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.