Bootstrapping the vCenter 6.5 Appliance onto vSAN 6.6 with a single ESXi Host.

So after all this prep work, we can now install vCenter to do all the cool things. Also, since we are installing vCenter 6.5, we may as well utilize the new VCSA Installer and create a vSAN 6.6 cluster all in the same process.

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Dude! Wut the heck is Bootstrapping?

Prerequisites

There are a few things we need to make sure we have in order for the new installer to work properly.

  • 1. ESXi 6.5 Host
  • 2. VCSA 6.5 ISO
  • 3. Hardware
  • 4. Domain Controller

You’ll need the VCSA 6.5 ISO on version 5318154 in order for the vSAN cluster creation option to show up.

Create Domain Controller VM & Configure DC w/DNS Role

First thing I like to do is spin up a DC to serve up DNS. DNS is recommended when installing vCenter as opposed to using just the static IP. vCenter relies hugely on DNS since the SSO (Single Sign-On) service is part of the PSC (Platform Services Controller) and stuff and things.

*You don’t necessarily need to do this step first in order to install vCenter, but I like to have a working DNS server before deploying. 

So first thing we’ll do is create a new VM and install a DC. I’ll use Windows Server 2016 as my DNS server. Before you get started, go ahead and upload the installation ISO to a datastore.

Create A Virtual Machine

Create Domain Controller & Install DNS Role

Awesome. So now that we are done creating a DC and DNS server we can move onto installing vCenter.

Stage 1 – Installing vCenter and Creating vSAN Cluster

Mount the VCSA ISO and navigate to vcsa-ui-installer > win32. Once there launch the installer.exe.

You’ll be given a few choices upon launching the installer. Choose Install since we’ll be installing for the first time. On the next Introduction screen just click on Next. Agree to the EULA on the next screen and…you guessed it…click on Next.

Now we’ll want to choose our deployment type. I’m going to go with an Embedded Platform Services Controller in my home lab. You’d want to choose an External PSC if you have multiple vCenters all connected in Enhanced Linked Mode and have a larger environment. Click Next after your selection.

On the following page, you are going to have to add the ESXi host your vCenter will be deployed to by either IP address or FQDN. Once you do that, click on Next. The Certificate Warning will pop up. Simply choose Yes here.

Here is where you name the VM and set a password. The password requirements are:

  • At least 8 characters
  • No more than 20 characters
  • At least 1 uppercase character
  • At least 1 lowercase character
  • At least 1 number
  • At least 1 special character (e.g.,’!’,'(‘,’@’,etc.)

Click Next when finished.

Totally sticking with a Tiny deployment here for a home lab. Click Next after you select your deployment size. Now this is where we select to install vCenter on a new Virtual SAN Cluster containing the target host. This used to be two separate processes, but now is built into the install.

**You would not see this option if you weren’t on the correct build listed in the prerequisites above.**

Selecting that radio button will give you the option to provide the Datacenter and Cluster name. Click Next when complete.

You will now have to claim disks for different tiers for the vSAN. My SSD RAID set is already recognized as a Flash Cache tier. If you sported an NVME PCIE device you can claim it for a flash cache tier if it didn’t do it automatically.

My local spinning disks are already set to the Capacity tier. Depending on your configuration, you’ll need to identify and claim the correct disk tiers.

Cache me ousside...how bow dah?

I’ll also check the box to Enable Thin Disk Mode which will allow me to save more disk space.

Ummmm....

Click Next when done.

We now need to configure the network settings for vCenter. Click Next when done.

*Remember that you’ll need to run this installer from a machine that is pointed to your new DNS server. 

*If you didn’t setup a DNS server previously as stated above, you’ll run into this error at the top. You can still proceed with the install, but I like to have all the configuration correctly in place to mitigate these errors. 

Then finally click on Finish here.

The Stage 1 install process will begin so go bake a pizza till it finishes.

Stage 2 – Completing the VCSA Setup

Alrighty then! Now that we are stuffed with pizza, let’s get back on track shall we? When the install is complete click on Continue to proceed with Stage 2 of the deployment process.

Click Next on the Introduction page. Here we need to setup our NTP servers. I’ll use our newly deployed Domain Controller as an NTP source. I’ll also choose to Enable SSH. Once done click on Next.

Next, enter the SSO domain name. I’ve read it is best practice to keep the defaults vsphere.local since configuring something like e2.local will cause issues if I try to use other VMware products in the future since they expect the SSO to be vsphere.local. Not sure if this has been resolved in this 6.5 version but why risk it?

Skip down and enter the password with the same password requirements listed above. Finally choose a site name and click on Next.

You can choose to join the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CIEP) if you’d like. It doesn’t matter either way. Decide on whatever you want and click on Next. Then finally on the last page, validate your settings and click on Finish. It’ll try to yell at you about not being able to pause the install from completing. Just click on OK.

The install will complete and start a buttload of services. Let’s nom some more on that pizza while we wait 😛

Whew…good job. Looks like everything finished properly. There are a few things we need to do after the fact to ensure the benefits of a vSAN cluster. VMware’s recommendation below:

Your vCenter Server Appliance is deployed on a Virtula SAN cluster. However, this one-host cluster must be further configured in order to provide the full benefits of a Virtual SAN cluster. 

Virtual SAN Configuration Instructions

  1. Add at least 3 more hosts to the cluster;
  2. Be sure all hosts have a network adapter enabled for VSAN traffic;
  3. Go to Configure >> Virtual SAN >> General and click Edit to complete the configuration of your new Virtual SAN cluster.

I’ll get to that on another post where we’ll create some Nested ESXi hosts.

For now, login and navigate around. Use the HTML5 interface. It’s pretty slick.

Till next time 🙂

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