Friday 29 October 2010

Building a vLab Part 3: vCenter Server

Previously on "Building a vLab": Part 1: The Design and Part 2: Infrastructure Build.

For a production environment, many people run vCenter on a server that connects to a SQL Server database on another server (possibly as part of a cluster).  However, as part of this vLab, we're going for the default install of a single VM using a local SQL Server Express database.

The vCenter VM has 1 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 40GB hard disk, 1 vNIC connecting to the vLab LAN with an IP address of This specification is smaller than that recommended by VMware, but it's enough to get started with. The vCenter server is running Windows Server 2008 R2 as vCenter 4.1 requires a 64bit version of Windows.

Once built, the vCenter Server is assigned the default gateway of the Vyatta VM ( and the DNS server of the domain controller. The vCenter Server is named "vcenter" and then joined to the vLab domain.

As I do not have permanent VMware vSphere licences in my home lab, I wanted to create an environment where rebuilding from scratch would be a fairly painless experience.

I first created a new 64bit Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual machine. After it was assigned a static IP address and given the correct hostname, I created a small command script called install-vcenter.cmd based on the VMware "Performing a Command-Line Installation of vCenter Server" and copied it to the administrator's desktop.

Having got the base Windows install done, I then exported the VM as an OVF template for future use.

The next step was to mount the vCenter ISO and run the install-vcenter.cmd script. This performed a silent default installation of vCenter including the installation of the .NET runtime and SQL Server Express install. There are many customisable options that can be passed to the setup but these work well enough for my needs:

set EXE=D:\vpx\VMware-vcserver.exe
start /wait %EXE% /q /s /w /L1033 /v" /qr DB_SERVER_TYPE=Bundled FORMAT_DB=1 /L*v \"%TEMP%\vmvcsvr.txt\""

This means that when the vCenter licence expires, I can wipe it out, re-import the template VM, rejoin the domain and run the install-vcenter.cmd script to rebuild a new vCenter installation. It won't keep all my previous settings, and won't configure all the VMs, but it's a start.

UPDATE (22 Jan 2011): If the lab isn't used for a couple of months, the Active Directory trust relationship will fail and the installation will fail. To fix, export the VM when built, but before it is on the domain. I then wrote a short cmd file to automatically join the domain with the following command:

netdom join %computername% /Domain:VSPHERE /UserD:Administrator /PasswordD:mypassword /REBoot:20

In the next part of this series, we'll build our virtual ESXi servers.

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