Creating and Managing a vCenter Server Inventory

As a VMware vSphere administrator, you will spend a pretty significant amount of time using the vSphere Client. Out of that time, you will spend a great deal of it working with the various inventory views available in vCenter Server, so I think it's quite useful to spend a little bit of time first explaining the inventory views in vCenter Server.

Understanding Inventory Views and Objects

Every vCenter Server has a root object, the datacenter, which serves as a container for all other objects. Prior to adding an object to the vCenter Server inventory, you must create a datacenter object. The objects found within the datacenter object depend upon which inventory view is active. The navigation bar provides a quick and easy reminder of which inventory view is currently active. In the Hosts And Clusters inventory view, you will work with ESX/ESXi hosts, VMware HA/DRS clusters, resource pools, and virtual machines. In the VMs And Templates view, you will work with folders, virtual machines, and templates. In the Datastores view, you will work with datastores; in the Networking view, you'll work with vNetwork Standard Switches and vNetwork Distributed Switches.

You organize the vCenter Server inventory differently in different views. The Hosts And Clusters view is primarily used to determine or control where a virtual machine is executing or how resources are allocated to a virtual machine or group of virtual machines. You would not, typically, create your logical administrative structure in Hosts And Clusters inventory view. This would be a good place, though, to provide structure around resource allocation or to group hosts into clusters according to business rules or other guidelines.

In VMs And Templates inventory view, though, the placement of VMs and templates within folders is handled irrespective of the specific host on which that virtual machine is running. This allows you to create a logical structure for VM administration that remains independent of the physical infrastructure upon which those VMs are running.

The naming strategy you provide for the objects in vCenter Server should mirror the way that network management is performed. For example, if you have qualified IT staff at each of your three datacenters across the country, then you would most likely create a hierarchical inventory that mirrors that management style. On the other hand, if your IT management was most profoundly set by the various departments in your company, then the datacenter objects might be named after each respective department. In most enterprise environments, the vCenter Server inventory will be a hybrid that involves management by geography, department, server type, and even project title.

The vCenter Server inventory can be structured as needed to support a company's IT management needs. Folders can be created above and below the datacenter object to provide higher or more granular levels of control that can propagate to lower-level child objects.

Should a company use more of a departmental approach to IT resource management, then the vCenter Server inventory can be shifted to match the new management style.

In most enterprise environments, the vCenter Server inventory will be a hybrid of the different topologies. Perhaps one topology might be a geographical top level, followed by departmental management, followed by project-based resource configuration.

The Hosts And Clusters inventory view is just one view of the inventory, though. In addition to building your inventory structure in the Hosts And Clusters view, you also build your inventory structure in VMs And Templates.

These inventory views are completely separate. For example, the Hosts And Clusters inventory view may reflect a geographical focus, while the VMs And Templates inventory view may reflect a departmental or functional focus. Because permissions are granted based on these structures, organizations have the ability to build inventory structures that properly support their administrative structures.

With that basic understanding of vCenter Server inventory views and the hierarchy of inventory objects behind you, it's now time for you to actually build out your inventory structure and start creating and adding objects in vCenter Server.

Adding and Creating Inventory Objects

Before you can really build your inventory-in either Hosts And Clusters view or VMs And Templates view-you must first get your ESX/ESXi hosts into vCenter Server. And before you can get your ESX/ESXi hosts into vCenter Server, you need to have a datacenter object. You may have created the datacenter object as part of the Getting Started Wizard, but if you didn't, you must create one now. Don't forget that you can have multiple datacenter objects within a single vCenter Server instance.