Installing vCenter Appliance 6.0: A Few Gotchas

There is a big change in the vCenter 6.0 with the introduction of Platform Service Controller. To run vCenter 6.0, there must be a PSC server somewhere: either existing one, or new one installed together with vCenter. For most dev/test environments, you would choose the latter option which is also referenced as embedded mode. Because of this separation of vCenter and PSC, the installation process of vCenter appliance 6.0 is quite different from the previous versions.

Prior to vCenter 6.0, the installation of the vCenter appliance is pretty much the same as deploying a new virtual machine – there are of course a few configuration to go through in the Web based management GUI which is standard for most virtual appliances built using VMware Studio. But overall, the process was pretty straight forward and fast.

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The new installation process of vCenter 6.0 steps away from the previous approach. Instead, it now has a “real” installer. Unlike most installers you can find in the market place, it’s an installer embedded inside your browser. Of course, a browser cannnot do much, and that is why you have to install the VMware Client Integration Plugin. That basically nails down the installer to Windows only.

To speed up my installation, I followed this article by JONATHAN FRAPPIER Installing the VMware vCenter Server Appliance 6.0 VCSA. It’s pretty easy to follow with a few screen shots.

As I downloaded ISO file from VMware, that became the first problem for me. It’s not really a VMware problem, but more or less Windows 7 problem. To get the files out of the ISO, I tried a small Microsoft program called Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel. Somehow it could not load the driver this time. Luckily, I have another Windows 8 notebook which has the ISO mount feature built-in. Moving the ISO to it over and copying back the file insdide took a bit time, but overall it worked just fine.

Then came the installation of VMware Client Integration Plugin, which is essentially a browser plugin. With that, a Web page can activate native code, therefore have full permission as native program. The installation of plugin went well and the later on installation of vCenter server went on smoothly. So, no complaint about it except one thing: the whole story of vCSA is around that no Microsoft is needed, but the manual installation DOES require Microsoft. This is pretty much the same as the vSphere Web Client which claims to be portable, but still the VMware Client Integration Plugin is needed for full functionalities and that essentially breaks the portability story.

When the installation is done. It’s time to login into the system. Here came in a second gotcha.

Without much thinking, I used “root” as user name to login the system and the GUI seemed working fine except that I could not see any vCenter instance. Neither could I added it anywhere. Then, I remembered something I heard when I was consulting at one client – the new “root” user should be the “administrator”. With the “administrator” user name, it didn’t work. After a few trials, I finally got it right – it turned out the user name should be “administrator@vsphere.local”. The domain name after the @ sign was configured during the installation process. I used the default, therefore the full user name becomes such – pretty long, isn’t it?

After the user name gotchas, the vCenter worked as expected. One thing I couldn’t remember precisely so it could be false. After login as adminstrator@vsphere.local, I still could not find my vCenter instance. So I started to search for related information for a few minutes. When I returned back to the vSphere Web client, the instance showed up like a magic.

By playing with the vCenter 6.0, I noticed the performance improvement of the Web Client. Unlike the old vSphere Web Client, I didn’t seem many loading/waiting icons. Maybe I just got started without any host and virtual machine added yet. While this flash based Web Client will be replaced by HTML5, I hope the lessons learned from building Web Client can be transferred to the new Client. With all the changes and buzz around HTML5, I have a feeling that the standard alone vSphere Client will stay although it’s claimed that vSphere 6 is the last one. Until there is no so called Client Integration Plugin, the vSphere Client won’t be gone.

Thanks to Raphael Schitz (@hypervisor_fr) who reminded me of articles by William Lam (@lamw), there are actually scripts for automating the installation process: Ultimate automation guide to deploying VCSA 6.0. I also find his another article very helpful in understanding the new vCenter architecture/topology, and PSC: What’s New in vSphere 6.0: vCenter.

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