Things I Don’t Like About the vCenter Virtual Appliance

VMware are looking to move everything to a virtual appliance model. That is pretty obvious. And of course the most central component is your vCenter,

I wrote a post a while back about Should You Patch the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance? but since then I am finding more and more issues with the VCVA (vCenter Virtual Appliance) and differences in functionality between the Windows and Linux Versions of Virtual Center.

Lets Start. (Items are marked with my opinion of their impact Green, Yellow, Red)
  1. Patches (Red) – see  the above post.
  2. vCenter Orchestrator (Green - another VM to manage) – is bundled with the Windows version – but requires a separate VM in addition to the VCVA.
  3. vSphere Update Manager (Green - another VM to manage) – not bundled with the VCVA – requires a separate Windows VM – and is usually installed on the vCenter (Windows) itself.
  4. Management of the bundled DB2 database on the VCVA (Yellow)
    Does anyone know how to manage the database?
    How many DBA’s do you know that know how to deal with DB2?
    How do you back it up?
    How do you restore it?
    How do you troubleshoot it?

    Compare the number of KB articles that are on the VMware Knowledge base relating to DB2 to those relating to Oracle or SQL.

    Either DB2 just works – or it is so new in VMware – that no-one knows how to use it properly yet.
  5. Migration path away from a VCVA (Yellow) with a bundled DB is non-existent. At least with the bundled SQL database – there is a way to move over to a fully licensed SQL instance when your environment grows. What happens if I start out with the embedded DB2 and want to move over to a production database after that – be it Oracle or SQL – is there a migration path? I do not think so. So that means a complete re-install.
  6. CLI interface on the vCenter Server (Yellow). This is useful – very useful. Be it vCLI or PowerCLI – both of these can be used to run scripts on the vCenter itself. Where does this become useful? If you would like to perform an action with the trigger of an alarm in vCenter – you can.
    Try doing that with the VCVA – you cannot install vCLI on the VCVA – believe me I have tried. So you will need all kinds of workarounds. But the functionality is not there.
  7. Minimum resources (Green) needed for VCVA – 4GB/ 2vCPU’s – by default – it is deployed with 8GB/2vCPU’s – which is usually too high.
There are of course a large number of benefits with the VCVA – and I do think that this is the future – but until some of these items are addressed – I cannot whole-heartedly recommend to deploy a VCVA in your production environment.

I will update this post with more points as they come along. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.