vCenter / Physical or Virtual?

Posted on 2014-12-09
Last Modified: 2014-12-09
I'm a VMWare shop.  ESXi 5.1 servers and vCenter.

Currently, my vCenter server is a physical box.  I always worked this way, so that if there was a problem with my ESXi servers or environment, vCenter would still be available to use to troubleshoot.

Over the years, I see the trend that people are virtualizing vCenter and not using a physical machine anymore.  Starting with v5.1, even VMWare recommends it be virtualized for HA and DRS reasons.

My question is this, in the real world, what are the REAL pros and cons of having your vCenter as a VM?  What problems did you encounter that you did not anticipate?

When I think about this, it's sort of mind bending.  My vCenter server, is going to be running on ESXi hosts, that are managed by.....vCenter.

I think of things like what if the VM gets corrupted and I need to restore it from backup? How would you do that without a vCenter?  How do you diagnose issues with ESXi or the VM environment, if you can't reach your vCenter?

Any tips or tricks to make life easy if you run vCenter as a VM?

I know this is an abstract question with no right or wrong answer, so I'll split points with the top responses.  I hope that's ok with everyone.

Question by:Vjz1
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Seth Simmons
Seth Simmons earned 125 total points
ID: 40489759
in places where i've been, vcenter installations have been virtual
one less physical box; and (unless your environment is very large), doesn't use a lot of resources
even if vcenter was down for some reason, you can still use the vsphere client to connect to the esx host directly.  i personally haven't experienced any issues with a vcenter virtual machine
LVL 120

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 250 total points
ID: 40489762
Even before it was recommended and supported to install vCenter in a virtual environment, we've been installing vCenter Server as a VM since 2004.

and now you have the vCenter Appliance, which is also virtual, it makes no sense to us, to have a physical vCenter Server any more, the Pros (advantages) outweigh the Cons (disadvantages!).

vCenter is just a Management Server, it does not play any part in troubleshooting....

Just connect directly to the ESXi server! (no need to connect to vCenter Server).

Your troubleshooting tools, are usually PuTTY, and connect to the Host via SSH.

Don't forget Direct Connection is ALWAYS available!

Part 2: HOW TO: Connect to the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1) using the vSphere Client
LVL 120
ID: 40489774
I cannot edit, because it appears to be broken!

Disaster Recovery is easier, because it's a VM.
Updates are easier, and you can use snapshot to roll back a bad upgrade.
Backups are faster.
Virtual Center on a DRS and HA cluster, vCenter will always be highly available.

NONE of the above can be done with physical!
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Author Comment

ID: 40489787
Thanks for the responses so far guys!

I'm very familiar with the "obvious" reasons why to have it a VM.  It's all the same reasons to virtualize any machine.  HA, DRS, snapshots, Veeam backups, etc.

What I'm really interested in, is what you don't know about, or what you don't find out about, until after you take the plunge.  What quirks are there with a vm vcenter?  What would you do differently? What out of the box configurations do you put in to make your life easier?

Do you put in a DRS rule to have the vCenter only run on 1 of 2 hosts so it's always predictable?  Is that even a concern?  If you have 10 servers, and vCenter crashes, you could spend considerable amount of time just trying to locate what host it's running on, in order to directly connect and diagnose.

That's what I'm getting at.  After running it in a VM, what real world problems have you come across and how do you deal with them.

Thanks so much guys, great help here as always!!!
LVL 37

Expert Comment

by:Neil Russell
ID: 40489812
As far as I am concerned ANY VM needs to be stable and available, my vcenter is far less important than the rest.  As Andrew said, the vcenter appliance is another good reason. No point in all that set up when you can deploy and go.
It's a no brainer. I have yet to find a reason NOT to have a virtual vcenter
LVL 120

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 250 total points
ID: 40489820
we do one thing....

If we need to shutdown the cluster, we note where vCenter is!

Some organisations, will Apply DRS rules, to pin it to a host, for maintenance, patches etc.

If vCenter crashes, it's a Service, it will get restarted, we don't worry about where are VMs are, we worry about the Service it provides!

Accepted Solution

Chach DalSanto earned 125 total points
ID: 40489898
Vjz1, I think we're all trying to tell you that we haven't had any CONs to this setup in many years of virtualization experience.  I found that this is a hold-over way of thinking from people used to physical servers.  Not to over-simplify too much, but the ESX hosts do almost all the work; vCenter is for convenience of management.  Regardless, it can be restarted by connecting directly to the ESX host if there is a problem, or restarted on ANY host for that matter.  You've done a good thing by researching this issue; now listen to the feedback you are getting.  Have confidence that this will work for you.  No more physical servers!  Thx

Author Comment

ID: 40490009
thanks guys

Expert Comment

by:Chach DalSanto
ID: 40490395

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