VMware vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA) features and benefits

The VMware vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA) provides an alternative option for organizations that chose not to run the Windows vCenter Server but still require centralised management of VMware vSphere deployments in the enterprise.

It provides exactly the same functionality as the traditional Windows vCenter Server but packaged in a Linux distribution. I know that some of my pure UNIX and LINUX customers have been asking for this for a while.

It’s been available as a technology preview since 2009 as “vCenter 2.5 on Linux” but has finally arrived with vSphere 5 to give customers’ an alternative to the Windows vCenter Server. Expect to see it available for download when vSphere 5 goes GA.

*UPDATE* vSphere5 is now GA, and the vCSA is available to download here.

For more information about the vCSA, please see the resources listed here https://vmwire.com/vmware-vcenter-server-virtual-appliance-vcsa/.

I’ve been using it for a while now in the lab and have found it very easy to deploy and use. vCenter services start a lot quicker and the user experience with the VMware vSphere Client is exactly the same.

vCenter Server Virtual Appliance features and benefits

  • Installed on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 x64.
  • OVF when deployed is configured with 2vCPUs and 8Gb memory, LSI Logic Parallel, VMXNET 3, 15Gb and 60Gb VMDKs and VMware Tools.
  • Includes embedded DB2 database that is suitable for evaluation or for environments with less than 5 ESXi hosts or 50 virtual machines (equivalent to Windows vCenter Server + MSSQL Express).
  • Supports external Oracle database for large environments.
  • Includes Active Directory (AD) and Network Information Services (NIS) authentication.
  • vSphere Web Client support is built into the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance. vSphere Web Client is OS agnostic and the interface is highly customisable.
  • Windows vSphere Client is still supported.
  • Includes a pre-configured Auto Deploy server therefore reducing operational costs with the installation of Auto Deploy.
  • Can use NFS mounts to store vCenter Server Virtual Appliance core and log files.
  • vCSA can act as a syslog server for ESXi system logs.
  • Can be used as a network collector for ESXi kernel core dumps.
  • Simplified and rapid deployment, approximately 15 minutes deployment time.
  • Lower TCO by eliminating Windows OS dependency and licenses.
  • Reduces operational costs – vCSA is easier to upgrade – just deploy a new appliance and connect to the external Oracle database or
  • Import configuration data from previous installation.
  • Patches can be installed using the vCSA web interface.

Not yet feature parity with Windows vCenter Server

vCenter Server Virtual Appliance provides all features as the Windows vCenter Server but does not support the following features:

  • Microsoft SQL as the database for vCenter.
  • vCenter Server Linked Mode.
  • vCenter Server Heartbeat.
  • IPv6.

For details on what products are supported with the vCSA please see this post.

I’ve provided a quick start guide including a 10-minute how-to video demonstrating the deployment and administration in this post.


Author: Hugo Phan


38 thoughts on “VMware vCenter Server Virtual Appliance (vCSA) features and benefits”

    1. No linked mode support means no pooled vRAM between different vCenter instances. Pooled vRAM still exists on all hosts managed by an individual vCSA though.

    1. Single Sign on does work, I’m using it right now! Have you made sure to turn on AD authentication in your web admin console, and also add an AD user or group to the Administrators group in your vCenter permissions tab?

      Failing that you could try putting your vCenter onto a static IP address.

      1. Sign-on using Windows Credentials doesn’t work for me either. If I type my domain username/password it works fine.

        AD Authentication is setup properly, and vCenter is joined to the domain, and I have a static IP.

        1. Have you tried putting in IPv6 address information (even if it is blank) as this is the only was I could find to enter DNS settings and Hostname also?

  1. Does anyone know if the vCenter Server Appliance actually needs 8GB of ram? Seems a bit overkill for us, we only have 3 hosts and >10 VM’s.

    I’ve turned it down to 4GB and it seems to run without issue, can anyone say if this will cause me a problem in the future?

    Other than that I really like it, as others have state, it saves having ANOTHER MS box online chewing up resources…


    1. Karl

      I have a 5 host network with 40 VMs. It definitely needed it for our network. Not sure what the tipping point is between an install of your size and ours. My problem since inception (~5 months ago) was lots of core dump files filling up the disk. This happened initially and filled up the volumes. VMWare tech support assisted (deleted core dumps) and we added more RAM. Worked fine for a few months and then started seeing lots of time outs and general sluggishness in vCenter. Had a discussion with local VMWare VAR and they said they still recommend the Windows or vCenter for all but the smallest environments or quick setup labs (for which VCSA seems to be fine). I have a simple config and attempted to install the 5.01A update via the VCSA web console. I also created the 20GB slice for the DB conversion files (VCAS 5.01A converts the DB2 DB to Postgres) before the install. I clicked the install button and it ran over the weekend without completing. Called VMWare in the AM on Monday and long story short, we detected a bunch of large core dump files again and after forced reboot the DB was toast. No big deal in my case as all I needed to preserve were vSwitch settings which are on ESXi hosts.

      I decided to wipe the VCSA and rebuild Windows based vCenter. Despite pain of reconnecting Equallogic HIT kit, was fairly easy. This system is running on a dedicated Dell R610 with 8GB RAM, dual 120GB SSDs, and dual 2.26Ghz Xeons E5520s. If that isn’t enough juice for the VCSA I don’t know what is. I think VMWare should be a little bit more deliberate in pointing out it is only for small installs. Wasn’t immediately obvious to me when I decided to deploy it. I think they are trying to do that now.

  2. Cannot find this download anywhere anymore!
    Has it moved?
    I have a working(!) install but not getting anything other than system and network tabs and nothing to do with authentication or database, embedded or otherwise.
    What have I done wrong?
    Needless to say, I did not get the same setup screens as per your post or video.
    Any help greatly appreciated.

    1. OK, did not have the system vmdk in there so giving it another go as previous version without licence limits.
      The latest version indicates it needs licencing with vSphere 5 keys so may not be the go-er the previous versions were for many of us.

      1. No, wrong, did have the system disk and this was parsed by the import but I don’t have a data disk so think this is my problem. Not sure why I didn’t get this in the 2.5 download and cannot find it now so if anyone knows of a download link for the last version(2.5) would be appreciated. Anyone listening!?!

  3. One thing to be aware of, this apparently is not being widely adopted yet; at least according to VMware tech I’m working with. My vCenter has been down for a week. i installed vCSA back in September and it ran like a top until last week when I noticed the thin provisioned disks had maxed out. I logged into the console and the logs had not been rolling over and had maxed out the slice dedicated to them. I opened a ticket with VMWare and while I’ve gotten lots of attention they still do not have a solution. Something is preventing the database from quiescing long enough for the logs to be processed and pruned. Still not sure what the issue is but I wish VMWare was more on top of something they were selling. Fortunately for me I have a fairly small and static environment, no DRS, so not having vCenter running kills my monitoring ability but that is about it. I do need it running again soon though so hopefully they can figure out what is wrong. Not looking forward to starting from scratch or returning to Windows based host due to lengthy install.

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  5. Thanks for the information yes It provides exactly the same functionality as the traditional Windows vCenter Server but packaged in a Linux distribution. We provide IT maintenance plan for your organization with cost effective manner.

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