Set up the VMware vCenter Server Appliance with Mac or Linux

The vSphere Web Client has long stood in the way of Linux administrators who wish to set up vCSA. Fortunately, vSphere versions 6.5 and later rectify this issue.

Ever since the company's inception, VMware administrators have used the vSphere Web Client -- also known as the...

fat client -- to manage both the hypervisor and the VMware vCenter Server Appliance. This put Linux administrators at a bit of a disadvantage because many use VMs with Windows to manage their environments. Fortunately, this limitation doesn't apply to vSphere 6.5 or future versions of vSphere.

In this article, I'll show you how to use macOS or a Linux computer to configure both the host and the VMware vCenter Server Appliance.

Without going into detail on how to install and configure the hypervisor, you can now use the HTML5 interface included with ESXi versions 6.5 and above. There's no longer any need for the Windows client. Once you install the hypervisor, it becomes easy to administer with the built-in interface.

To access the ESXi host management interface, use the full URL of the host followed by /ui. For example, my host is called host.test.local, so the user interface is available at host.test.local/ui. You can configure servers to deploy from the open virtualization format (OVF) and manage local VMs from this screen. This is the new way to manage stand-alone hosts and virtual guests.

ESXi 6.5 host-based UI
Figure A. The new ESXi 6.5 host-based user interface

It's relatively easy for non-Windows users to set up the VMware vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA). To begin, install vCSA with a Mac download, open the vCenter CD media and navigate to the vcsa-ui-installer/mac folder. Locate the installer executable file within the folder and double-click the file to start an installation routine identical to that of a PC.

Skip the introduction screen. On the next page, accept the terms posed by the end-user license agreement. For the sake of this article, use the embedded services controller alongside your vCSA.

Change the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or the IP address of the host and the password for the ESXi host on the application deployment page. The User name dialogue box should already be populated with the root user.

VCSA deployment on an ESXi host
Figure B. Initial vCSA deployment onto an ESXi host

You might encounter a certificate warning that implies that the certificate presented isn't trusted. For the sake of this test, accept the certificate. This validates the settings. Give the vCSA a name; I recommend that you change it from the default.

The root password refers to the appliance, not the host. There are also minimum password complexity requirements. Create a suitably strong password and confirm it. In this demonstration, I've chosen the smallest sizing option, since it's only a test environment. Leave the storage size drop-down menu as it is.

The install routine has a known bug that causes the program to state that it can't find the OVF Tool application. The way around this issue is to open the install log and note the location the installation routine expects to find. Copy the entire VMware vCenter Server Appliance folder to this location and rerun the setup. The installation routine should now work without issue.

Select the storage location for the vCSA files on the next screen; this should be a shared disk in a production environment.

Next, set up the embedded service controller. You'll need to fill in the system name -- the FQDN should already be populated -- the VM name, the IP address, the network mask and the gateway. Review the settings and, if everything checks out, click Finish. This configures the first component of vCSA.

Once the initial vCSA installation is complete, open a web browser and navigate to the URL the installer provides. Here, you can log in to the vCSA setup GUI to configure it; the previous step purely concerned VM deployment.

Click on Set up vCenter appliance. This will prompt you for a password. Enter the password you configured earlier. Fill in the network name, IP details and domain name system (DNS) servers. It's mandatory that you set up a Network Transfer Protocol server. Use the IP address or DNS entry for the time server. Click Next to move to the next page.

You need to configure single sign-on (SSO) on the next screen. Unless you have a good reason to change it, leave the SSO domain name as vsphere.local and set the password to something reasonably complex. The site name should be left as default-site unless you have a reason to override it.

Set up SSO.
Figure C. Set up single sign-on.

Configure telemetry if you want to share anonymous data.

The last step is to double-check the details of your deployment and, if they're correct, click finish to complete the deployment. This configuration update takes several minutes to complete.

Once complete, you can use your web browser to log in to the VMware vCenter Server Appliance and manage the environment as you normally would.

In summary, VMware is very aware that the desktop world is no longer all about Windows, and it has made every effort to ensure that administrators can do whatever they need on any major platform. Expect to see more and more OS vendor-independent functionality from VMware in the next few months and years.

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