I've been happily running ESX and ESXi standalone on a few servers for a couple years and wanted to evaluate vCenter for HA, vMotion, etc but currently don't have an Active Directory installation. From Installing ESX 4.1 and vCenter Server 4.1 best practices:

Make sure that the system you use for your vCenter Server installation belongs to a domain, rather than a workgroup.

Ensure the system on which you are installing vCenter Server is not an Active Directory domain controller.

Up until this point I've avoided windows infrastructure and saw a windows server dedicated to vCenter as a necessary evil, but do I really have to setup two servers and an AD installation just to run vCenter?

Are these just 'best practices' or are they requirements. Is anyone out there running VMWare vCenter on a standalone Server 2008r2 with SQL Server Express, if so are there any gotchas or limitations of such a setup? Any special steps to get everything working?


Our vCenter install is on a Windows Server 2008 machine that is not connected to a domain. Works perfectly.

I installed it as the local Administrator, so logged in via vShpere Client with that account. Then I was able to create a permission structure and users. It does require a database server, so I'm running SQL Server Express on the same host, which is installed by vCenter itself. Apparently this kind of setup is fine for up to about two dozen VMware hosts, according to Mastering VMware vSphere 4, which I can recommend by the way.

  • 1
    If you have a good sized Windows network Active Directory can make your life a lot easier and is relatively easy to get started. If you don't the standalone configuration will work just fine. If you get more than recommended guests or hosts (would have to refer to documentation for specifics) you will likely want to upgrade to a full version of SQL server however. – J.Zimmerman Oct 11 '10 at 3:50
  • Set it up last night, everything went swimmingly. – notpeter Oct 11 '10 at 15:45

Taken from the 4.0 Installation guide:

The system that you use for your vCenter Server installation must belong to a domain rather than a workgroup.

This seems fairly conclusive. But then you read on to the next sentence:

If assigned to a workgroup, the vCenter Server system is not able to discover all domains and systems available on the network when using such features as vCenter Guided Consolidation Service.

Argh! So will it work or not? I'm going to have to cop out at this point and say: Dunno.

  • Guided consolidation scans your network looking for machines to virtualize, giving ratings for each. You can make decisions from there. In an AD environment vCenter can login to all of the machines with appropriate network credentials. In a non-AD environment it is unable to login to all of the machines, and unable to find them all especially if they are not on the same lan. So some features relying on Active Directory will not work. Everything else will work just fine. – J.Zimmerman Oct 11 '10 at 3:45

From my point of view you don't need an Active Directory Server in order to run vCenter Server. User authentication can be handled by AD and without it you have to create local users on the machine, running the vCenter.

  • Really is that all? Are there any other limitations? – notpeter Oct 10 '10 at 21:55

There is no requirement for AD. Apparently the installation of vCenter will break an AD controller, hence the caution.

  • I don't think it will break a DC, just refuse to install as vCenter 4 and up installs ADAM (Active Directory Application Mode) in order to support linked mode operation. – Helvick Oct 13 '10 at 14:17

Virtual Center DOES NOT require Active directory. You can very well run it without AD and create all users locally.


I have installed vCenter to the workgroup (standalone without joining AD Domain), everything worked fine, EXCEPT a warning.

From vCenter Health Check:

Ldap domain trust change monitor warning: encountered an an error when checking domain trust health: error code: 1717

See my blog for details. http://www.modelcar.hk/?p=2895

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