-wizard
  5. After finishing deployment wizard,  start vCenter for initial setup. Please be patient ;-)
    vavai-excellent-vmware-vcenter-cli
    Note : These are possibly incorrect network settings for initial setup due to availability/unavailability of DHCP server. to reset or modify network settings, navigate to console with the user name : root and password : vmware then run the command :

    /opt/vmware/share/vami/vami_config_net

    vavai-vcenter-setup1
    Change the network configuration according to the correct configuration 

  6. After completing the installation and configuration of the network, please access the web menu on https://IP-Address-vCenter:5480, for example https://192.168.1.24:5480 or https://vcenter-lab.excellent.co.id. Log in using the default user : root and the default password : vmware
    vavai-vcenter-setup2
  7. On the first step , click “Accept License Agreement”. vCenter will checking the configuration and restart the service. Wait for a moment until the system goes into the next wizard
    vavai-vcenter-setup3
  8. The next part is vCenter configuration settings. Here we can upgrade the settings from previousversion, import configuration files from the backup configuration as well as from other vCenter or perform custom configurations. For initial setup, leave the settings as is and select the Configure option with Default Settings button
    vavai-vcenter-setup4
  9. Click Start to starting  vCenter system configuration. The process will take between 5-10 minutes. If there is a failure at this stage, re-check the VM specification or VM configuration. Based on my experience, the configuration process may fail if vCenter has only 4 or 6 GB of memory
    vavai-vcenter-setup5
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  10. Once the configuration process is complete , click the Close button. vCenter will automatically displaying the dashboard panel as shown on the following screenshot
    vavai-vcenter-setup7
  11. To manage VM or host using vCenter, we can use vCenter web client by opening address https://IP-vCenter or http://hostname-vCenter, for example https://192.168.1.24 or https://vcenter- lab.excellent.co.id on browser and then select the Log in to vSphere web Client menu on top right corner
    vavai-vcenter-setup8
  12. Log in using the the default root user and default password : vmware
    vavai-vcenter-setup9
  13. Below are vCenter web client with default settings
    vavai-vcenter-setup10
  14. vCenter can also be accessed using the Windows based vSphere client
    vavai-vcenter-setup11

After installing and configuring vCenter system, we can manage vSphere environment and applying some rule or advanced features such as vSphere HA, DRS, vMotion, FT, etc.

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