Note: The limitations for the VCSA 5.5 are lifted: The integrated vPostgress database will support 100 vSphere hosts and 3.000 virtual machines. For the Oracle database 1000 hosts and 10.000 virtual machines are supported.
The VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) is a linux based virtual appliance, containing VMware’s vCenter Management Server. The vCenter Server Appliance has slightly changed and is improved with the launch of VMware vSphere 5.1.
This article compares the VCSA 5.1 with the “normal” Windows based vCenter Server 5.1. In the table below possibilities and limitations of both versions are summarized. The article will also discuss if the vCenter Server Appliance is the right choice and end up linking to some other interesting articles about the VCSA available on other blogs.
So, let’s start with a comparison between Windows vCenter and the VCSA:
|Feature||Windows vCenter Server 5.1||VCSA 5.1|
|OS||Windows 2003 (SP2/R2) Windows 2008 (SP1, R2, R2 SP1) Most up-to-date info here.||Pre configured virtual appliance running Suse Enterprise Linux 11|
|Platform||Physical server or virtual machine||Only virtual appliance|
|Database||IBM DB2 9.5/9.7 SQL Server 2005 SP4 32/64 (Srd,Ent) SQL Server 2008 R2/SP2 32/64 (Express, Std, Ent) Oracle 10g, 11g, Complete details here.MS SQL Express, integrated: Max 5 hosts/50 VMs||vPostgres (built-in) Oracle 10g, 11gvPostgres, built-in: max 5 hosts/50 VMs|
|Minimum System Requirements||2 (v)CPU’s/cores 4 GB RAM +/- 6 GB Disk (+ required storage for Windows installation) 1 Gbit NetworkSystem requirements may increase depending the number of ESXi hosts/virtual machines.||2 (v)CPU’s/cores 4 GB RAM +/- 7 GB Disk 1 Gbit NetworkSystem requirements may increase depending the number of ESXi hosts/virtual machines.|
|Installation methodology||Needs a pre-installed Windows OS, Windows installation ISO and package are available.||Deployment of a OVF or OVA template.|
|Auto Deploy||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server||Pre-installed|
|Syslog Collector||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server||Pre-installed, but not registered as plugin in vCenter Server. You can view the log files by opening an ssh connection to the VCSA|
|ESXi Dump Collector||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server||Pre-installed, but not registered as plugin in vCenter Server. You can view the log files by opening an ssh connection to the VCSA|
|vSphere Web Client||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server or another seperate server.||Pre-installed|
|Single Sign On (SSO)||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server or another seperate server.||Pre-installed|
|vCenter Update Manager||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server or a seperate Windows host||Seperate installation to be installed on a seperate Windows host|
|vSphere vCLI||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server or a seperate host||Cannot be installed on the vCenter Server Appliance|
|PowerCLI||Seperate installation to be installed on the vCenter Server or a seperate host||Cannot be installed on the vCenter Server Appliance|
|Network||IPv4 and IPv6 supported||IPv4 supported|
|Linked Mode||Supported||Not supported|
|SRM||Compatible with SRM, SRM can be installed on the vCenter Server or a seperate Windows host.||Compatible with SRM, SRM has to be installed on a seperate Windows host.|
|vCenter Heartbeat||Compatible||Not Compatible|
The VMware interoperability matrix is you source regarding the interoperability of the various VMware products. Unfortunately VMware remains a bit vague regarding the interoperability of the vCenter Server Appliance and other VMware solutions. Sometimes VMware explicitly mentions a solution is compatible with the VCSA, sometimes VMware explicitly mentions a solution is not compatible with the VCSA…but most of the time VMware is not telling you anything. From my personal experience I can confirm vCloud Director, vShield Manager and vCenter Operations work flawlessly with the vCenter Server Appliance.
vCenter Server Appliance: Yes or No?
Now the question is, would you prefer the VCSA or the Windows vCenter Server? The question in this case is….”it depends”. At this moment I prefer the Windows vCenter Server, the most important reason is the database compatibility and the need to have a Windows host anyway for the Update Manager. If it’s possible to combine vCenter and Update Manager on one Windows host/vm you won’t have any licensing advantage. In case you’re using Windows Datacenter licensing, the number of Windows VM’s is not really an issue from a licensing perspective.
Regarding the database compatiblity; the VCSA has a built-in database which is suitable for environements with a maximum of 50 vms and 5 ESXi hosts. If you want to grow bigger, you have to use Oracle DBMS which is not always available (MS SQL Server is not an option in this case). If you are planning to run the VCSA and you know you will be running more than 50 VMs/5 ESXi hosts, start using the Oracle DB from the beginning…it will save you a database migration.
The VCSA is of course the right choice if you have to deploy a vSphere environment very fast, e.g. for demo or testing purposes. Especially when the size of the environment is not too big, VCSA is the right option. Always keep an eye which solutions are (not) compatible with vCenter Server Appliance.
Some other good sources
Do you want to learn more about the vCenter Server Appliance, be sure to check William Lam’s blog. William has some good articles available on the VCSA. On top on this, check the VMware Knowledge for the following articles:
- Service bundled with vCenter Server Appliance
- Minimum requirements for the VMware vCenter Server 5.x Appliance
- Troubleshooting vCenter Server Appliance configuration with an external vCenter Single Sign On server
And some good articles by other bloggers:
- VCSA 5.1, Deployment and Upgrade (Juanma)
- What about the VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) version 5.1? (Yvo Beerens)
- vCenter Appliance (Duncan Epping)