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.
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.
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.
The vCenter Server Linux Virtual Appliance (vCSA) is a preconfigured Linux-based virtual machine that is optimized for running vCenter Server and associated services.
This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to deploy the vCSA, configure networking, authentication, database and vCenter services. For further information regarding the vCSA please refer to this post and this post. To use an external Oracle database instead of the embedded DB2 database, please see this post.
Now read through every single word of the EULA and click on Accept EULA to continue. Please be patient whilst the vCenter is configured. If you look at the appliance remote console you’ll see the services being configured and started.
You can start using the web interface again once the console screen returns to default.
Next click on Status, and view the current status of the vCenter Server. The service should be on a Stopped state and the Database Type should show not configured.
Click on the tab, you will notice that there are no DNS Servers configured and the appliance’s hostname is the standard localhost.localdom, lets change this.
Click on and change to your relevant values and click on to complete the network configuration.
Now setup authentication by clicking on and then on either NIS or Active Directory. My lab environment uses AD.
Click on the tick box and then fill in your domain details and then click on Save Settings. You should receive an Operation is successful message to confirm that the authentication settings has worked.
We now need to configure a database for vCenter to use, for this article, let’s use the embedded DB2 database. Click on to continue.
When using the embedded database, there is no need to enter any details, just click on . This will take a while to complete, once done click on . After some time the database will complete configuration.
Now reboot the virtual appliance one last time. To reboot click on and then click on . Click Reboot again to confirm.
This time the vCenter Appliance will successfully start the vpxd daemon and initialize the database, eventually vCenter 5.0 will be ready for you to use.
Connecting to vCenter 5.0 for the first time
With all VMware vSphere Clients, when you start the vSphere Client and connect to either a vCenter Server or an ESX/ESXi host, it will check whether the vSphere Client is compatible. This is still the case with vSphere 5.0 and you will need to update your vSphere Client if you haven’t already done so. You can update by connecting to vCenter Server or ESX/ESXi or you can download the vSphere Client executable from the VMware Downloads website.
Launch the vSphere Client and connect to your newly configured vCenter Server.
You must use root | vmware to login, domain credentials will not work until the permissions are added to vCenter.
Update the vSphere Client as necessary.
Add an AD group into vCenter permissions and set the role as Administrator. [See video].
Now you will be able to log in with domain credentials.
You will need to enter your username in DOMAIN\Username or username@DOMAIN format.
It is also possible to just use the vSphere Web Client by opening up a browser session to https://<ip_of_vCSA>:9443/vsphere-client/