Add a User Defined Windows Administrator to a vRA Blueprint

This post will walk through implementing a process allowing a vRA portal user to specify a user account to be added to the local administrators group on a Windows server provisioned by vRA. There are plenty of posts out there, including a kb article, on adding the virtual machine requester (owner) to the administrators group if that is what you need to do. Before beginning I am assuming you have a fully working vRA installation (I’m using v7.2), and Windows templates with the vRealize Automation Guest Agent installed. Some blueprints would also be handy, but you can create those after.

We’ll need a script on the template Windows machine, in this example I’ve created a Scripts sub-folder within the VRMGuestAgent folder, and a new text file which I’ve saved as AdminUser.cmd. The full path therefore is C:\VRMGuestAgent\Scripts\AdminUser.cmd.

Location

Copy and paste the following line into the batch file: Net localgroup administrators /add %1.

Script

Log in to the vRA portal, for example https://*loadbalancer*/vcac/org/*tenant*. Open the Administration tab and select Property Dictionary. We need to provide the user with a field in the virtual machine request process for them to specify an account to be added as a local administrator. Click Property Definitions and New.

  • Enter a name, it is best practice to use the tenant name, a dot, and then the name of the proeprty definition, for example YourTenant.AdminUser.
  • Enter a useful description, this text will be displayed when the user points to the help symbol next to the field we’re adding in the virtual machine request.
  • Change the Data type to String, and select whether you want the field to be mandatory.
  • From the Display as drop-down menu select Textbox. Click Ok to save.

Admin1

Next click Property Groups. If your blueprints are using an existing property group then click the property group.  If you need to create a new property group click New and enter a name. The following lines need adding to the property group that is used, or will be used, by a blueprint.

  • Name:   VirtualMachine.Software0.Name
  • Value:   AdminUser
    • Replace the value with an appropriate name for the property, I have used the same name as the script but it doesn’t have to match up.
  • Name:   VirtualMachine.Software0.ScriptPath
  • Value:   C:\VRMGuestAgent\Scripts\AdminUser.cmd {YourTenant.AdminUser}
    • Replace the value with the location of the script on the template OS and include the squiggly brackets; with the name of the property definition we created earlier inside.
  • Name:   YourTenant.AdminUser
  • Value:
  • Show in Request:   Yes
    • Enter the name of the property definition we created earlier and leave the value blank (this will be entered by the user). Ensure Show in Request is ticked.

If you are already using VirtualMachine.Software0 for something else, such as adding the virtual machine owner to the local administrators group, then you can amend to VirtualMachine.Software1 and so on. When you’re done the entries should look something like this, click Ok.

Properties

If you haven’t yet assigned a property group to your blueprint then click the Design tab and Blueprints. Click the blueprint to edit, select the vSphere_Machine and click the Properties tab, from the Property Groups tab click Add.

CustomProperty

Select the property group we recently created or changed and click Ok. Click Save and Finish. The values in the property group will now be applied to any virtual machines deployed from this blueprint, repeat as required for any other vSphere_Machines or blueprints.

Assuming your blueprint is published and has the necessary entitlements; click the Catalog tab. Locate the catalog item linked to the blueprint and click Request. Select the vSphere_Machine component and you’ll see the new field for the requester to enter the domain\user or user@domain account to be added to the Windows local Administrator group. If you opted to make data input mandatory you’ll see an asterisk next to the new field.

Request

Windows vCenter 6.5 Upgrade

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. This post gives a walk through of upgrading a Windows based vCenter Server from v6.0 to v6.5, you may also want to consider Migrating Windows vCenter Server to VCSA 6.5.

27/07/2017: vSphere 6.5 Update 1 has now been released: Download | Release Notes | What’s New | Upgrading to vCenter Server 6.5 Update 1

Software Considerations

  • The vCenter must be running v5.5 or v6.0 to upgrade to v6.5.
  • All ESXi hosts connected must also be running version v5.5 or v6.0, vCenter 6.5 cannot mange ESXi v5.1 hosts or earlier. For other VMware products see the Update Sequence Table.
  • The operating system should be 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 SP2 or above.
  • An external database should be Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 or above, or Oracle 11g or 12c. You can review a full list of compatible versions at the Database Interoperability Matrix.
  • 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 6.5 compatibility.
  • To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component. Read more about the PSC in this kb.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • The upgrade supports different deployment topologies but does not, and can not, make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
  • When upgrading vCenter 6.0 the deployment model already in place will be migrated. When upgrading vCenter 5.5 the following will apply:
    • If SSO was installed on a different machine from vCenter Server then the machines running SSO will become external Platform Services Controllers.
    • If SSO was installed on the same machine as vCenter Server then this becomes vCenter Server with embedded Platform Services Controller.
  • In this post we will be upgrading a Windows vCenter 6.0 using the embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC must be upgraded before the vCenter.

embedded

Hardware Considerations

  • Windows vCenter Server with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources:
    • 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.
  • Where the PSC is deployed on a separate machine this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM.
  • Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
  • The Windows vCenter Server requires the following free disk space for installation: (the first 2 may not necessarily be the system drive depending on installation location) Program Files 6 GB, Program Data 8 GB, System folder 3 GB. The PSC machine requires; Program Files 1 GB, Program Data 2 GB, System folder 1 GB.

Other Considerations

Installation

Download the VMware vCenter Server and Modules for Windows ISO from VMware downloads: v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1.

Mount the ISO and right click autorun.exe, select Run as administrator. The VMware vCenter Installer will open. Ensure vCenter Server for Windows is selected and click Install.

vsc1

The vCenter Server 6.5 Installer will open in a separate window, the existing installation is auto-detected, click Next.

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Accept the end user license agreement and click Next.

upgrade2

Enter the SSO administrator password, if you removed this account from the vCenter administrators enter the credentials of a vCenter administrator. Click Next.

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The installer will now run pre-upgrade checks.

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Accept the default port configuration and click Next.

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Select the type of data to migrate during the upgrade, click Next.

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Select the installation directories. Note the data export location, you will need to remove this folder after verifying the upgrade is successful. Click Next.

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Tick or untick the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program as appropriate and click Next.

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Check the configuration on the review page, check the box to confirm you have backed up the vCenter Server, click Upgrade to begin the installation process.

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A progress bar will be displayed.

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Once complete click Finish.

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Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.

vsphereweb

Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.

vsphereclient

You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

client

When you are satisfied the vCenter is working as it should be and backups have completed; remove the temporary data – the default location was C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\export.

Consider upgrading any other products you may use, such as Update Manager.

Migrating Windows vCenter Server to VCSA 6.5

This post gives a walkthrough on migrating from a Windows based vCenter Server (VCS) to the Photon OS based vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). This guide is specific to migrating and upgrading from vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to VCSA 6.5. If you are looking to migrate from vCenter Server 5.5 to VCSA 6.0 then see Migrating Windows vCenter Server to VCSA 6.0, or to deploy a new VCSA review the vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 Install Guide.

About VCSA

migrate2vcsa

The VCSA is a pre-configured virtual appliance; as of v6.5 the operating environment is built on Project Photon OS 1.0. 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 Postgre 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.

In vSphere 6.0 the VCSA reached feature parity with its Windows counterpart, 6.5 begins to pave the way for VCSA to become the preferred deployment method for vCenter Server. One key addition is the inclusion of Update Manager bundled into the VCSA, as well as vCenter High Availability, Backup and Restore, and other features. 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. Last year there was a fling for migrating to VCSA which had limited capability and support. If you have used or read about the fling then re-review any limitations as a lot of this has been lifted now that VMware have released the migration tool as an official product. Furthermore in vSphere 6.5 the migration tool is not built into the single installation package alongside install, upgrade, and restore.

Software Considerations

  • The Windows VCS must be v5.5 or v6.0 (any build / patch) to migrate to VCSA 6.5. If the VCS is v5.0 or 5.1 upgrade to 5.5 first and then migrate. Both physical and virtual vCenter Server installations are compatible.
  • Any database, internal or external, supported by VCS 5.5 can be migrated to the embedded Postgre database within the target VCSA.
  • The ESXi host where VCSA will be deployed must be v5.5 or above, as must all other hosts in the vCenter.
  • 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 from v6.5.
  • You must check compatibility of any third party products and plugins that might be used for backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. as these may also need upgrading for use with vSphere 6.5.
  • For other VMware products check the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Hardware Considerations

  • 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.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component.
  • You can read more about the PSC in this KB.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • The migration tool supports different deployment topologies but does not, and can not, make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
  • If SSO was installed on the same machine as vCenter Server then services are migrated to vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 with embedded Platform Services Controller.
  • If SSO was installed on a different machine from vCenter Server then the Windows VCS server will be migrated to the vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 with external Platform Services Contoller, and the Windows SSO server will be migrated to the Platform Services Controller 6.5 Appliance.
  • In this post we will be migrating a Windows vCenter using the embedded deployment model.
  • 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.

embedded

Other Considerations

  • 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.
  • If there are any firewalls between vSphere components then review the list of required ports here., e.g. data migration from the VCS to the VCSA uses SSH so port 22 must be open.
  • 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, but can be calculated using this KB.
  • Ensure you have a good backup of the vCenter Server and the database.
  • Official resources – vSphere 6.5 Documentation Centre, vSphere 6.5 Release Notes. Update – there is now a vCenter Server Appliance migration VMware blog here and walkthrough here.
  • Read the Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.5 KB.

Process

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 6.5 ISO from VMware downloads:  v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1. Unlike the Windows vCenter installer, which hasn’t changed much in v6.5; the VCSA installer has had a complete overhaul. You’ll notice straight away that the GUI is much cleaner, and multiple deployment options (install, upgrade, migrate, restore) are now bundled into one installer.

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 SSO server if separate). If SSO is running on a different Windows server then you must run the Migration Assistant on the SSO 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.

migration1

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 SSO 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.

migrate1

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. 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.

migrate2

Accept the license terms and click Next.

migrate3

Enter the details of the vCenter Server to migrate, then click Next.

migrate4

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.

migrate5

Enter the virtual appliance 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.

migrate6

Select the appropriate deployment size for your environment and click Next.

migrate7

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.

migrate8

Review the settings on the summary page and click Finish. The VCSA will now be deployed.

migrate9

Once complete click Continue to being the second stage of the migration.

migrate7

Click Next to begin the migration wizard.

migrate10

The source vCenter details are imported from stage 1.

migrate11

Select the data to migrate and click Next.

migrate12

Select whether or not to join the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program and click Next.

migrate13

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.

Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.

vsphereweb

Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.

vsphereclient

You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

client

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

Windows vCenter Server 6.5 Install Guide

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. This post gives a walk through on a clean installation of vCenter Server 6.5 on Windows Server 2016. See also vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 Install Guide.

27/07/2017: vSphere 6.5 Update 1 has now been released: Download | Release Notes | What’s New | Upgrading to vCenter Server 6.5 Update 1

Software Considerations

  • The operating system should be 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 SP2 or above.
  • For environments with up to 20 hosts and 200 VMs the bundled internal Postgre database can be used.
  • An external database should be Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 or above, or Oracle 11g or 12c. You can review a full list of compatible versions at the Database Interoperability Matrix.
  • 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 6.5 compatibility.
  • Any hosts you plan on connecting to vCenter 6.5 should be running version 5.5 or above.
  • To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component.
  • You can read more about the PSC in this kb.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • For more information on deploying an external PSC see the Deploying an External PSC post.
  • Most deployments will include the vCenter Server and PSC in one appliance, following the embedded deployment model, which I will use in this guide.

embedded

Hardware Considerations

  • Windows vCenter Server with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources:
    • 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.
  • Where the PSC is deployed on a separate machine this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM.
  • Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
  • The Windows vCenter Server requires the following free disk space for installation: (the first 2 may not necessarily be the system drive depending on installation location) Program Files 6 GB, Program Data 8 GB, System folder 3 GB. The PSC machine requires; Program Files 1 GB, Program Data 2 GB, System folder 1 GB.
  • A Windows based vCenter Server can be installed on either a physical or virtual machine.

Other Considerations

Create Data Source

Before beginning if you intend to use vCenter Server with an external SQL database be sure to install the SQL Server Native Client v10 or v11.

You must also configure a 64-bit ODBC data source for external databases. ODBC Data Source Administrator can be accessed via Control Panel > Administrative Tools. Click System DNS, Add and input the details for the external database, test the data source before continuing. If you are using the internal Postgres database then the System DSN is added automatically during installation.

odbc

Installation

Download the VMware vCenter Server and Modules for Windows ISO from VMware downloads: v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1.

Mount the ISO and right click autorun.exe, select Run as administrator. The VMware vCenter Installer will open. Ensure vCenter Server for Windows is selected and click Install.

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The vCenter Server 6.5 Installer will open in a separate window, click Next.

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Accept the end user license agreement and click Next.

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In this guide we will be using an embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC component must be installed first before the vCenter. Select the deployment type and click Next. If the Windows server does not have sufficient resources allocated the installer will error at this stage.

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Enter the FQDN in the System Name field and click Next.

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Create a new Single Sign-On domain, or join the vCenter to an existing SSO domain. If you are creating a new SSO domain give this a meaningful name, (not the same as your Active Directory name) the default is vsphere.local. Configure a password for the SSO administrator account and a vCenter specific site name, click Next.

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Select whether to run vCenter services as the local system account or enter details of a service account and click Next. Ensure the account running vCenter services has been granted permissions as per the other considerations section of this guide.

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Select an embedded Postgre database or point the installer to the DSN for an external database, click Next.

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Accept the default port configuration and click Next.

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Select the directory to install vCenter services and click Next.

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Tick or untick the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program as appropriate and click Next.

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Check the configuration on the review page and click Install to begin the installation process.

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Once the installation has completed click Finish.

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Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.

vsphereweb

Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.

vsphereclient

You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

client

If you are have an Active Directory domain then vCenter can use this as a source for permissions and sign on credentials. First join the vCenter to the domain; from the home page click System Configuration, Nodes, and select the vCenter server. In the Active Directory section of the Manage tab click Join, input your AD details and click Ok. Reboot the appliance either right clicking the vCenter server under Nodes and selecting Reboot.

When the vCenter server comes back online we can add AD as an identity source; from the home page click Administration, under Single Sign-On select Configuration. Ensure the Identity Sources tab is open and click the green plus symbol to add a source. Fill in the Active Directory details for your domain and click Ok.

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You can now add permissions to vCenter objects such as datacentres, clusters, folders, individual virtual machines, etc. for Active Directory users and groups by selecting the object and clicking Permissions under the Manage tab. To learn more about how vSphere permissions work review the vSphere permissions documentation section.

To learn how to deploy virtual machines and templates see the VM Templates and Customisation guide. To learn how to convert a physical server to a virtual machine see the Physical to Virtual Machine Conversion Guide.

VM Templates and Customisation

By provisioning a template of the most used operating systems in your virtual environment you can save time deploying new virtual machines and ensure a consistent standardisation of guests across the estate. A template takes the virtual disks and virtual machine configuration files and forms a master image, from which new virtual machines with the same configuration settings can be deployed. Furthermore a customisation specification can be applied to make OS specific customisations such as host name, domain join, product key, etc. as well as generating a new SID for each VM.

In this post we will create a virtual machine running Windows Server 2016, convert it to a template, create a customisation specification, and then deploy a new virtual machine using the template and OS customisation. A virtual machine can be converted to a template or cloned to a template to leave the virtual machine intact. A template cannot be powered on or altered but can be converted back to a virtual machine if modifications are needed at a later date. Templates and customisation specifications both require a vCenter Server instance.

template

Creating a Template

First we need to provision a new virtual machine to act as the base for our template. Select Create a new virtual machine and click Next.

vm1

Give the virtual machine a name and select a folder location, click Next.

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Select the destination compute resource; host or cluster and click Next.

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Select the storage to use for the virtual machine and click Next. Verify the version of ESXi in use in your environment and click Next; this sets the virtual machine hardware version, which can be upgraded at a later date but cannot be downgraded.

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Select the operating system that will be used, this does not install the OS but determines the version of VMware Tools to use.

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Amend the virtual hardware settings if required and click Next. On the review page click Finish, the virtual machine will now be deployed.

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Once the virtual machine is provisioned install the guest operating system. To mount an ISO click the virtual machine in the vSphere inventory, on the Summary tab under VM Hardware locate CD/DVD Drive 1. Click the disconnected symbol and select to connect to the host drive, or mount a file from a shared datastore. To mount installation media from your client machine install the VMware Remote Console Application available from VMware downloads. Launch the Remote Console from the summary tab of the virtual machine.

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After the guest OS is installed the first thing to do is install VMware Tools. Right click the virtual machine in the vSphere inventory and select Guest OS, Install VMware Tools.

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Apply the necessary customisations to the operating system as required. When ready shut down the guest OS cleanly. Right click the virtual machine in the vSphere inventory and select Template, Convert to Template. Remember to remove any ISO mappings or other settings which should not be applied to virtual machines deployed from this template.

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Templates are only visible in the VMs and Templates view (not in Hosts and Clusters). The inventory icon also changes from the standard virtual machine to a template icon. Before deploying virtual machines from our newly created template we should setup a customisation specification, to configure OS specific aspects of the guest and create a new SID for each VM.

Customisation Specifications

On the home page of the vSphere web client navigate to Customisation Specification Manager. Click the new customisation specification icon to load the wizard. Amend the target VM operating system as appropriate and enter a name and description, click Next.

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Enter the registration information for the operating system and click Next.

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Select the desired option for the host name, this sets the computer name within the operating system. Click Next.

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Enter the product key to use with the operating system and click Next.

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Set the administrator password and tick the auto logon box if required, then click Next.

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Set the time zone for the operating system to use and click Next.

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Enter any commands to run at user log on and click Next.

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Configure the network settings and click Next.

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If the virtual machine should join a domain enter these details here and click Next.

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Accept the default value to generate a new SID and click Next.

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Confirm the details on the review screen by clicking Finish. The customisation specification is now ready to use when deploying a virtual machine.

Deploy a VM

Finally we can deploy a virtual machine using the newly created template and customisation specification. Locate the template in the vSphere inventory – remember to browse using VMs and Templates. Right click the template and select New VM from This Template. Enter a name for the virtual machine and select a folder location, then click Next.

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Select the compute to use (host or cluster) and the storage for the virtual machine files. On the clone options page tick Customise the operating system and Power on virtual machine after creation, then click Next.

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Select the customisation specification to use and click Next. On the review page click Finish.

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A new virtual machine will be deployed from the template, powered on, and have the guest customisations applied that we configured earlier. It is worth noting that the customisation specification can take a few minutes to apply.

To learn how to convert a physical server to a virtual machine see the Physical to Virtual Machine Conversion Guide.

Windows vCenter Server 6.0 Install Guide

An updated version of vCenter is now available: Windows vCenter Server 6.5 Install Guide.

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. This post gives a walkthrough on installing a new Windows based vCenter  v6.0, the following guides are also available:

Software Considerations

  • The operating system should be 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 SP2 or above.
  • For environments with up to 20 hosts and 200 VMs the bundled internal PostgreSQL database can be used.
  • An external database should be Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 or above, or Oracle 11g or 12c. You can review a full list of compatible versions at the Database Interoperability Matrix.
  • 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 compatibility.
  • Any hosts you plan on connecting to vCenter 6.0 should be running version 5.x.
  • To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • The implementation of vSphere 6 introduces a Platform Services Controller (PSC) which contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component. You can read more about the PSC in this kb.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the list of recommended topologies for VMware vSphere 6.
  • For more information on deploying an external PSC see the Deploying an External PSC post.
  • Most deployments will follow the embedded deployment model, which I will use in this guide.

Topology

Hardware Considerations

  • Windows vCenter Server with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources:
    • Tiny (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs) – 2 CPUs, 8 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.
  • Where the PSC is deployed on a separate machine this requires 2 CPUs, 2 GB RAM.
  • The Windows vCenter Server requires the following free disk space for installation: (the first 2 may not necessarily be the system drive depending on installation location) Program Files 6 GB, Program Data 8 GB, System folder 3 GB. The PSC machine requires; Program Files 1 GB, Program Data 2 GB, System folder 1 GB.
  • A Windows based vCenter Server can be installed on either a physical or virtual machine.

Other Considerations

  • It may be necessary to temporarily stop any third party software which could interfere with the installer, such as anti-virus scanner (see post vCenter 6 Upgrade Internal Error).
  • If the vCenter Server services are running as a user other than the Local System account then the user must be a member of the administrators group and have the following permissions; log on as a service, act as part of the operating system (if a domain user).
  • The account used for external database authentication requires Oracle DBA role, or SQL sysadmin server role, or db_owner fixed database role. If you receive error: the user associated with the DSN has insufficient privileges see this kb.
  • All vSphere components should be configured to use an NTP server.
  • FQDN resolution should be in place when deploying the vCenter Server in a production environment.
  • Review the list of required ports for vCenter in this kb.
  • Official resources – vSphere 6 Documentation Centre.

Create Data Source

Before beginning if you intend to use vCenter Server with an external SQL database be sure to install the SQL Server Native Client.

You must also configure a 64-bit ODBC data source for external databases. ODBC Data Source Administrator can be accessed via Control Panel > Administrative Tools. Click System DNS, Add and input the details for the external database, test the data source before continuing. If you are using the internal PostgreSQL database then the System DSN is added automatically during installation.

odbc

Installation

Download the VMware vCenter Server and Modules for Windows ISO from VMware downloads.

Mount the ISO and right click autorun.exe, select Run as administrator. The VMware vCenter Installer will open. Ensure vCenter Server for Windows is selected and click Install.

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The vCenter Server 6 Installer will open in a separate window, click Next.

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Accept the end user license agreement and click Next.

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Select the deployment type and click Next. In this guide we will be using an embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC component must be installed first before the vCenter.

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The system name should be auto-populated with the FQDN, click Next. If you are not using IPv6 click Ok to the message about IPv6 resolution.

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Create a new Single Sign-On domain, or join the vCenter to an existing SSO domain. If you are creating a new SSO domain give this a meaningful name, (not the same as your Active Directory name) the default is vsphere.local. Configure a password for the SSO administrator account and a vCenter specific site name, click Next.

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Select whether to run vCenter services as the local system account or enter details of a service account and click Next. Ensure the account running vCenter services has been granted permissions as per the other considerations section of this guide.

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Select an embedded PostgreSQL database or point the installer to the DSN for an external database, click Next.

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Accept the default port configuration and click Next.

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Select the directory to install vCenter services and click Next.

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Tick or untick the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program as appropriate and click Next.

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Check the configuration on the review page and click Install to begin the installation process.

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Once the installation has completed click Finish.

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Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter, and select Log in to the vSphere Web Client. Using the SSO administrator login, verify the installed version is correct when selecting the vCenter under Hosts and Clusters, you can also go to Help > About.

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You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days:

Web client: Click Hosts and Clusters and select the upgraded vCenter. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

Windows client: On the Home screen under Administration click vCenter Server Settings. Under licensing select a license or enter a new key under Assign a new license key to this vCenter Server and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

vspherewebclient

If you are have an Active Directory domain then vCenter can use this as a source for permissions and sign on credentials. First join the vCenter to the domain; from the home page click System Configuration, Nodes, and select the vCenter server. In the Active Directory section of the Manage tab click Join, input your AD details and click Ok. Reboot the appliance either right clicking the vCenter server under Nodes and selecting Reboot.

When the vCenter server comes back online we can add AD as an identity source; from the home page click Administration, under Single Sign-On select Configuration. Ensure the Identity Sources tab is open and click the green plus symbol to add a source. Fill in the Active Directory details for your domain and click Ok.

identity

You can now add permissions to vCenter objects such as datacentres, clusters, folders, individual virtual machines, etc. for Active Directory users and groups by selecting the object and clicking Permissions under the Manage tab. To learn more about how vSphere permissions work review the vSphere permissions documentation section.

To learn how to deploy virtual machines and templates see the VM Templates and Customisation guide. To learn how to convert a physical server to a virtual machine see the Physical to Virtual Machine Conversion Guide.

Setting Service Dependencies in Windows

It may be necessary to delay the loading of a specific service until another service has started and is available for use, such as in an application stack, or for troubleshooting purposes. This quick post will walk-through creating a dependency, or sequence of dependencies, for services on a Windows machine.

Many built in Windows components, and third party applications, include dependencies configured during installation, these are visible from the Services GUI. In order to add dependencies after installation we can use the Windows Service Control (SC) command or add the entries manually in the registry.

services

Command Line

Open an elevated command prompt, be aware that when we set dependencies any existing dependencies are overwritten. So first let’s list the current dependencies using sc qc, the example below will list the properties, including dependencies, of Service1.

sc qc "Service 1"

Use sc config to add a dependency. In the example below Service1 depends on Service2, this means that Service1 will not start until Service2 has successfully started.

sc config "Service 1" depend= "Service 2"

For multiple services use a forward slash.

sc config "Service 1" depend= "Service 2"/"Service 3"

To remove all dependencies use the following command.

sc config "Service 1" depend= /

Registry

Open regedit and locate the following key.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services

There will be a subkey listed for each installed service, click the subkey for the service you wish to configure.

Click Edit, and New Multi-String Value. Right click and Rename the value DependOnService. Right click and select Modify, enter the names of the services you want this service to depend on (one per line) and click Ok.

regedit