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.

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