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VMWARE Matrix: Lesson 3: Setting Up VCenter

A Quick guide to VMWare

Time to Meet THE ORACLE

You've come this far. You have discovered the machines(ESXI) and now you want to, if not defeat them, make them work for you to make the perfect VM world. For this, you will need THE ORACLE...Otherwise known as VCENTER.


Difference between vSphere, ESXi and vCenter

VMware Inc. is a software company that develops many suite of software products specially for providing various virtualization solutions. There are many cloud products, datacenter products, desktop products and so on.

vSphere is a software suite that comes under data center product. vSphere is like Microsoft Office suite which has many software like MS Office, MS Excel, MS Access and so on. Like Microsoft Office, vSphere is also a software suite that has many software components like vCenter, ESXi, vSphere client and so on. So, the combination of all these software components is vSphere. vSphere is not a particular software that you can install and use, “it is just a package name which has other sub components”.

ESXi, vSphere client and vCenter are components of vSphere. ESXi server is the most important part of vSphere. ESXi is the virtualization server. It is type 1 hypervisor. All the virtual machines or Guest OS are installed on ESXi server. To install, manage and access those virtual servers which sit above of ESXi server, you will need other part of vSphere suit called vSphere client or vCenter. Now, vSphere client allows administrators to connect to ESXi servers and access or manage virtual machines. vSphere client is installed on the client machine (e.g. Administrator’s laptop). The vSphere client is used from client machine to connect to ESXi server and do management tasks. So now what is vCenter? Why we need it? Try cloning existing virtual machine using just a vSphere client without vCenter server.

vCenter server is similar to vSphere client but it’s a server with more power. vCenter server is installed on Windows Server or Linux Server. VMware vCenter server is a centralized management application that lets you manage virtual machines and ESXi hosts centrally. vSphere client is used to access vCenter Server and ultimately manage ESXi servers. vCenter server is compulsory for enterprises to have enterprise features like vMotion, VMware High Availability, VMware Update Manager and VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS). For example, you can easily clone existing virtual machine in vCenter server. So vCenter is another important part of vSphere package. You have to buy vCenter license separately.

Difference between vSphere, ESXi and vCenter

The diagram above shows vSphere suite in a more descriptive way. vSphere is a product suite, ESXi is a hypervisor installed on a physical machine. vSphere Client is installed on laptop or desktop PC and is used to access ESXi Server to install and manage virtual machines on ESXi server. vCenter server is installed as virtual machine on top of ESXi server. vCenter server is a vSphere component which is mostly used in large environment where there are many ESXi server and dozens of virtual machines. The vCenter server is also accessed by vSphere client for management purpose. So, vSphere client is used to access ESXi server directly in small environment. In larger environment, vSphere client is used again to access vCenter server which ultimately manages ESXi server.

You can install vSphere in your PC to get more knowledge of this amazing technology. For more information about VMware you can visit VMware’s Official website.

One of the most repetitive questions that I get asked is which version of vCenter Server should I be using. This obviously is based on the decision between using the VCenter Server appliance (VCSA) introduced with vSphere 5.0 or the trusted and proven vCenter Server on Windows.


It has been general knowledge that the vCenter Server appliance, since its introduction has lacked features to that of its Windows counterpart. With vSphere 5.5 the vCenter Server appliance has come a long way, it supports all solutions that integrate with vCenter Server (vCD, vCOPs, SRM, VUM etc) but is it production ready? I can confidently say yes but will it meet your requirements?

The easiest way to answer this is to follow these steps

Step 1 – What features are missing?
This used to be a bigger problem than it is today. The only things we are missing at this point with the vCenter Server appliance are Linked Mode, vCenter Server Heartbeat (EoA) and SQL Server support. If you need any of these features, its game over, stick to the vCenter Server on Windows.

Step 2 – Figure out the scale limits.
The embedded database that is preinstalled with the vCenter Server appliance will support an inventory size of up to 100 vSphere hosts and/or 3,000 Virtual Machines when sized appropriately. If your scale requirements are higher, is an external database an option? You can use an external database to meet the vCenter maximum scale of up to 1,000 vSphere hosts and/or 10,000 Virtual Machines. However the only external supported database with the vCenter Server appliance is Oracle. If you are a SQL Server shop, the vCenter Server appliance is not for you.

Step 3 – Do you have any operational/environmental/regulatory requirements?
The vCenter Server appliance is delivered on a SUSE distribution, however VMware does not update the OS level patches and hotfixes as they become available, VMware publishes release updates containing the accumulated patches and hotfixes and in the case of vCenter Server, this could be 6 months out (we do deliver critical security patches (ie Heartbleed). Other considerations include 3rd party agents, tweaking Linux settings and removing things aren’t supported. Backup requirements, too, are sometimes a challenge (if, for instance, the database team requires that databases be backed up separately to the virtual appliance).

Step 4 – Using the appliance, today, still requires a certain amount of Linux expertise.
Many customers assume that we’re further down the “lock it down and hide Linux” road than we actually are. I’ve spoken to customers who were excited about moving to the vCenter Server appliance because “we don’t have to worry about the OS, any more.” This may not be true if you get into a troubleshooting scenario or require additional configuration settings.

Step 5 – Migrating to the vCenter Server appliance
Ok so you may have survived the first few steps and ready to adopt the vCenter Server appliance but getting to it maybe more of a challenge. We do not have any migration/data tools available to move your vCenter Server on Windows to the vCenter Server appliance. You will have to deploy a fresh vCenter Server appliance and manually recreate the configuration and manually move the vSphere hosts over to the new vCenter Server appliance. Do you have any auditory requirements? historical data will be lost with the manual migration process and vCOPs will see the vCenter Server appliance as a new vCenter Server environment. This manual process could be eased with the use of PowerCLI but unique to each environment. Using an existing vCenter Server database is not an option.

So there you have it, the vCenter Server appliance is fully capable however there are several key questions that will help you decide if it is the correct version for you. I have been a huge fan of the vCenter Server appliance since its introduction We want to hear from you the customers on what you are experiencing – when you decide to move to the appliance, do you regret it? were you successful? if you decided not to move to the appliance, which one of your criteria eliminated you?

Is your VCenter "The One"?

When Neo sees the Oracle, this is part of the conversation:

Oracle: But you already know what I'm going to tell you.
Neo: I'm not The One.....
Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something...
Neo: What?
Oracle: Your next life maybe, who knows? That's the way these things go.
Neo: Morpheus...he, he almost had me convinced...
Oracle: Poor Morpheus...without him...we're lost.
Neo: What do you mean, without him?
Oracle: Are you sure you want to hear this?
Neo nods.
Oracle: Morpheus believes in you, Neo. And no one, not even you, not even me, can convince him otherwise. He believes it so blindly, that he's going to sacrifice his life, to save yours.
Neo: What??!
Oracle: You're going to have to make a choice. In one hand, you'll have Morpheus' life..and in the other hand, you'll have your own. One of you is going to die..which one...will be up to you.

If he had believed he was the one, his attitude would have been different and he would have valued himself more than Morpheus, perhaps taking the attitude that they have to push forward, with or without Morpheus, as opposed to trying to save him - and it's a result of his trying to save Morpheus that he finally finds out he is The One.

Thinking he's not The One leads to a level of humility that we didn't see in Neo as "Mr. Anderson," before he knew about the Matrix, where he was cocky enough to give the agents, whom he thought was law enforcement, the "bird" by flipping them off with his middle finger.

If he did think he was The One, would that have changed his attitudes or behaviors enough that he could not do what he needed to do and would not have been The One?