Alongside its traditional vCenter release for Windows, VMware has also released a vCenter Server Appliance which is aimed directly at environments that aren’t currently using Windows-based vCenter server installs. In this post, I’m going to walk thru what’s involved with downloading, installing, and configuring the vSphere 5 vCenter Server Appliance.
I had a bit of a time finding the download; I’d assumed it would be listed under the general vSphere 5 downloads. Turns out it’s listed on the vCenter 5 download page, after you login to accept the EULA and begin the download process. The download itself comes in three parts: 1 for the .ovf, and the other 2 for .vmdk’s. One .vmdk is the system disk and is about 4GB; the other is the data disk and is about 40MB. (I’m not sure why VMware decided to distribute it this way, versus being in an all-in-one zipfile, like the vMA.)
After the download is complete, you’ll need to connect to a vSphere host using the vSphere client to begin the process of importing the appliance. Pro tip: Don’t do this part over wireless if you’re in a hurry 🙂 I’ve successfully deployed the appliance using the vSphere 5 client to an ESXi 5 host as well as using the vSphere 4.1 client to an ESXi 4.1 U1 host.
When the import is finished and the VM is powered on, you’ll have to go thru a text based wizard not unlike the first time setup for vMA. When you’re done, you’ll need to follow the steps listed onscreen (image below).
After you navigate to the URL listed and login (defaults are root/vmware according to the documentation, you’ll need to accept the EULA to begin the process of configuring and starting vCenter.
The process of configuring vCenter is fairly straightforward. First, you’ll need to choose a database. The only two options are embedded and Oracle. Make your selection or fill in the fields, then choose Test Settings to verify. If it works satisfactorily, save the settings. This will initialize the database.
At this point you can choose to start vCenter services and immediately get to work adding objects into vCenter, or you can further configure the appliance’s supported inventory size, port selections, administrator password, or log file storage points.
The really nice thing about the vCenter appliance is that it already comes with vSphere Auto Deploy, ESXi Syslog Collector, and ESXi Dump Collector (these are the log file storage points shown above). The embedded database does have its limitations, although I’m not entirely clear on whether it’s 5 hosts/50 VMs or 100 hosts/1000 VMs. The documentation says the latter, though I’ve read the former from a reliable source. (Update: Justin King says in the comment below that the limit is 5/50. There’s a VMware KB article on it, and the documentation will be updated to reflect it.) On the downside, VMware Update Manager is not available as part of the vCenter Server appliance, although it should be available when installed on a Windows server and connected to the vCenter appliance (but that sort of defeats the purpose of the appliance, in my opinion).
If you have a chance, I highly recommend installing and configuring the vCenter appliance.