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I've noticed that a lot of people run vCenter Server on a VM hosted on Vsphere / ESXi. This seems odd to me, because if there is an issue with the host then you will lose both the host and the management capabilities to switch hosts etc.

Should I provision a physical machine (eg. Microserver) to run VM management tools such as vCenter and Veeam or run them from a VM? What is best practice here?

EDIT: - I work in a SMB environment and almost exclusively use the VMware Essentials packs, so no more than 5 or so hosts, so setting up some sort of redundant or clustered vcenter setup is pretty much unrealistic

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VMWare essentials is limited to 3 hosts, you wouldn't be able to get "5 or so hosts", unless you purchase another VMWare essentials license and use it to setup another cluster with a separate vCenter server to manage it. –  Rex Mar 21 '14 at 15:19
Good point! I was thinking that I could use the 6 licensed sockets as 6 x 1 CPU, but I see that's not how that works. –  BlueCompute Mar 21 '14 at 15:47

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

VMware best practice now is to install vCenter on a VM with HA. That's from a VMware training class when 5 originally came out. HA doesn't require vCenter to actually be working once set up, as the hosts know what to do.

I have Essentials Plus, use this setup, and can attest that it works well for us. Just make sure that you have enough capacity on your hosts to accommodate HA.

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We have over 100 separate vCenters and every one of them is a VM, it means we get all the usual virtualisation benefits and because we run them on a specific management cluster in the event of one crashing or whatever we can just connect directly to the host they're running on and restart or whatever as needed. We're something like the 4th or 5th biggest VMWare customer and we wouldn't consider using a physical for this, especially a bottom-end box like you've suggested.

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Well, for us mere mortals running Essentials Plus, I think the concern would be that if I have three clustered hosts and the vCenter that manages that cluster is on one of those hosts, then in the event that the host with vCenter crashes, vCenter is not going to be available to perfrom the HA operations to boot up the other VMs from that host onto the two good hosts. Maybe the idea of the OP is not to have it running on a bare metal install, but have it running on a standalone server outside of the cluster it's managing? –  Safado Mar 21 '14 at 14:02
Reaqlly? VmWaere relies on VCenter for that? Hyper-V does not (as in: Hyper-V puts the VM on a cluster, then the CLUSTER manages failovers without SCVMM controlling it). I would have expected VmWare to also work like that. –  TomTom Mar 21 '14 at 14:28
No it doesn't TomTom, HA is setup and configured by vCenter but once it's up and running and hosts have their HA plans in place it's not needed. If you lose vCenter do you lose DRS though but that's not usually an issue. –  Chopper3 Mar 21 '14 at 15:00
@Safado - as my comment above, HA - once configured - doesn't need VC unless you add or remove hosts. –  Chopper3 Mar 21 '14 at 15:01
Great. I thought it depended on vCenter always being available. Thank you. –  Safado Mar 21 '14 at 15:04

actually, most of the time, management tools are also virtualised, basically because they don't need enough resources that would advise to use a physical server.

virtualized these tools can also benefit from HA/FT/DRS (in vmware environment) .

so my answer would be no, you don't have to provide a physical server for these management tools.

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We use Essentials Plus and also run our vCenter in a VM. Your concerns about clustering the thing that sets up the clustering have been covered in other answers and comments. We take a couple of additional precautions to ensure recoverability of the environment:

  1. Run an out-of-band path to the same management VLAN so that we have alternative access to the cluster hosts if the primary path becomes unavailable. In our case we run fully virtualised routing (quick plug for VyOS), so we just run an ESXi free or essentials host (depending on the licenses available) with just enough virtual routers to allow us to get into the other ESXi servers.
    We use OSPF as our IGP, so the routers on the out-of-band host are set with slightly higher interface costs (lower bandwidth) than their production counterparts so that they can be kept running all the time but do not serve production traffic unless there is a cluster outage.
  2. Keep an old laptop (whose battery lasts longer than 10 minutes!) in the server room or data centre kit with vSphere console installed and ready to go so that we can plug into the management VLAN and manage the individual servers of need be. This rarely gets used because of the aforementioned out-of-band host.
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