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vCenter Server HA – changes in vSphere 6.5

vCenter Server HA – changes in vSphere 6.5

In vSphere 6.5 vCenter has a new native high availability solution that is available exclusively for the vCenter Server Appliance. This solution consists of Active, Passive, and Witness nodes which are cloned from the existing vCenter Server. The vCenter HA cluster can be enabled, disabled, or destroyed at any time. There is also a maintenance mode so planned maintenance does not cause an unwanted failover.

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vCenter HA supports both an external PSC as well as an embedded PSC. Note, however, that in vSphere 6.5 at GA an embedded PSC cannot be used to replicate to any other PSC. Thus, if using an embedded PSC the vCenter Server cannot participate in Enhanced Linked Mode.

vCenter HA has some basic network requirements. A vCenter HA network must be established be and separate from the currently used subnet of the primary network interface of the vCenter Server Appliance (eth0). If using the Basic workflow a new interface, eth1, will be added to the appliance automatically prior to the cloning process. eth1 will be attached to the vCenter HA private network. The port group connecting to this network may reside on either a VMware Virtual Standard Switch (VSS) or a VMware Virtual Distributed Switch (VDS). There are no specific TCP/IP requirements for the vCenter HA network other than latency within the prescribed 10 ms RTT. Layer 2 connectivity is not required.

Failover can occur when an entire node is lost (host failure for example) or when certain key services fail. For the initial release of vCenter HA an RTO of about 5 minutes is expected but may vary slightly depending on load, size, and capabilities of the underlying hardware. During a failover event a temporary web page will be displaying indicating that a failover is in progress. That page will then refresh to the vSphere Web Client login page once vCenter Server is back online. In the case where a user is not active during the failover they may not be prompted to re-login. When compared to other high availability solutions, vCenter HA has several advantages:

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PSC High Availability

After making vCenter Server highly available we also need to consider the availability options for the Platform Services Controller.

As you remember in vSphere 6.0 to provide HA for the PSC a supported load balancer was required –. If automated failover is not required we got option to manually repoint a vCenter Server between PSCs within an SSO site.vcenter12

In vSphere 6.5 VMware is  providing PSC HA solution that doesn’t require a load balancer but there is some integration work to be completed with other products in the SDDC portfolio before native PSC HA can be enabled.

I plan to test new vC and PSC HA  features in our lab environment – will provide separate article with my configuration details. At this moment let me point you to VMware KB as additional  reference:

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1024051

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2147672

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2147018

VCSA deployment and migration options

VCSA deployment and migration options

The vCenter Server Appliance deployment experience has been enhanced in the vSphere 6.5 release. Installation workflow is now performed in 2 stages. The first stage deploys an appliance with the basic configuration parameters: IP, hostname, and sizing information including storage, memory, and CPU resources.
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Stage 2 then completes the configuration by setting up SSO and role-specific settings. Once Stage 1 is complete we can now snapshot the VM and rollback if any mistakes are made in Stage 2. This prevents from having to start completely over if anything were to go wrong during the deployment process.

NOTE!!! There are versions of the deployment application available for Windows, Linux, and macOS.

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 A new feature in vSphere 6.5 is the ability to migrate a Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to a vCenter Server Appliance 6.5. The migration process starts by running the Migration Assistant, which serves two purposes. The first, pre-checks of the source Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to determine if it meets the criteria to be migrated. Second, it is the data transport mechanism that migrates data from the source Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to the target vCenter Server Appliance 6.5.

The Migration tool will automatically deploy a new vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 and migrate configuration, inventory, and alarm data by default from a Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0. If you want to keep your historical and performance data (stats, events, tasks) along with configuration, inventory, and alarm data there is the option to also migrate that information. The vSphere 6.5 release of the Migration Tool provides granularity for historical and performance data selection.

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Both embedded and external topologies are supported, the Migration Tool will not allow changing your topology during the migration process. Changing of topologies will need to be done before the migration process if consolidation of your vSphere SSO domain is required.

SUMMARY:

  • 5 support for Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 à 6.5
  • Migrations for both embedded and external topologies
  • VUM included
  • Embedded and external Database support: MSSQL, MSSQL Express, Oracle
  • Option to select historical and performance data
vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 – new default deployment choice

vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 – new default deployment choice

vcenter1The vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 is the first VMware Appliance to run on Photon OS, it is a Linux OS optimized for virtualization which will become in near future  standard for all VMware virtual appliances. Photon OS provide many benefits to the performance of the vCenter Server Appliance, which includes about 3x performance gain over its Windows counterpart and significantly reduces boot and restart times. This also means no more dependency on 3rd party for OS patching and should greatly reduces the amount of time it takes VMware to deliver security patches and updates to the vCenter Server Appliance.

VCSA – main features:

  • Native High Availability
  • VMware Update Manager
  • Improved Appliance Management
  • Native Backup / Restore

In vSphere 6.0 we saw performance and scalability parity for the vCenter Server Appliance when compared to it’s Windows-based counterpart. With vSphere 6.5 we now see feature parity and even new features that are exclusive to the vCenter Server Appliance. Let’s take a quick look at each of these new features before addressing them in more details later:

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Let’s start with vCenter High Availability which is a native HA solution built right into the appliance. Using an Active/Passive/Witness architecture, vCenter is no longer a single point of failure and can provide a 5-minute RTO. This HA capability is available out of the box and has no dependency on shared storage, RDMs or external databases.

Next, we have the integration of VMware Update Manager into the vCenter Server Appliance. Now VMware Update Manager is included by default into the vCenter Server Appliance and makes deployment and configuration a snap.

Another exclusive feature of the vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 is the improved appliance management capabilities. The vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface continues its evolution and exposes additional health and configurations. This simple user interface now shows Network and Database statistics, disk space, and health in addition to CPU and memory statistics which reduces the reliance on using a command line interface for simple monitoring and operational tasks.

Finally, VMware have added a native backup and restore capability to the vCenter Server Appliance in 6.5 to allow for simple out-of-the-box backup options in addition to the traditional supported methods including VMware Data Protection and VMware vSphere Storage APIs – Data Protection (formerly known as VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection or VADP). This new backup and restore mechanism allows customers to use a simple user interface to remove reliance on 3rd party backup solutions to protect their vCenter Servers and Platform Services Controllers.

Note !!! All these new features are only available in the vCenter Server Appliance.

vSphere 6.5 Installation – Part 2 – vCenter Server Appliance

vSphere 6.5 Installation – Part 2 – vCenter Server Appliance

In the previous Part I of the series, I described the installation process of external PSC in vSphere 6.5.  In this part I’ll go through the process of vCenter Server appliance deployment.

  1. The first step is to download the vCSA ISO image and mount it for instance to your desktop. Inside the ISO image go to D:\vcsa-ui-installer\win32 and run the installer.exe. (This is the same ISO image used for PSC deployment). Then we choose the Install option, as you can see there are also available such option as Upgrade, Migrate and Rocever. All of them will be described further in next part of the series.

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  1. In vSphere 6.5 the process of deployment is divided into two phases, or more correctly stages. The first stage contains the deployment of the appliance where it is deployed in our infrastructure. The second stage will let you configure the PSC and creating SSO domain, etc. It’s nothing to do on this step, simply click Next.

 

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  1. Accept the End User License Agreement and click Next.

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4. Choose the deployment type page allows you to choose which component should be deployed. In my case the external PSC was deployed in previous step and now I’m choosing vCenter Server. It’s important to notice that external PSC must be deployed before you start the deployment of vCenter Server Appliance.

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5. In this step you have to provide the information about the host or vCenter where the appliance will be deployed. I’d like to emphasiss the option with vCenter which is new and in my opinion very helpful. It’s also the recommended option, of course if you already have a vCenter in place. That’s because if you connect directly to an ESXi host and it is in a DRS cluster, DRS initiated vMotions may occur during deployment process. To prevent this, you can either connect to vCenter managing the ESXi host or ensure the cluster where this ESXi host resides is not set to Fully Automated DRS for the duration of the deployment. You also need to provide the credentials to vCenter or ESXi host for an user that have the privileges do deploy and configure virtual appliances.

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6. Verify and confirm the Certificate warning.

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7. In case you have choosen the vCenter to connect tom, you can indicate a specific folder for the appliance. Click Next.

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8. Choose the correct ESXi host to deploy it and click Next.

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9. Specify the Virtual Machine name, root password and click Next.

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10. Choose the right size of your deployment. VMware was so nice and inclueded information on the screen to let you choose the right size for your environment. In my case it’s “just” the lab so Thiny version will be more than enough. Click Next to go further.

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11. Choose the datastore you want to use. There is also an option to configure the appliance this in thin provisioning mode. If you prefer so, simply mark the checkbox “Enable Thin Disk Mode” and click Next.

11vcsa12. This steps requires the network configuration. You are supposed to provide port group from the available list of port groups configured on ESXi host/vCenter you choosed before. There is also a place for system name which is optional (in case you don’t provide it, IP address will be used instead)

12vcsa13. Last step in stage one – confirmation. If all settings are correct click Finish to start the deployment process.

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14. After all you can observe the progress via installator and host/vCenter.

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15. When the deployment stage is done you go pass to stage 2 – basic configuration of our vCenter Server Appliance. To do that, click Continue.

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16. Again you will see the welcome screean which informs you that this is the beginning of stage 2. Click Next to start.

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17. Provide the IP address of NTP Server, mark the enable SSH checkbox and click Next.

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18. This is the step when you have to connect with your PSC. Provide the PSC FQDN name, SSO domain name, password for Administrator, and click Next.

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19. Review all the configured options and values and click Finish.

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20. You will need to confirm the warning that you are completely sure about your choice. The process could not be interrupted after that.

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21. Again as in the stage 1 you can monitor the progress untill it’s finished.

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22. After the deployment is done, you can access the using the IP or FQDN name with port 443.

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It’s done you vCenter Server Appliance is up and ready to start work with.

In the next part I’ll describe the straightforward process of Windows vCenter Server installation.

 

Please, check the other parts of the series: