VMware vCenter Server pools ESXi host resources to provide a rich feature set delivering high availability and fault tolerance to virtual machines. The vCenter Server is a centralised management application and can be deployed as a virtual appliance or Windows machine. It should be noted that vCenter 6.7 is the final release where Windows modules will be available, see here for more information. All future releases will only be available as vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) which is the preferred deployment method of vCenter Server. This post gives a walk through on migrating from a Windows based vCenter Server (VCS) to the Photon OS based vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA).
The VCSA is a pre-configured virtual appliance built on Project Photon OS. Since the OS has been developed by VMware it benefits from enhanced performance and boot times over the previous Linux based appliance. Furthermore the embedded vPostgres database means VMware have full control of the software stack, resulting in significant optimisation for vSphere environments and quicker release of security patches and bug fixes. The VCSA scales up to 2000 hosts and 35,000 virtual machines. A couple of releases ago the VCSA reached feature parity with its Windows counterpart, and is now the preferred deployment method for vCenter Server. Features such as Update Manager are bundled into the VCSA, as well as file based backup and restore, and vCenter High Availability. The appliance also saves operating system license costs and is quicker and easier to deploy and patch.
Migrating to VCSA involves the deployment of a new appliance and migration of all configuration (including distributed switches) and historical data using the upgrade installer. The VCSA uses a temporary IP address during migration before switching to the IP and host name of the VCS, the Windows box is then powered off.
- The Windows VCS must be v.6.0 or v6.5 (any build / patch) to migrate to VCSA 6.7. Both physical and virtual vCenter Server installations are compatible.
- Any database, internal or external, supported by VCS can be migrated to the embedded vPostgres database within the target VCSA.
- The ESXi host or vCenter where VCSA will be deployed must be running v5.5 or above. However, all hosts you intend to connect to vCenter Server 6.7 should be running ESXi 6.0 or above, hosts running 5.5 and earlier cannot be managed by vCenter 6.7 and do not have a direct upgrade path to 6.7.
- The Windows server is powered off once the VCSA is brought online, this means any other components, VMware or third party, need to be migrated off the Windows server in advance or they will no longer work (don’t forget to move and update any scripts that may live on the Windows server).
- If you are using Update Manager the VCSA now includes an embedded Update Manager instance.
- You must check compatibility of any third party products and plugins that might be used for backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. as these may need upgrading for vSphere 6.7 compatibility.
- To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.
- The points above are especially important since at the time of writing vSphere 6.7 is new enough that other VMware and third party products may not have released compatible versions. Verify before installing vSphere 6.7 and review the Release Notes and Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.7 KB.
- The VCSA with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources (disk can be thin provisioned)
- Tiny (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs) – 2 CPUs, 10 GB RAM.
- Small (up to 100 hosts, 1000 VMs) – 4 CPUs, 16 GB RAM.
- Medium (up to 400 hosts, 4000 VMs) – 8 CPUs, 24 GB RAM.
- Large (up to 1000 hosts, 10,000 VMs) – 16 CPUs, 32 GB RAM.
- X-Large (up to 2000 hosts, 35,000 VMs) – 24 CPUs, 48 GB RAM – new to v6.5.
- Storage requirements for the smallest environments start at 250 GB and increase depending on your specific database requirements. See the Storage Requirements document for further details.
- Where the PSC is deployed as a separate appliance this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM, 60 GB disk.
- Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
- To help with selecting the appropriate storage size for the appliance calculate the size of your existing VCS database here.
- The migration tool supports different deployment topologies but can not, make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
- For more information on the deployment topologies available with vCenter 6.x see vCenter Server and Platform Services Controller Deployment Types.
- A series of videos covering vCenter Server and Platform Services Architecture can be found here. If you require further assistance with vCenter planning see also the vSphere Topology and Upgrade Planning Tool here,
- Most deployments will include the vCenter Server and PSC in one appliance, following the embedded deployment model, which I will use in this guide.
- Consider if the default self-signed certificates are sufficient or if you want to replace with custom CA or VMware CA signed certs, see Installing vCenter Internal CA signed SSL Certificates for more information.
- Ensure you have a good backup of the vCenter Server and the database.
- Variables such as FQDN resolution, database permissions and access to the licensing portal should all be in place since we are upgrading an existing vCenter solution.
- All vSphere components should be configured to use an NTP server. The installation can fail or the vCenter Server Appliance vpxd service may not be able to start if the clocks are unsynchronized.
- The ESXi host on which you deploy the VCSA should not be in lockdown or maintenance mode.
- You will need the SSO administrator login details and if the Windows VCS service runs as a service account then the account must have replace a process level token permission.
- Local Windows users that have vSphere permissions are not migrated since they are specific to the Windows server, all SSO users and permissions are migrated.
- The upgrade can be easily rolled back by following this KB.
- Migration of vCenter using DHCP, or services with custom ports, is not supported. The settings of only one physical network adapter are migrated.
- Downtime varies depending on the amount of data you are migrating and is calculated when running the migration wizard.
- A list of Required Ports for vCenter Server and PSC can be found here.
- The configuration maximums for vSphere 6.7 can be found here.
- In vSphere 6.7 TLS 1.2 is enabled by default. TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 are disabled by default, review the Release Notes for more information.
- There are a number of Intel and AMD CPUs no longer supported with vSphere 6.7, review the Release Notes for a full list of unsupported processors.
Before we begin if your existing Windows vCenter is virtual it may be beneficial to rename the vCenter virtual machine name in the vSphere inventory to include -old or equivalent. While the hostname and IP are migrated the vSphere inventory name of the VM cannot be a duplicate. The old server is powered down but not deleted so that we have a back out.
Download the VMware vCenter Server Appliance 6.7 ISO from VMware downloads: v6.7.0. Mount the ISO on your computer. The VCSA 6.5 installer is compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows. Copy the migration-assistant folder to the Windows vCenter Server (and PSC server if external). If the PSC is running on a different Windows server then you must run the Migration Assistant on the PSC server first and migrate following the instructions below, then complete the same process on the Windows vCenter Server.
Start the VMware-Migration-Assistant and enter the SSO Administrator credentials to start running pre-checks.
If all checks complete successfully the Migration Assistant will finish at ‘waiting for migration to start’.
On a different machine from your Windows vCenter and PSC server(s) open the vcsa-ui-installer folder file located on the root of the ISO. Browse to the corresponding directory for your operating system, e.g. \vcsa-ui-installer\win32. Right click Installer and select Run as administrator. The vCenter Server Appliance Installer will open, click Migrate.
The migration is split into 2 stages; stage 1 deploys the new appliance with temporary network settings, there is no outage to the Windows vCenter at this stage. Stage 2 migrates data and network settings over to the new appliance and shuts down the Windows server. We begin with deploying the appliance. Click Next.
Accept the license terms and click Next.
Enter the details of the vCenter Server to migrate, then click Next.
Enter the FQDN or IP address of the host, or vCenter upon which you wish to deploy the new VCSA. Enter the credentials of an administrative or root user and click Next. The installer will validate access, if prompted with an untrusted SSL certificate message click Yes to continue. Tip – connect to the vCenter for visibility of any networks using a distributed switch, connecting to the host direct will only pull back networks using a standard switch.
Enter the virtual appliance VM name, this is the name that appears in the vSphere inventory as mentioned earlier. The host name of the vCenter Server will automatically be migrated. Click Next.
Select the appropriate deployment size for your environment and click Next.
Select the datastore to locate the virtual appliance and click Next. Configure the temporary network settings for the appliance. These will only be used during migration of the data, once complete the temporary settings are discarded and the VCSA assumes the identity, including IP settings, of the Windows vCenter Server. Click Next.
Review the settings on the summary page and click Finish. The VCSA will now be deployed. Once complete click Continue to being the second stage of the migration.
Click Next to begin the migration wizard.
The source vCenter details are imported from stage 1.
As my source Windows vCenter was joined to a domain I am prompted for credentials to join the VCSA to the domain.
Select the data to migrate and click Next.
Select whether or not to join the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program and click Next.
Review the summary page and click Finish. Data will now be migrated to the VCSA, once complete the Windows vCenter Server will be powered off and the network settings transferred to the VCSA. If you urgently need to power back on the Windows server to retrieve files or such like, then do so with the vNICs disconnected, otherwise you will cause an IP/host name conflict on the network.
Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either Launch vSphere Client (HTML5) or Launch vSphere Web Client (FLEX). As the web client will be depreciated in future versions, and the HTML5 client is now nearly at full feature parity, we will use the HTML5 vSphere client.
Management features of the VCSA can be accessed by browsing to the IP or FQDN of the vCenter on port 5480. The login is the root account we configured a password for during the migration wizard.