vCenter’s Number – Is It Up?

(This is all based on information that’s in the public domain at the time of writing and is all my own opinion. I may very well be wrong!)

ESXi first saw the light of day as version 3.5 in 2007 / 2008. Rumours were rife after ESXi 4.0 was released in 2009 that the clock was now ticking on ESX “Classic”. With the release of 4.1 in 2010 VMware finally confirmed the rumours and, from 5.0 onwards it’s been ESXi only.

You know this already of course if you’ve been working with vSphere for any length of time. The reason that I’m bringing it up though is because I think it’s a clue as to what’s going to happen to vCenter in the future.

The vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) first appeared as a technology preview called “vCenter 2.5 on Linux”. It became vCSA as of vSphere 5. Subsequent releases (5.1 and 5.5) have seen many changes and it’s becoming more compelling with each version. Could it be only a matter of time before VMware announce that vCSA will be the only version of vCenter available? I believe it is VMware’s intention, yes.

Consider VMware’s recently published convergence plan for vCD. It states that the functionality offered in vCD will gradually be separated and merged into either vSphere / vCenter or into vCAC. The timetable for this change isn’t clear yet but given that vCD is Linux based, it might be more logical (or simpler) to integrate some of its functions into vCSA rather than into vCenter for Windows.

Look at many of VMware’s other products and a good number are linux appliance based. Of course there are exceptions, with perhaps some of the biggest currently being vCAC and Horizon View, but they’re both acquired products.

Increasingly we’re also seeing a move away from a Windows vSphere Client to a Web Client. Some functionality in vCenter 5.5 is only accessible via the Web Client. Of course the Windows Client might be kept on as a means to administer the free version of ESXi – time will tell.

None of these things are concrete proof of intent but they, and other things, make my spider senses tingle. It might not happen with as there could be some challenges to overcome still. There would have to be complete support and integration with VMware’s other products as one example. As another example, some customers might want vCSA to support MSSQL before they’d consider it ready for production.

In short though, I think that vCenter’s days on Windows are numbered. What that number is though, I couldn’t say.

Force Removal of Licensed vCenter Products

Once in a while, you need to remove or update licensing in vCenter to account for products that have been registered or interact with vCenter Server.

Unfortunately in some cases you need to force unregister products for vCenter Server – say if a product was registered and then deleted without being unregistered, or if an evaluation period has expired but the Evaluation version is still present in vCenter.

The solution is simple if not at first immediately obvious. Follow this process to force unregister a prodult from vCenter:

  1. Login to vSphere Client.
  2. Home > Licensing.
  3. Switch to View by: ‘Asset’.
  4. Right-click the asset or evaluation you want to remove.
  5. Select the bottom option: ‘Remove Asset’.
  6. Accept the warning message.
  7. Check that the asset has been removed from the licensing inventory.

Note: This process should only be followed if there is no chance the product cannot be unregistered automatically, i.e if the registered vApp has already been deleted. If at all possible, best practice would always be to unregister the licensed asset before deleting it.

Adding ESXi Host to vCenter: Evaluation Expired (but it hasn’t)!

Quick and interesting little gotcha for those running or upgrading any systems running trail, evaluation or time-limited licenses out there.

If you try and add a host to vCenter and the agent replies with an error reporting that the evaluation license has expired, try checking the BIOS time and date settings for your ESXi host. If they are anything other than close to the vCenter system time, then this will affect your evaluation period and may result in the timeout error.

Solution: Reboot your ESXi host and check / update the BIOS date and time. Problem Fixed!

This solution is also detailed in VMware KB 2011655 here:

Configuring vCenter Orchestrator

Article by Michael Poore (@mpoore)

vCenter Orchestrator (vCO) is a no charge extra for vCenter Server owners. In fact the binaries are installed alongside vCenter Server itself.

This post covers what you need to configure vCO and start to use it. It’s based on the GA release of vCenter 5.0. (Of course I should point out that other orchestration products are available.) [Read more...]

Trying vCenter CapacityIQ

Previously I have posted about trying out vCenter Operations. Now the trial, assuming that you went down that route, is actually for vCenter Operations Advanced version. This includes vCenter CapacityIQ. It would be remiss of me not to talk about that too so here goes…

I’m going to assume that CapacityIQ has already been downloaded. After all, you signed up for the vCenter Operations trial didn’t you?

As with the Operations VM, CapacityIQ is delivered in an OVF package and installing it is as easy as:

1) – Open your vSphere Client and select “Deploy OVF Template…” from the file menu

2) – Locate and select the OVF file for CapcityIQ in the OVF deployment wizard

3) – Accept the EULA. Assign a name. Select a location, cluster and resource pool. Pick a datastore and disk format (thin or thick provisioned). Map the VM to a network (see screenshot below). Click Finish.

It shouldn’t take long to deploy. Typically a minute or so.

Before powering on, take a look at what has been provisioned. The CapacityIQ VM is configured as a 32-bit Redhat (RHEL) OS with 2 vCPUs and 3600Mb of RAM. Now you’d hope that with a level of memory that specific that the VM has been “tuned” or optimised in some way. We’ll look into that in a later post I think.

Interestingly, the VM hardware version is only 4. Now although CapacityIQ (version 1.5+) works with vCenter Server 4.0 onwards, it will work when that vCenter manages ESX hosts that are version 3.0.2 and above. The assumption therefore must be that it is possible that the CapacityIQ VM might run on these hosts and so the VM hardware version cannot be 7.

The remainder of the configuration of CapacityIQ is performed initially at the VM’s console screen and then through a web browser. So go ahead and power it on.

Give it a few seconds to boot. You’ll notice if you watch the console that interface eth0 fails to come up. There’s no DHCP available and IP configuration hasn’t taken place yet.

Eventually, you are prompted to set a root password. After that you will need to set a password for the user ciqadmin too.

Once these are done, the appliance will continue to boot. Once this is complete, you will be faced with a similar screen to the one used to configure the vCenter Operations appliance.

Use the cursor keys to select “Configure Network”. You’ll need then to decide (if you haven’t already) whether or not to use DHCP and if not you’ll need to provide some IP configuration details.

** Do be careful entering the information below. I messed up one time and even after correcting the information I couldn’t get HTTPS access to the appliance to work. It could have been a coincidence but if you find this happenning, just redeploy the appliance and start again :-) **

Once finished, the configuration is applied. If it’s successful then the console will prompt you to go to to https://<IP address> to manage and register CapacityIQ. That’s the next step.

Once you’ve acknowledged the inevitable SSL certificate warning, you will reach a login page. Login here using the ciqadmin account whose password you set earlier.

There are a few configuration tabs that you can browse through and setup.

We’re just going to focus at the moment on connecting CapacityIQ to vCenter. As you can see in the middle pane, we haven’t registered yet. Click the “Register” button to go ahead and do that.

You’ll need to enter the FQDN or IP address of your vCenter server and some credentials with which to authenticate to it. I should point out that the reason why the “vCenter CapacityIQ Address” section shows the domain name as being unavailable is probably because I haven’t created a DNS entry for the appliance in AD. If you’re serious about using CapacityIQ you might want to do that, this is just a demo though.

Successful registration will do two things. Firstly, you’ll see some changes to the “Setup” tab in the web GUI.

Secondly, the next time you connect to vCenter using the vSphere Client, you’ll see a new icon on the “Home” page. If you click on that (and acknowledge the SSL certificate warning) you’ll be into CapacityIQ.

As with vCenter Operations, CapacityIQ needs some time to gather data before it will display anything meaningful. In the spirit of Blue Peter though, here’s one I made earlier…


So, that’s all for now. Have a poke round the interface yourself and find out what you can see and do.