vCenter Server Installation

Depending upon the size of the environment to be managed, installing vCenter Server can be simple. In small environments, the vCenter Server installer can install and configure all the necessary components. For larger environments, installing vCenter Server in a scalable and resilient fashion is a bit more involved and requires a few different steps. For example, supporting more than 200 ESX/ESXi hosts or more than 3,000 virtual machines requires installing multiple vCenter Server instances in a Linked Mode group. Additionally, you know that the majority of vCenter Server deployments need a separate database server installed and configured to support vCenter Server. The exception would be the very small deployments in which SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is sufficient.

Depending upon the database engine you will use, different configuration steps are required to prepare the database server for vCenter Server, and these steps must be completed before you can actually install vCenter Server. If you are planning on using SQL Server 2005 Express Edition-and you're aware of the limitations of using SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. Let's take a closer look at working with a separate database server and what is required.

Configuring the vCenter Server Back-End Database Server

Using a 32-bit data source name on 64-bit


As noted earlier, vCenter Server stores the majority of its information in a back-end database, usually using a separate database server. It's important to realize that the backend database is a key component to this infrastructure. The back-end database server should be designed and deployed accordingly.

Even though vCenter Server is supported on 64-bit Windows Server operating systems, you will need to create a 32-bit DSN for vCenter Server's use. Use the 32-bit ODBC Administrator application to create this 32-bit DSN.

Without the back-end database, you will find yourself rebuilding an entire infrastructure.

On the back-end database server, vCenter Server requires specific permissions on its database. After that database is created and configured appropriately, collecting vCenter Server to its back-end database requires that an Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) data source name (DSN) be created on the vCenter Server system. The ODBC DSN should be created under the context of a database user who has full rights and permissions to the database that has been created specifically for storing vCenter Server data.

In the following sections, we'll take a closer look at working with the two most popular database servers used in conjunction with vCenter Server: Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server. Although other database servers are experimentally supported for use with vCenter Server, Oracle and SQL Server are officially supported and account for the vast majority of all installations.

Working with oracle databases

Perhaps because Microsoft SQL Server was designed as a Windows-based application, like vCenter Server, working with Oracle as the back-end database server involves a bit more effort than using Microsoft SQL Server. To use Oracle 10g or 11g, you need to install Oracle and create a database for vCenter Server to use. Although it is supported to run Oracle on the same computer as vCenter Server, it is not a configuration I recommend. Still, in the event you have valid business reasons for doing so,

I'll walk through the steps for configuring Oracle to support vCenter Server both locally (on the same computer as vCenter Server) and remotely (on a different computer than vCenter Server). Both of these sets of instructions assume that you have already created the database you are going to use.

After the Oracle database is created and configured appropriately and the ODBC DSN is established, then you're ready to install vCenter Server.

Working with Microsoft SQL server databases

In light of the existing widespread deployment of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, it is most common to find SQL Server as the back-end database for vCenter Server.

This is not to say that Oracle does not perform as well or that there is any downside to using Oracle. Microsoft SQL Server just happens to be implemented more commonly than Oracle and therefore is a more common database server for vCenter Server. Connecting vCenter Server to a Microsoft SQL Server database, like the Oracle implementation, requires a few specific configuration tasks, as follows:

• Unlike previous versions of VirtualCenter/vCenter Server, version 4.0 of vCenter Server does not require the SQL Server instance to be configured for Mixed Mode authentication. Instead, vCenter Server 4.0 supports both Windows and Mixed Mode authentication. Be aware of which authentication type the SQL Server is using, because this setting will affect other portions of the vCenter Server installation.

• You must create a new database for vCenter Server. Each vCenter Server computer-remember that there may be multiple instances of vCenter Server running in a Linked Mode group-will require its own SQL database.

• You must create a SQL login that has full access to the database you created for vCenter Server. If the SQL Server is using Windows authentication, this login must be linked to a domain user account; for Mixed Mode authentication, the associated domain user account is not required.

• You must set the appropriate permissions for this SQL login by mapping the SQL login to the dbo user on the database created for vCenter Server. In SQL Server 2005, you do this by right-clicking the SQL login, selecting Properties, and then going to User Mapping.

• The SQL login must not only have dbo (db_owner) privileges on the database created for vCenter Server, but the SQL login must also be set as the owner of the database.

• Finally, the SQL login created for use by vCenter Server must also have dbo (db_owner) privileges on the MSDB database, but only for the duration of the installation process. This permission can and should be removed after installation is complete.

If you have an existing SQL Server 2005 database that needs to be used as the back end for vCenter Server, you can use the sp_changedbowner stored procedure command to change the database ownership accordingly. For example, EXEC sp_changedbowner @loginame= 'vcdbuser',@map='true' would change the database owner to a SQL login named vcdbuser. You need to take these steps prior to creating the ODBC DSN to the SQL Server database.

After your database is set up, you can create the ODBC DSN to be used during the vCenter Server installation wizard. SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008 require the use of the SQL Native Client. If you do not find the SQL Native Client option while creating the ODBC DSN, you can download it from Microsoft's website or install it from the SQL Server installation media.

After the SQL Native Client has been installed-if it wasn't installed already-then you are ready to create the ODBC DSN that vCenter Server uses to connect to the SQL Server instance hosting its database. This ODBC DSN must be created on the computer where vCenter Server will be installed.

Perform the following steps to create an ODBC DSN to a SQL Server 2005 database:

1. Log into the computer where vCenter Server will be installed later. You need to log in with an account that has administrative permissions on that computer.

2. Open the Data Sources (ODBC) applet from the Administrative Tools menu.

3. Select the System DSN tab.

4. Click the Add button.

5. Select the SQL Native Client from the list of available drivers, and click the Finish button. If the SQL Native Client is not in the list, it can be downloaded from Microsoft's website or installed from the SQL Server installation media. Go back and install the SQL Native Client.

6. The Create New Data Source To SQL Server dialog box opens. In the Name text box, type the name you want to use to reference the ODBC DSN. Make note of this name-this is the name you will give to vCenter Server during installation to establish the database connection.

7. In the Server drop-down list, select the SQL Server 2005 computer where the database was created, or type the name of the computer running SQL Server 2005 that has already been prepared for vCenter Server.

8. Click the Next button.

9. Choose the correct authentication type, depending upon the configuration of the SQL Server instance. If you are using SQL Server authentication, you also need to supply the SQL login and password created earlier for use by vCenter Server. Click Next.

10. If the default database is listed as Master, select the Change The Default Database To check box, and then select the name of the vCenter Server database as the default. Click Next.

11. None of the options on the next screen-including the options for changing the language of the SQL Server system messages, regional settings, and logging options-need to be changed. Click Finish to continue.

12. On the summary screen, click the Test Data Source button to test to the ODBC DSN. If the tests do not complete successfully, double-check the SQL Server and SQL database configuration outlined previously.

13. Click OK to return to the ODBC Data Source Administrator, which will now have the new System DSN you just created listed.

At this point, you are now ready to actually install vCenter Server.

Running the vCenter Server Installer

With the database in place and configured, you can now install vCenter Server. After you've done that, you can add servers and continue configuring your virtual infrastructure, including adding vCenter Server instances in a Linked Mode group.

The vCenter Server installation takes only a few minutes and is not administratively intensive, assuming you've completed all of the pre-installation tasks. You can start the vCenter Server installation by double-clicking auto run.exe inside the vCenter Server installation directory. The VMware vCenter Installer is the central point for a number of installations:

• vCenter Server

• vCenter Guided Consolidation Service

• vSphere Client

• vCenter Update Manager

• vCenter Converter

Some of these installation types are new features of vCenter Server. If you will be using Windows authentication with a separate SQL Server database server, there's an important step here before you go any farther. For the vCenter Server services to be able to connect to the SQL database, these services need to run in the context of the domain user account that was granted permission to the database. Unfortunately, the vCenter Server installer doesn't let you choose which account you'd like to have the vCenter

Missing vCenter Orchestrator Icons

The vCenter Server installation wizard will create icons for vCenter Orchestrator, a workflow engine installed with vCenter Server. However, these icons are placed on the Start Menu for the currently logged-on user, not for all users. if you log on as a specific account because you are using Windows authentication with a separate SQL Server database server, the vCenter Orchestrator icons will only appear on the Start Menu for that specific user.

Server services run as; it just uses whatever

account the user is currently logged in as. So, in order to have the vCenter Server services run in the context of the correct user account, you need to log in as the domain user account that has been granted permissions to the SQL database. For example, if you created a domain user account called vcenter and granted that account permissions to the SQL database as outlined previously, you need to log on as that user to the computer that will run vCenter Server.

You will probably find it necessary to grant this domain user account administrative permissions on that computer because administrative permissions are required for installation.

If you are using SQL authentication, then the user account used to install vCenter Server doesn't matter. I'll assume that you will use integrated Windows authentication. After you've logged on as the correct user to the computer that will run vCenter Server, then start the vCenter Server installation process by clicking the link for vCenter Server in the VMware vCenter Installer.

After you select a language for the installation, you arrive at the installation wizard for vCenter Server. Perform the following steps to install vCenter Server:

1. Click Next to begin the installation wizard.

2. Click I Agree To The Terms In The License Agreement, and click Next.

3. Supply a username, organization name, and license key. If you don't have a license key yet, you can continue installing vCenter Server in evaluation mode.

4. At this point you must select whether to use SQL Server 2005 Express Edition or a separate database server. If the environment will be small (a single vCenter Server with fewer than 5 hosts or less than 50 virtual machines), then using SQL Server 2005 Express is acceptable. For all other deployments, select Use An Existing Supported Database, and select your ODBC DSN from the drop-down list. For the rest of this procedure, I'll assume that you are using an existing supported database. Select the correct ODBC DSN, and click Next.

5. If you are using SQL authentication, then the next screen prompts for the SQL login and password that has permissions to the SQL database created for vCenter

Server. Login information is not required if you are using Windows authentication, so you can just leave these fields blank.

If the SQL Server Agent service is not running on the SQL Server computer, you receive an error at this step and won't be able to proceed. Make sure the SQL Server Agent service is running.

6. Unless you have specifically configured the database server differently than the default settings, a dialog box pops up warning you about the Full recovery model and the possibility that transaction logs may grow to consume all available disk space.

7. The next screen prompts for account information for the vCenter Server services. If you are using Windows authentication with a SQL database, then you should already be logged in as the correct user, and that username should populate in the username field.

The "correct user" in this context is the domain user account granted permissions on the SQL database. If you are using SQL authentication, then the account information is not as important, although if you want to run the vCenter Server services under an account other than the SYSTEM account, you need to run the installer while logged in as that account. This was described previously.

8. Select the directory where you want vCenter Server to be installed, and click Next.

9. If this is the first vCenter Server installation in your environment, then select Create A Standalone VMware vCenter Server Instance. Click Next. I'll cover the other option later in this chapter when I discuss installing into a Linked Mode group.

10. The next screen provides the option for changing the default TCP and UDP ports on which vCenter Server operates. Unless you have specific reason to change them, I recommend accepting the defaults. The ports listed on this screen include the following:

a. TCP ports 80 and 443 (HTTP and HTTPS)

b. UDP port 902

c. TCP ports 8080 and 8443

d. TCP ports 389 and 636

11. Click Install to begin the installation.

12. Click Finish to complete the installation.

Upon completion of the vCenter Server installation, browsing to vCenter Server's URL (http://<server name> or http://<server IP address» will turn up a page that allows for the installation of the vSphere Client or the use of a web-based tool for managing the individual virtual machines hosted by the ESX/ESXi hosts within the vCenter Server inventory. Chapter 9 describes the web-based virtual machine management tool, vSphere Web Access.

The vSphere Client connected to vCenter Server should be the primary management tool for managing ESX/ESXi hosts and their respective virtual machines. As I've mentioned on several occasions already, the vSphere Client can connect directly to ESX/ESXi hosts under the context of a local user account defined on each ESX/ESXi host, or it can connect to a vCenter Server instance under the context of a Windows user account defined in Active Directory or the local SAM of the vCenter Server computer. Using vCenter Server along with Active Directory user accounts is the recommended deployment scenario.

After the installation of vCenter Server, there will be a number of new services installed to facilitate the operation of vCenter Server. These services include the following:

• VMware Mount Service for Virtual Center is used to support vCenter Server integration with VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB).

• VMware vCenter Orchestrator Configuration supports the Orchestrator workflow engine

• VMware VirtualCenter Management Web services are used to allow browser-based access to the vCenter Server application.

• VMware VirtualCenter Server is the core of vCenter Server and provides centralized management of ESX/ESXi hosts and virtual machines.

• VMwareVCMSDS is the Microsoft Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) instance that supports multiple vCenter Server instances in a Linked Mode group.

As a virtual infrastructure administrator, you should be familiar with the default states of these services. In times of troubleshooting, check the status of the services to see whether they have changed. Keep in mind the dependencies that exist between vCenter Server and other services on the network. For example, if the vCenter Server service is failing to start, be sure to check that the system has access to the SQL Server (or Oracle) database. If vCenter Server cannot access the database because of a lack of connectivity or the database service is not running, then it will not start.

As additional features and extensions are installed, additional services will also be installed to support those features. For example, installing vCenter Update Manager will install an additional service called VMware Update Manager Service.

Your environment may be one that requires only a single instance of vCenter Server running. If that's the case, you're ready to get started managing ESX/ESXi hosts and virtual machines. However, for those of you with very large virtual environments, you'll need more than one vCenter Server, so I'll show you how to install additional vCenter Server instances in a Linked Mode group.