Deploying vCenter Appliance 6.X

AlphaCMD IT Posts, VMware

Minimum configuration requirements:

  • vCenter 6.X (6.7 used in this example) installation ISO. This can be obtained from VMware’s website.
  • 1 server installed with ESXi 6.5 or later, online and reachable on the network (see here for ESXi installation instructions)
  • 1 Domain controller is online and configured with a domain.
  • 1 Domain controller with DNS configured for both the forwarder domain and reverse lookup zone.

Recommended information to gather prior to starting:

  • Network information to assign to the vCenter
  • Hostname to assign the vCenter
  • The static IP of the ESXi host that you’re going to deploy the vCenter to

Step 1: Preparing Systems for vCenter Deployment

The first thing that we need to do is make sure that the vCenter’s intended FQDN can be resolved by DNS. This is an essential step to the configuration. When we set up the vCenter and give it a hostname, the web application will only respond to the correct hostname. As well as the vCenter DNS record, I will be also creating a DNS record for the ESXi Host that I am deploying the vCenter to. This will allow for the hostname to show up in the vCenter correctly when it is deployed instead of an IP address.

To do this, we simply need to add an “A” record to the DNS.

On a domain controller, open up DNS. You can find this in the start menu search or under Administrative Tools > DNS.

When the DNS Window opens, navigate on the left hand bar by expanding the ticks next to each OU. To add a DNS entry, expand the server, then expand “Forward Lookup Zones”, then click on the domain you wish to add the DNS entry to.

From here right click on your domain name and select “New Host (1 or AAAA)”

The resulting window will allow you fill in the information for adding a new host. Fill in the host name of the vCenter as well as the IP address you intend to assign it. When the information is filled in, hit “Add Host”

Step 2: Beginning the deployment

On your local computer, mount the vCenter Server Appliance installation ISO. The installer for 6.x should support installers on Windows, MacOS and Linux. On all 3 operating systems, simply double clicking on the ISO should mount it to the system. With defaulted security settings, MacOS and Linux there may be extra steps in the deployment in the event of any errors.

When the ISO mounts to the system, open it up in your systems file explorer. You will have several read me files and 7 folders. In this example we will be using the UI installer. To launch this installer, open the folder titled “vcsa-ui-installer”. From here, select your operating system, in this example, win32. Then Double click on the installer file listed as an application. This should have an associated VMware logo.

When the GUI installer opens, you will have 4 options.

  1. Install
  2. Upgrade
  3. Migrate
  4. Restore

In this example we don’t have an existing vCenter, which are required for options 2-4. Select install to begin the deployment.

The introduction will just explain the two major stages, the deployment and set up. Select next to begin.

The next window will display the EULA agreement. To continue, check the box to accept the terms and conditions and hit next.

The following window will ask what kind of deployment you’re intending to deploy. There are two options the first, is a vCenter server with an embedded Platform Services Controller (PSC) or a vCenter server and external PSC. You’re going to want to choose the embedded PSC. The PSC is being deprecated by VMware as the embedded version has all of the same functionality as an external PSC without the complexity of the external architecture. Select Next to continue.

This window will request the basic information for the deployment. The first is going to be the FQDN or IP address of the ESXi server that we are going to deploy the vCenter to.

The second thing that will be requested is what port HTTPS should be available on. This should be auto filled to 443. I would advise leaving it defaulted unless you have configured the ESXi server to respond on a different port for HTTPS.

The last request will be for the username and password to log into the ESXi server. These credentials need to have full administrative rights on the ESX server. In this case, I have used the default of root.

When you select next, you will see it try to connect to the ESXi server. When it connects, it will ask you if you want to accept the provided SSH key. Select yes and the Appliance VM settings window. There will be 3 fields to fill in.

The first is the VM Name, this should have some text auto filled into it. This field can be whatever you would like it to be. This is the name of the VM that will show up in your vCenter and ESXi server when you’re working in the web interface. This will not the FQDN of the server. For simplicity, I’ve named this one “vCenter”.

The second and third will be to set the root password for the vCenter appliance. This is used when logging into the server via SSH or the VMware remote console. The password requirements for the root password are:

  • At least 8 characters
  • No more than 20 characters
  • At least one uppercase letter
  • At least one lowercase letter
  • At least one number
  • Only visible letters, numbers and punctuation
  • Spaces are not allowed

When all of this is filled in, hit next.

The following window will be to select the deployment size.

There are 5 sizes to the deployment and the judgement of how large the vCenter should be is based on the number of hosts and VMs. The storage size is for how much is allocated for the vCenter to store things like logs, alarms, events, tasks, things of this nature.

The vCPUs, the Memory and storage columns show how much space will be used by the vCenter as opposed to how much it can administrate.

In this example I will be using the tiny deployment as I will only be adding 3 hosts and likely no more than 25 VMs, and likely not all being online at the same time.

The next window is for the datastore and storage settings.

The first thing it will ask is if you want to install the vCenter on a local ESX datastore or a new vSAN cluster. If you select the datastore, there will be no additional configuration settings for this deployment. I would advise checking the box to enable thin disk mode to save as much space as possible.

The second option is to install on a new vSAN cluster. You can go this route however, if you intend to use vSAN I would suggest configuring it post-Deployment. In this article I will not be going over this option.

Select next when you are ready to continue.

The next window will be for all of the network settings required for deployment. The required information will be as follows:

Configuration Purpose
Network This will be the ESXi’s network port groups. Select one with LAN access.
IP Version IPv4 or IPv6. This should match the network type your assigning as the IP.
IP Assignment Static or DHCP. Static is for a dedicated address, DHCP is for DHCP given IP.
FQDN This is what you will use for admin access. It should match the DNS record.
IP Address The static IP address of the vCenter server.
Subnet mask or CIDR This will be the Subnet Mask or CIDR. Ex. or 24
Default Gateway The Default gateway for the network.
DNS Servers This should be the Domain controller(s) that are hosting DNS
HTTP Port 80 – Leave this defaulted unless you have very specific requirements
HTTPS Port 443 – Leave this defaulted unless you have very specific requirements

When all information is filled in and correct, select next.

This will bring up the ready to complete screen. Carefully verify all information on the screen to ensure it is correct. When you are satisfied, select finish to begin deployment. WARNING: This is a point of no return. Once you start this deployment, you cannot stop the deployment without having to completely deleting the corrupted vCenter and restarting the vCenter installer.

The deployment will begin.

This portion can take a while to complete. The OVA and other associated VM installations are transferring to the target ESX host and the vCenter is installs required tools on the OS.

When this is complete you should see the confirmation to start Stage 2. Select Continue.

The installer will begin the configuration for stage 2. Select next on the introduction window.

The next window will be for the appliance configuration. There will be 3 fields, Time sync mode NTP server list & SSH Access settings.

I would advise setting the Time sync to “Sync time with NTP Servers” and set your NTP servers list to your domain controllers to keep everything as consistent as possible.

I would also advise enabling SSH. If there are any issues with the deployment, it will be a good place to being troubleshooting. You can disable this when the deployment is complete.

The next window will be for Creating a new SSO Domain or joining an existing SSO domain. Given that we do not have an existing vCenter, we will be creating a new one. This should NOT match your windows domain. This will cause issues with domain integration after the vCenter deployment. Most of the time vsphere.local is used. The next two fields should be to set the administrator password. This will be for accessing the administrative web interface. The Password requirements are:

  • At least 8 characters
  • No more than 20 characters
  • At least one uppercase letter
  • At least one lowercase letter
  • At least one number
  • At least 1 special character
  • Only visible letters, numbers and punctuation
  • Spaces are not allowed

The next window will be to Join the VMware Customer Experience Program. You can leave this checked or uncheck the box depending on your preference. This has no real impact to the server either way.

The final window will be to complete the deployment. If all information on this list appears correct, hit finish to begin the installation of stage 2. There will be a warning that pops up telling you that there cannot be any interruptions. Select OK if you’re ready to deploy.

The configuration window will run just like it did through Stage 1. This will take a while and multiple reboots of the vCenter can be expected and delayed by that.

When the appliance installer reports that It’s complete the window will look like the following screen shot. Select close to complete the installer and this will open the vCenter administrative page.

This will present two options. The links to the HTML5 and FLEX (flash based) interfaces. I would advise using the HTML5 interface as much as possible, although you will have to use the flash interface from time to time for certain functionalities.

To log into the vCenter for the first time, use the administrator@vsphere.local credentials set up during the SSO domain creation.

If your vCenter allows you to sign in, the deployment has completed successfully.