It is a pretty common practice for customers to use their vCenter Server to manage the underlying ESXi host which is also running the vCenter Server VM, sometimes referred to as a self managed vSphere Cluster. For organizations that have a strict naming convention which includes the VM display name as well as the OS hostname (FQDN), it is generally not too difficult to identify the actual VM that is running your vCenter Server.

However, for customers who may not have a VM display name that can easily be associated to their vCenter Server, it can be pretty difficult and time consuming to locate the vCenter Server VM for troubleshooting and/or updating purposes. Historically, this mapping and association has been left to our customers to document whether it is using a sticky, CMDB, vSphere Tags/Folders, etc. to be able to identify some of these more important VMs.

Luckily, there are some built-in mechanisms within vCenter Server itself that we can leverage to help us quickly identify the VM display name of our vCenter Server. Just this week while working on something, I actually came across another method which I think is even easier than the one I was familiar with.

Option #1 (harder) - When vCenter Server detects that it is in a self-managed configuration, it will automatically add a "System" metadata tag (not to be confused with vSphere Tags) to the actual vCenter Server VM. For vCenter Server, the "Tag" will have the value of SYSTEM/COM.VMWARE.VIM.VC which you can query on a VM using the vSphere API. Below is a PowerCLI example exercising the vSphere API:

$vm = Get-VM -name VCSA-60u2
(Get-View $vm).ExtensionData.Tag

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The main issue here with this option is that because this information is at the VM level, you must first find the VM. This means, you would have to iterate through all of your VMs and seeing which has this particular property set with this value.

Option #2 (easier) - As mentioned earlier, I came across this new option by accident while browsing through the vCenter Server Advanced Settings. I noticed an interesting value for the following key: config.registry.key_VCVmId After a quick investigation, I found that vCenter Server also sets this Advanced Setting to the Managed Object Reference (MoRef) ID of the actual vCenter Server VM. This means, in one step, I know exactly which VM is my vCenter Server and I just need to convert the MoRef ID to a VM Object to then query the VM display name. How cool!?

The following PowerCLI example demonstrates how to extract the vCenter Server Advanced Setting, convert the MoRef ID to a VM Object which we can then query for its VM Display Name.

As you can see from the screenshot below, with just a few lines of code, we can quickly figure out our vCenter Server VM regardless if our inventory is 10 or 10,000 VMs. In fact, you can even output the exact ESXi host that is currently running the VM as well, but I will leave that as an exercise for the reader 🙂

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Thanks for the comment!