Here we are with a new article series dedicated to VMware VCSA install and configuration steps. The purpose of this series is to explore the new features included in the latest releases and formats of the VMware vCenter Appliances. Traditionally the VMware vCenter Appliance was installed on a Windows based server. With the latest editions VMware also provides the VCSA (VMware vCenter Server Appliance) also based on a Linux file system and in particular on the Photon OS by VMware.
In a nutshell Photon OS is a new operating system based onto an optimized Linux Kernel which has amongst the others, enhancements to run within vSphere environments and the ability to support Containers. So definitely Photon OS is a new operating system looking at the future with software defined and cloud based Applications.
Photon OS aside, the new VMware VCSA install phase is running into 2 stages: Deployment and Configuration.
In the first stage of the VMware VCSA install we simply point to a vSphere Host running ESXi already or to an existing vCenter Server. With the second stage instead it will configure and confirm the basic virtual Appliance settings.
As a new approach the main VMware VCSA install ISO can be mounted on any machine and start the actual installation from there using either the Graphic or Command Line mode. This article refers to the Graphic mode. Another important thing to remember before proceeding is to make sure both name resolution for the FQDN name is working as expected. Failing this the second stage will stop and we need to run the VMware VCSA install again.
All in all the process is very straight forward and considering all components including the Embedded Postgres Database are installed on the same virtual Appliance the entire process doesn’t really take that long.
So at this point we are ready to start with stage 1 of the VMware VCSA install.
Step 1: VMware VCSA install
After we obtain the installation ISO from the VMware website all we have to do is to mount the ISO on any machine which is sitting on the same network as the Host. This will help eliminating any issue that could arise should some ports be blocked or not routed through a firewall.
The new VMware VCSA install provides 2 installation methods: GUI based and with Command Line. In this case will hit the GUI based. So let’s navigate to the vcsa-ui-installer folder and hit on install.
The wizard starts offering different options. In a nutshell apart from the VMware VCSA install we can also:
Upgrade: from an existing vCenter install if supported it will run an in-place upgrade. For a current list of what is supported we can take a look here.
Migrate: from an existing vCenter install. The wizard has built-in scripts which will detect the previous instance (and if supported for the migration) will create an “Export folder” with all existing Data and Configurations and will import them into the newly VMware VCSA install. If the new deployment is working as expected it is possible to manually delete the Export folder.
Restore: The VMware VCSA includes the option to Backup all settings. Using the same wizard we can install a new instance of the VMware VCSA using the same settings and restore the configurations from Backup. Will review this topic in a separate article.
At this point we are ready to start the VMware VCSA install wizard.
Let’s accept the VMware End User Licence Agreement and continue.
Since this is a new installation we can for the defautl option of a vCenter Server together with an Embedded Platform Service Controller.
At this point we need to to specify either the name of the vSphere Host where to install the virtual Appliance .Or a vCenter Server from which we can choose the Host. Also let’s make sure FQDN name resolution is always working both ways. Along with the Host or Server name then we also enter the Port (default on 443) username and password.
If connection is successfully we’ll imeediately receive a pop up showing the certificate name. Let’s click on Yes to continue.
This is where we can now specify the name of the virtual Appliance and the password for the root account.
The same VMware VCSA install wizard can be used to specify different types of deployment based on needs. In my homelab I will use the default one. Eventually it is possible to grow the installation at a later stage should this be required. For example it is always a good idea to monitor the size the of Embedded database and make sure it is not too large.
This typically happens for very large environments with a big number of Hosts or when there are too many alerts and logs maybe generated by exceptions or misconfigurations of certain components. We’ll take a look at these aspects and more in a dedicated article.
In the next step we can define the Datastore location where to provision the VMware VCSA install. The install takes roughly 250GB as per previous screen. In case of lack of storage space we can also enable the creation of virtual disks files in “Thin Mode” and eventually change to “Thick Mode” later on.
In the Configure network settings section of course we can setup the addressing scheme we want to use. The System name is not a mandatory field. In fact when we leave this blank it is automatically populated with the IP Address. The issue with this is the following: the installer will create a self-generated certificate based on the value of the System name filed. Which will result associated to the IP Address instead of the “FQDN”.
That means if for any reason the VMware VCSA changes IP address the certificate will not be valid and will cause issues with vSphere Hosts communication. By specifying a FQDN name the DNS will automatically resolve the name to the correct and current IP Address. In addition, the certificate generated will be used for VMware SSO components configuration and cannot be changed.
Hence one more reason to make sure FQDN name resolution is working as expected. So let’s make sure the (A) and pertinent (PTR) records are created and the VMware VCSA is pointing to the correct DNS server.
And a final screen for stage 1 before committing the changes will show the chosen settings.
At this point the VMware VCSA install wizard is ready to start by creating the virtual Appliance.
If we take a quick look on the virtual machines list on the chosen vSphere Host we can see a new VM created.
This first phase is very quick to complete and if some issues occurred it will show the new address plus the location for the logs stating the issue. In my case I simply forgot to add the rule to the firewall to open the 5480 port. This port by default is used to access the VMware VCSA Appliance configuration.
Not a big deal. All I have to do is to add this port and carry on the VMware VCSA install pointing at https://VCSA-FQDN:5480.
Step 2: Setup the VMware VCSA
From a web browser let’s point to the VMware VCSA name on default port 5480 and carry on with the VMware VCSA install. We are now ready for the first time configuration of the virtual Appliance.
As the screenshot is showing let go with the first option to setup vCenter Server Appliance.
Let’s enter the chosen password for the root account and login.
The VMware VCSA install wizard resumes from stage 2.
Let’s review the Network connection settings for the appliance. I would also suggest adding already the information for the NTP synchronization. There is a new service from Google on time.google.com. Another popular one of course is the excellent ntp.org
Ideally we should add more (at least 3) to make sure that at least one NTP server is present and is accurate compared to the remaining ones. Additionally we can also enable the SSH access. This can be controlled from the virtual Appliance as well.
The wizard will now pop up a new message about the chosen IP address and to inform connectivity might be lost for a few minutes. In reality I’m using the very same IP. In fact no connectivity loss was there.
In the appliance configuration we can choose the SSO domain name along with the password for the administrator account and the Site name. As in the past the SSO name cannot be changed after configuration. So let’s choose this one carefully.
We also have the option to join the Customer Experience Program (CEIP) if desired.
And a final screen for stage two shows all deisred settings for the virtual Appliance.
A new message informs us about the changes. Lets review them and make sure they look alright before proceeding.
The installer is now proceeding with the setup of the VMware VCSA. In particular by configuring services and staring them. This phase can be quite lengthy. In my homelab environment the overall was about 20 minutes. Your mileage may vary.
Excellent and relieving message about the successful setup. As suggested from the wizard we can now browse the VMware vCenter Appliance with the default address http://VCSA_FQDN:443.
Which shows two vSphere Web Clients: the Flash and the HTML5 based. VMware 6.5 will probably be the last version with support for both. Starting from the VMware 6.7 release only HTML5 version will be supported.
This concludes the VMware VCSA install overview. We can now use this vCenter instance and run the same configuration we had previously with vCenter on Windows. For example we might want to create new virtual Distribute Switches.
In the next article we’ll focus more on the VCSA components and configurations.