vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) automated/unattended deployment

Installing the vCenter Server Aplliance (vCSA) automatically using an unattended deployment can be done by command line (CLI) in combination with a JSON config file.  In this example an embedded vCenter Server Appliance with the Platform Service Controller (PSC) and vCenter Server role will be deployed.

Prerequisites:

  • This example is based on a Windows Operating System. Using a Linux or MAC OS is also possible but not highlighted in this blog.
  • Make sure the FQDN of the vCSA is resolvable by a DNS server and check if reverse lookup works.

Steps to perform:

  • Download the vCenter Server Appiance (VCSA) ISO (version 6.5 or 6.7)
  • Mount the ISO
  • The CLI installer for Windows requires a Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable version 14.0. This requirement can be checked with the following command:
\vcsa-cli-installer\win32\check_windows_vc_redist.bat
  • Navigate to the JSON templates. The vCSA ISO contains template JSON files that can be used for deploying the vCSA. The templates can be found on the ISO in the following map:
 \vcsa-cli-installer\templates\install

The types of templates are avalable:

           embedded_vCSA_on_*.json: Platform Services Controller (PSC) and vCSA
                                     together on one system
            PSC_on_*.json:           Only a PSC
            vCSA_on_*.json:          Only a vCSA
            *_on_ESXi.json:          Install onto the ESXi host specified in the JSON
                                     file
            *_on_VC.json:            Install onto a host managed by the vCenter
                                     instance specified in the JSON file
  • Edit a template “embedded_vCSA_on_ESXi.json or use the example below with you’re favorite editor (I use Notepad ++) and save it to a writable location (in the CLI syntax you need to point to this modified JSON file). The template contains the minimal parameters needed to deploy the embedded vCSA. The vCSA will deployed as tiny (2 vCPU, 10 GB memory, 300 GB storage). An overview of all parameters that can be used are found here, link.

Example JSON file to deploy an embedded vCenter Server Appliance with the PSC and vCenter components:

{
    "__version": "2.13.0",
    "__comments": "Sample template to deploy a vCenter Server Appliance with an embedded Platform Services Controller on an ESXi host.",
    "new_vcsa": {
        "esxi": {
            "hostname": "192.168.11.10",
            "username": "root",
            "password": "VMwaaare01!",
            "deployment_network": "vlan13-srv",
            "datastore": "SSD-M2-01"
        },
        "appliance": {
            "__comments": [
                "You must provide the 'deployment_option' key with a value, which will affect the VCSA's configuration parameters, such as the VCSA's number of vCPUs, the memory size, the storage size, and the maximum numbers of ESXi hosts and VMs which can be managed. For a list of acceptable values, run the supported deployment sizes help, i.e. vcsa-deploy --supported-deployment-sizes"
            ],
            "thin_disk_mode": true,
            "deployment_option": "tiny",
            "name": "vcsa03.lab.local"
        },
        "network": {
            "ip_family": "ipv4",
            "mode": "static",
            "ip": "192.168.13.13",
            "dns_servers": [
                "192.168.13.101"
            ],
            "prefix": "24",
            "gateway": "192.168.13.254",
            "system_name": "vcsa03.lab.local"
        },
        "os": {
            "password": "VMware01!",
            "ntp_servers": "pool.ntp.org",
            "ssh_enable": true
        },
        "sso": {
            "password": "VMware01!",
            "domain_name": "vsphere.local"
        }
    },
    "ceip": {
        "description": {
            "__comments": [
                "++++VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP)++++",
                "VMware's Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) ",
                "provides VMware with information that enables VMware to ",
                "improve its products and services, to fix problems, ",
                "and to advise you on how best to deploy and use our ",
                "products. As part of CEIP, VMware collects technical ",
                "information about your organization's use of VMware ",
                "products and services on a regular basis in association ",
                "with your organization's VMware license key(s). This ",
                "information does not personally identify any individual. ",
                "",
                "Additional information regarding the data collected ",
                "through CEIP and the purposes for which it is used by ",
                "VMware is set forth in the Trust & Assurance Center at ",
                "http://www.vmware.com/trustvmware/ceip.html . If you ",
                "prefer not to participate in VMware's CEIP for this ",
                "product, you should disable CEIP by setting ",
                "'ceip_enabled': false. You may join or leave VMware's ",
                "CEIP for this product at any time. Please confirm your ",
                "acknowledgement by passing in the parameter ",
                "--acknowledge-ceip in the command line.",
                "++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++"
            ]
        },
        "settings": {
            "ceip_enabled": true
        }
    }
}

The first deployments failed when using the FQDN ESXi hostname in the JSON file, with the following error:

OVF Tool: Transfer Failed

OVF Tool: Error: Failed to send http data

Deployment failed. OVF Tool return error code: 1

I checked the logs but didn’t find any clue. The FQDN of the ESXi host was revolvable by DNS but after changing the ESXi FQDN to the IP address of the ESXi  host in the JSON file the deployment finished without errors.

  • Perform a template JSON verification without installing:
vcsa-deploy install --accept-eula --verify-template-only <JSON file path>
  • Perform the actually deployment
vcsa-deploy.exe install --accept-eula --acknowledge-ceip --terse --no-ssl-certificate-verification <JSON file path>

When the unattended deployment finished, an embedded vCenter Server Appliance with the Platform Service Controller (PSC) and vCenter Server role is ready to rumble.

I created a GitHub repository for the deployment and parameters, link.

VMware documentation about the CLI deployment can be found here, link.

Review NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 released

NAKIVO announced today that NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 is out of beta and available. This new version includes the following new features:

  • Support for VMware vSphere 6.7: It’s now officially compatible with the latest version of VMware vSphere.
  • Cross-Platform Recovery: With the Cross-Platform Recovery feature, users can export VM data from VMware and Hyper-V backups into VMDK, VHD, or VHDX format. The exported files can then be used for recovery across different hypervisors, cross-platform VM data migration, long-term archival, or sandbox testing.
  • Advanced Bandwidth Throttling: Allow you to set speed limits during data protection jobs to avoid network overload for example during business hours.
  • Dell EMC Data Domain Boost Support: Dell EMC Data Domain: Integrates with the BoostFS plugin, combining benefits of the VM backup software with the source-side deduplication offered by Dell EMC Data Domain Boost. As a result of this integration, VM backup size can be reduced by up to 17X while VM backup speed can be improved by as much as 50%.
  • NETGEAR ReadyNAS VM Backup Appliance:  can be installed directly on NETGEAR ReadyNAS devices, creating a cost-effective VM backup appliance. The ReadyNAS-based appliance is a 5-in-1 solution featuring backup hardware, software, storage, built-in global data deduplication, and backup-to-cloud functionality. This is already possible with QNAP and Synology NAS devices.

NAKIVO develops data protection solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, and cloud environments such as Amazon and Azure. I was asked to do an independent review of NAKIVO Backup & Replication. In a series of blog posts I will look closer to existing and new features of NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5. I’ll will be highlight the following topics:

  • Installation and basic configuration, link
  • Backup and Recovery, link
  • Replication (coming soon)
  • Editions and licensing (coming soon)
  • Conclusion (coming soon)

More information can be found here:

  • NAKIVO VMware Backup, link
  • NAKIVO Hyper-V Backup, link
  • NAKIVO AWS EC2 backup. link
  • NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 full-featured trial download, link
  • NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 release notes, link

 

Quick Tip – PowerCLI Invalid server certificate

When trying to connect with PowerCLI to a vCenter Server Appliance the following error occurred:

Connect-vIServer : 18-7-2018 13:20:10 Connect-VIServer Error: Invalid server certificate. Use Set-PowerCLIConfiguration to set the value for the InvalidCertificateAction option to Prompt if you’d like to connect once or to add a permanent exception for this server.

As stated in the error, the Set-PowerCLIConfiguration command can be used to ignore the certificate check using the following syntax:

Set-PowerCLIConfiguration -InvalidCertificateAction Ignore -Confirm:$false

After this command you’re able to connect to the vCenter without the certificate error.