VMware VCenter Server Appliance (vCSA)
Posted on 08 December 2011
VMware Virtual Center Server Appliance was recently released as GA. A colleague and I decided to take a look at the vCSA in one of our POC labs at work and I decided to try it in my home lab as well. I work at a large enterprise virtualization shop and the vCSA isn’t geared towards that space yet. However it seems that VMware’s long term road map is pointing in that directions. Keep in mind that this is basically a 1.0 release at this point so put it in production at your own risk.
As has been widely published, there are a few features that vCSA doesn’t yet support.
- Linked Mode
- vCenter Heartbeat
- Microsoft SQL Database
- Suggested limit of 5 Hosts and 50 VMs.
The vCSA is delivered as a OVF file that is deployed with 2 vCPU, 8 GB RAM and 82 GB of Disk. You have the option of using the embedded DB2 database or an external Oracle database (in case you have one lying around the lab). It should be noted that vCSA is a licensed product and will require a vCenter license. The same vCenter license will work on either the Windows based or appliance based virtual center.
Follow instructions from VMware here under the Configuring VMware vCenter Server Appliance section.
- Connect to the appliance console to configure some basic settings like IP address, time zone and proxy server information.
- Then connect to the web management interface at http://ipaddress:5480 to configure the database settings, AD information and the like.
- Set the time zone before you set up the database.
- Set up NTP to keep time sync on the appliance before you set up the database if you want to do so.
- If you select the embedded DB2 database, be sure to click the TEST button before saving the selection on the Database configuration screen. Be sure the test is successful.
- Always restart the appliance from the System Tab. I ran into several instances where the embedded DB2 database became corrupted after rebooting using tools or from the command line. This is just a guess at this point but I’m sticking with it.
Stability Issues with vCSA
Now I need to preface this part of the post with the statement that the stability issues I’ve experienced so far could be due to my environment, set-up procedures, stupidity, sun spots and a variety of other issues that are not related to the actual product.
I have a couple different types of issues with vCSA. First was around setup. Several different times I’ve had the database appear to become corrupt. This has either happened during or shorty after setup or after making changes to the time zone. That is where the suggestions above come from. This has manifested itself with the following systems.
- vSphere Client will not connect. Looking at the web management interface will show the vcenter service stopped. Attempting to manually start the service will fail with various errors.
- Examining the boot process you will see the DB2 service start normally ‘waiting for embedded db2 database to start: success’ , then you will see the message ‘cleaning session lock table: failed’. After that the vmware-vpxd service will start but will fail to initialize with ‘waiting for vpxd to initialize: failed’.
- Any attempts to Reset DB Contents fails with ‘Invalid’
- Any attempts to start and initialize the vmware-vpxd service fails
- The only way I’ve found to fix this is to re-deploy the appliance and make sure to set the time zone and time before configuring the database. Also make sure you have the appliance deployed with at least 4 GB of RAM during the setup. You can reduce the RAM later after doing some tweaks discussed here.
The second type of issue I had has manifested itself recently as I begin to use the vCSA more. It has been increasingly common during backups from VDR. I suspect some of the memory tweaks may be responsible for this issue and I’ve continued to adjust these.
- vSphere Client will disconnect and not reconnect
- Looking at the status tab of the vCSA management web page shows the vCenter service is stopped.
- Starting the vcenter service or rebooting the appliance from the web management interface usually fixes the error.
UPDATE: I’ve re-tweaked some of my initial memory settings and the second issue has gone away. I think I was running the Tomcat JVM and vcenter services too lean on RAM and this was causing the service to hang or stop. Since I’ve increased the settings I’ve had no further issues.
Overall I think the vCSA shows a lot of promise and will continue to evolve with additional database support and features. If you have a home lab I think it is definately worth a look.