Well, I've finally got around to getting my 'lab' setup inside of VMware Workstation and I thought the first thing that I would try out would be the new in vSphere 5, the VMware vCenter Appliance.

The VMware vCenter Appliance is a pre-configured Linux-based virtual machine that is optimized for running vCenter Server and its' associated services.  Although the appliance will give you most of what the Windows based vCenter installation will give you there are some limitations.  I'm not going to go too much into detail as many people have already blogged about the situations.  Duncan Epping has a good little post on what it is lacking here.  The biggest for me is no Update Manager, no MSSQL support, and as well if using the embedded DB2 database you are limited for support for only 5 hosts and 50 VMs.  You can get support for more hosts and VMs, but you need to use an Oracle database to support it.

That being said, it's still a great solution for an SMB or a lab situation where you want to get  an instance of VMware vCenter Server up and running quickly as well as save some cost on Microsoft licensing.  The installation and configuration was a breeze and I had the appliance up and running within about 10 minutes.  The official documentation for installing and configuring the appliance can be found here, and mine…below 🙂

First off, you will need to go and download the OVF and the 2 associated vmdk's that go along with it and deploy it as you would any other virtual appliance (File -> Deploy OVF Template).  

Once the appliance has been copied up to your environment, added to your inventory, mapped to your networks, and powered on, have a look at the console to determine how to connect to your vCenter. The console should display what IP has been assigned (you can change this later).  You should be able to access it by opening a browser session to http://IP_ADDRESS:5480/

Once you have your browser window connected, the default credentials to login are root/vmware.  After accepting the EULA, click on the 'Networking' tab and then 'Configure Networking'  Here you can set up your ip address, gateway, dns, etc.

Next is the database, head to the 'Database' tab and input your desired configuration.  I chose to use the embedded option however if you have an Oracle instance you can chose to host your database on it.  Once done select 'Test Settings', if everything checks out click 'Save Settings'.

Then, move to the 'Status' tab and click on 'Start vCenter'.

This process for real takes less than 10 minutes and you now have a functional vCenter instance running in your environment that you can now connect to with either the vSphere Client or the Web Client and configure, manage, and provision to your hearts delight.

I've just grazed over the basic settings here that you need to setup in order to get your vCenter Server Appliance up and running.  There are obviously many other functions and tasks that you can perform in the configuration page of the appliance so I encourage everyone to have a look for themselves or take a peek at the official documentation to get up to speed.  As always comments, issues, concerns, questions, suggestions are welcome and encouraged in the comments box below.