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To virtualize or not to virtualize vCenter Server

VMware admins have a choice when deploying vCenter: virtual or physical. There are pros and cons to each approach, and many admins choose to do both.

Should you virtualize vCenter Server or run it on a dedicated physical server?

The debate over whether to virtualize VMware vCenter Server (formerly VMware VirtualCenter) is not new, and even virtualization proponents like VMware administrators can make the case for keeping it on a dedicated physical server. Ask a group of VMware admins how they deployed vCenter Server, as Steve Nadelle, a senior systems engineer, did in a LinkedIn discussion, and you'll get a mix of answers.

Many VMware admins with more than one vCenter production server chose to keep one vCenter deployment physical. With a dedicated vCenter server, admins can appease clients that are unsure about, or untrusting of, 100% virtualization. Some participants in the LinkedIn discussion point out that a physical deployment could be more stable and easier to work with when you're managing many hosts in a large data center.

Others suggest virtualizing vCenter, or making it into a virtual machine (VM), and pinning it to 2 to 3 ESX/ESXi hosts. Why virtualize? No single point of failure, according to Mark Liechty, a senior engineer. Virtualize vCenter and you'll know it's always protected by VMware High Availability, another person noted.

Others point to faster response times once vCenter Server is on a VM. VMware's Chethan Kumar has studied this performance metric, virtualizing a SQL Server-based vCenter database on VMware vSphere 4.1 then modeling workload activity in native and virtual environments. Execution times in the virtual environment were frequently faster than or comparable to those in native environments.

SearchVMware contributor Mike Laverick touts the admins' virtualized vCenter Server capabilities: hot-clone replication, snapshot backups and more, without the added expense and maintenance of a physical server. Fellow contributor Eric Seibert derides the complications of vCenter as a VM: difficulty locating the VM after an infrastructure failure event, potential connectivity problems with vShield and other hassles.

The overriding theme of this discussion is that there is no single correct answer to the question of whether you should virtualize vCenter. VMware supports running vCenter as a VM and installing it on a physical server. The pros and cons for each deployment are based on your particular data center configuration and VMware product suite. Share your own experience with virtualizing vCenter in the LinkedIn thread, and pick up tips from what others have done.

This was last published in November 2012

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What have you done with VMware vCenter Server?
physical server
All physical
I have vCenter run on VM, that allow me to benifit from all the vSphere functionality like HA, DRS, vMotion...
I have deployed vCenter in several smaller environments, but deployed it as a full Windows Server VM and as a vCSA. The situation will determine best bang for buck, but I would recommend locking the VM to only a few hosts if you have several to manage. That should help minimize time looking for it should the host it's running on fail.
What kind of Question is that? Its 2012...WHY would one use a PHYSICAL host for vCenter? Virtualizing vCenter is the most essential think you can do to protect your enviroment.
Physical? REALLY? Why?
On Physical server
all virtual
I have installed the vCenter on one independence ESXi Server and working is fine.
Just pin it to a couple hosts so you can always find it and installed VNC so I can access regardless of which hosts it's on.
We have vCenter in a VM with SQL db. Do a backup with Veeam (thru an ESX host). This works fine in our environment of 240 VMs.
We virtualised our vCenter about 4 years ago. I was worried about the issue of being able to locate it after a datacentre outage (especially since you can't set VM Startup settings on a HA Cluster).

I use the VMware Fling "Boomerang". It runs on my admin machines and my own laptop and I have all the hosts added to it that vCenter can run on.

If we have an outage I can fire up Boomerang and search for the vcenter VM and it tells me straight away where the VM is. I can even power it on direct from the app and view the VM Console. Never been easier!
Facing Instability issues with Virtual Center as VMs, I recommend virtualising VC only for small and medium Env i.e less than 1000VMs.
its better to go with the virtual becoz in case of ant physical server failure may cause for rebuild entire vcenter environment. though if it is in a virtual we do have a lot of automation process which we can avoide these kind of situation.
We started with vcenter on a physical server about seven years ago, then switched over to a virtual server about 4 years ago and now we are going back to a physical server because I am hoping to get better backup performance.
Virtualized vCenter over a year ago and no isuues so far. It actually runs better than the previous physical server.