As with any new release of vSphere, it is quite common for customers to deploy the new software in either a vSphere home or test lab to get more familiar with it. Although not everyone has access to a vSphere lab environment, the next best thing is to leverage either VMware Fusion or Workstation. With the upcoming release of vSphere 6.5, this is no different. In fact, during the vSphere Beta program, this was something that was asked about by several customers and something I had helped document as the process has changed from previous releases of the VCSA.

In vSphere 6.5, the VCSA deployment has changed from a "Single" monolithic stage where a user enters all of their information up front and the installer goes and deploys the VCSA OVA and then applies the configurations. If you had fat finger say a DNS entry or wanted to change the IP Address before applying the actual application configurations, it would not be possible and you would have to re-deploy which was not an ideal user experience.

In vSphere 6.5, the new UI installer will still allow you to perform a "Single" monolithic stage but it is now broken down into two distinct stages as shown below with their respective screenshots:

Stage 1 - Initial OVA deployment which includes basic networking

Stage 2 - Applying VCSA specific personality configuration

Just like in prior releases of the VCSA, the UI translates the user input into specific OVF properties which are then passed into the VCSA guest for configuration. This means that if you wish to deploy VCSA 6.5 running Fusion or Workstation, you will have two options to select from. You either deploy VCSA and complete both Stage 1 and 2 or just Stage 1 only. If you select the latter option, to complete the actual deployment, you will need to open a web browser to the VAMI UI (https://[VCSA-IP]:5480) and finish configuring the VCSA using the "Setup vCenter Server Appliance" option as shown in the screenshot below.

If your goal is to quickly get the VCSA 6.5 up and running, then going with Option 1 (Stage 1 & 2 Config) is the way to go. If your goal is to learn about the new VCSA UI Installer, then you can at least get a taste of that by going with Option 2 (Stage 1 Config) and this way you can step through Stage 2 using the native UI installer.

One last thing I would like to mention is that there have been a number of new services added to the VCSA 6.5. One example is that vSphere Update Manager (VUM) is now embedded in the VCSA and it is also enabled by default. With these new services, the tiniest deployment size is going to require 10GB of memory where as before it was 8GB. This is something to be aware of and ensure that you have adequate resources before attempting to deploy the VCSA or else you may see some unexpected failures while the system is being configured.

Note: If you have access to fast SSDs and would like to overcommit memory in Fusion or Workstation, you might be able to get this to work leveraging some tricks mentioned here. This is not something I have personally tested, so YMMV.

Here are the steps to deploy VCSA 6.5 using either VMware Fusion or Workstation:

Step 0 (Optional) - Familiarize yourself with setting up VCSA 6.0 was on Fusion/Workstation with this blog post which will be helpful for additional context.

Step 1 - Download & extract the VCSA 6.5 ISO

Step 2 - Import the VCSA OVA which will be located in vcsa/VMware-vCenter-Server-Appliance- using either VMware Fusion or Workstation (you can either double click or just go to File->Open) but make sure you do NOT power it on after deployment. (this is very important)

Step 4 - Locate the directory in which the VCSA was deployed to and open up the VMX file and append one of the following options (make sure to change the IP information and passwords based on your environment):

Option 1 (Stage 1 & 2 Configuration):

guestinfo.cis.deployment.node.type = "embedded" = "ipv4" = "static" = "" = "" = "24" = "" = ""
guestinfo.cis.appliance.root.passwd = "VMware1!"
guestinfo.cis.appliance.ssh.enabled = "True"
guestinfo.cis.deployment.autoconfig = "True"
guestinfo.cis.appliance.ntp.servers = ""
guestinfo.cis.vmdir.password = "VMware1!" = "virtuallyGhetto"
guestinfo.cis.vmdir.domain-name = "vsphere.local"
guestinfo.cis.ceip_enabled = "False"

Option 2 (Stage 1 Only Configuration):

guestinfo.cis.deployment.node.type = "embedded" = "ipv4" = "static" = "" = "" = "24" = "" = ""
guestinfo.cis.appliance.root.passwd = "VMware1!"
guestinfo.cis.appliance.ssh.enabled = "True"
guestinfo.cis.deployment.autoconfig = "False"
guestinfo.cis.ceip_enabled = "False"

Step 5 - Once you have saved your changes, go ahead and power on the VCSA. At this point, the guestinfo properties that you just added will be read in by VMware Tools as the VCSA is booting up and the configuration will begin. Depending on the speed of your hardware, this can potentially take up to 15min+ as I have seen it. Please be patient with the process. If you wish to check the progress of the deployment, you can open a browser to https://[VC-IP]:5480 and you should see some progress or you can periodically connect to the Hostname/IP Address and once it is done, you should be taken to the vCenter Server's main landing page.

4 thoughts on “How to deploy the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) 6.5 running on VMware Fusion & Workstation?

  1. You use File | Import to import the OVA, not Open, right?

    Also, I copied and pasted your lines and was able to get it working, then changed the IP addresses in the VCSA. However, if I edited the lines in the VMX file after copying them to change the IP addresses to mine (10.x) it kept saying Dictionary Error or that the VMX file is corrupt. Any idea why that may be?

Thanks for the comment!