Thursday, December 31, 2015

vSphere 6 - Installation of vCenter Server 6

As stated in my previous blog post, we will use "vCenter Server" to manage our ESXi hosts unless we have very few of these (perhaps only two or three). Since vCenter Server entails a supplemental (and significant) cost, we have to arbitrate between cost and efficiency. I will assume that we have made the choice of using vCenter Server and present a brief overview of the installation process.

First, we need to download vCenter Server. It is usually part of a larger package that we can download from this site:

Download VMware vSphere

We can select the version of vSphere that we want to download. At the time I composed this blog post, the options were versions 5, 5.1, 5.5 and 6. I will use version 6.

We will have to login (or create a VMware account if we do not already have one) and select the package we want. If we have not purchased a package, we can download an evaluation copy.

The package I selected  is in the form of a rather large .iso file, roughly 2.8 GB in size:

Note: the other file is the ESXi 6 .iso file used in my previous blog post.

We need to extract the vCenter Server install files from this .iso file. I used a tool called "MagicISO" but there are surely other options. The install files are extracted (in my example) to the folder in the screenshot above. Inside this folder, among other subfolders, there is a vCenter-Server subfolder with the following contents:


At this point, I want to state that there are numerous prerequisites and configuration options for vCenter Server. I will only present some of those that I believe are most important, referring the reader to the official VMware documentation for complete details:

We can install vCenter Server 6 on a Windows server (Windows 2008 SP2 and above) or as a virtual appliance on an existing ESXi host. In this post, I will use the first option. Even for the smallest implementations (described as "tiny" in the documentation), the minimal hardware requirements are:
  • 2 CPUs
  • 8 GB of RAM
These are "hard" limits. In my test network, the Windows 2008 (SP2) server had 8 GB of RAM but only 1 processor. Therefore, the pre-install check failed with this error message:

Among the many other choices, we can use a "PostgreSQL" database that the vCenter Server installer will install, or designate an external database. I will use the first option. The PostgreSQL database will function with a maximum of 20 ESXi hosts and 200 virtual machines.

Note: for comparison, the limits are 1000 hosts and 10,000 virtual machines with the vCenter Server appliance.

For complete requirements, please consult this document:


Now we begin the installation (double click on the executable file shown above). This starts the installation:

Note: click on images to enlarge if necessary.

Accept the license agreement...

At this point, we have to make a choice: will we install vCenter Server and the component known as the (embedded) Platform Services Controller on the same server or on separate servers?

The Platform Services Controller provides shared services (for multiple vCenter Servers) in the following areas:

  • Single Sign-On
  • Licensing
  • Certificates

However, even if we only have a single vCenter Server, we still must install a Platform Services Controller. In that case, the easiest solution is to install "PSC" on the vCenter Server itself.

For further details on the PSC roles listed above, please consult the vCenter Server documentation (although it is possible I may elaborate on this subject myself in a later post).

We then choose a "System Network Name". For best results, we should have DNS configured with both forward and reverse lookup zones.

We can ignore the following warning if we do not intend to implement IPv6 (at least not as the primary IP protocol):

Single Sign-On for vCenter is one of the features of the Platform Services Controller, presented above. We must create a new SSO domain (unless there is already an existing domain). All the information shown in the screenshot below is provided for us, except for the password which we must enter.  For a practice network, we can use the default values.

I will execute vCenter Server using the Local System account (default) which is acceptable if I select the option (next step) to install the embedded "vPostgres" database. If I want to use an external database (on a separate SQL server, for example), I will have to specify an Active Directory domain account.

So here we select the embedded database option:

The next screen lists all the ports used by vCenter. Unless we have special reasons to use different ports, we can use the default ports shown here:

The next screen simply shows where vCenter will be installed. For a test environment, the default values will suffice. In other circumstances, one may consider installing elsewhere (to a separate volume):

Here is the summary of our choices:

We click "Install" and the installation progresses:

If all goes well, we should see this:


And this concludes my post about installing vCenter Server 6 (with Platform Services Controller) on a Windows server (2008 SP2 or above). At this point, we could (as illustrated in the final screenshot) open the vSphere Web Client. However, I will save that for a later post - along with other vSphere related subjects.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

vSphere 6 - Introduction - Installation of ESXi 6

For my next series of blog posts, I'm going to work with vSphere 6: installing and configuring ESXi and vCenter Server to begin. The posts will constitute a overview of the process(es), useful to me as reference notes, and perhaps useful to the reader as well. It is not my intention to provide a complete set of instructions covering all possible aspects of the installation and configuration process. It would be both fastidious and repetitive to reproduce, essentially, documentation already made available by VMware:

For example, there are three methods for installing ESXi: 1) manual install, 2) with a script, 3) with auto-deploy. I will perform a simple manual install (see below) which, admittedly, may not be very informative for accomplished VMware experts.

Besides the official VMware documentation mentioned above, I would like to provide some references for those who, for whatever reason, would like to consult other resources that either examine the subjects presented here, but in greater detail, or more advanced subjects that I will not have explored.

Text material

Mastering vSphere 6 by Nick Marshall and Scott Lowe (publisher: Sybex)

You can search for this title at your favorite bookseller (Amazon, for example).

Scott Lowe, alone or with others, has written books on the many of the previous versions of vSphere as well (if you happen to be using one of those earlier versions).

Video training

There are numerous video training series on vSphere, both version 6 and earlier versions, at the following sites (for a fee - various payment options):

In my opinion, both are excellent, especially from the perspective of someone learning vSphere for the first time. David Davis (PluralSight) has been producing training videos on vSphere since (at least) version 4 (back when TrainSignal still existed). His presentations are complete and to the point. I've also watched the videos by Keith Barker (CBTNuggets), perhaps best known for his Cisco material (text and video) and appreciate his effort to create a training environment in VMware workstation. For example, he'll show you how to "hack" vSphere Server Center Appliance (yes, the appliance) so you can run it (and learn it) in VMware workstation.


For this first exercise, I'll install ESXi 6 as a virtual host in VMware Workstation (v11). I will not present the preliminary setup in VMware Workstation. First, this would be a very unlikely scenario in practice (ESXi is almost always installed on a physical server) and second, such a presentation would have little value for those using some other virtualization software. So I'll concentrate on what we see (and must do) once the installation process begins.

Some notes on prerequisites all the same...
  • ESXi 6 (Update 1) can be installed on most  (or at least many) "modern" servers (since 2007-2008 for example). I was able to install it on an older IBM x3350 (from around 2009-2010) with no problems at all. However, in a production environment, it is crucial to use hardware on the VMware comptability list to ensure optimal support.
  • Even on supported servers, you may have to adjust BIOS settings to enable virtualization or virtualization of 64 bit operating systems. Consult the VMware documentation for more details.
  • The server must have at least two "CPU cores".
  • Minimum RAM is 4 GB but 8 GB (at least) is recommended for production environments.

We can download ESXi from VMware (after creating an account) as a .iso file. For installation on physical servers, I'll burn the .iso image to a DVD and boot from the DVD. In VMware (and presumably comparable products), we can target the .iso file in the virtual CD/DVD drive and boot from it as if we were booting from media.

We will first see a menu like this. We can press "Enter" or wait for automatic boot:

On the "Welcome" screen, press "Enter" (unless you want to cancel, of course):

Press F11 to accept the EULA:

Tip: inside of VMware workstation, if F11 alone does not work, try Fn + F11.

Select the disk on which you want to install ESXi:

And a keyboard layout:

We need to enter a root password (the default username is "root"):

The disk will be repartitioned so we have one last chance to decide if we really want to do this:

If all goes well, we have at least 60 days to experiment with ESXi in evaluation mode and more if we enter a VMware license code:

After we reboot the server (make sure to remove the installation media), we must login with the password we selected earlier (root is the default username):

How can we manage the ESXi host  (called host because it will "host" virtual guest machines)? As we will see later, we can manage the host directly with the vSphere Client or by adding it to vCenter Server. In either case, we need to configure a static IP address for the host. Press F2 (or Fn+F2) to display the following screen:

Note: besides the first (default) network adapter, we will usually add other adapters so management traffic, replication traffic (if applicable) and other traffic are segmented for greater efficiency.

We select "Network Adpaters":

We enter an IP address, subnet mask and default gateway suitable for our network:

We then restart the management network so the changes take effect:

If you look at the other options (in the Management Network screenshot above), you will see that we can optionally configure IPv6 and DNS also. For now, at least, I will leave those settings at the default values (note that by default an IPv6 link local address is configured automatically).


If we had only one ESXi host to manage (or a very small number of hosts), we could, by accessing with a web browser the IP address configured above, download a management tool called vSphere Client (or in more recent versions of ESXi use a web interface for management). This would have the advantage of avoiding the cost of vCenter (licensed separately - with an additional cost - from ESXi). In most networks however, it would not be practical to manage each ESXi host directly with the vSphere Client. Instead, we would install vCenter and add the ESXi hosts to the console for centralized management. That will be the subject of a future blog post.