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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Third-party Plug-ins and vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA)

Petr_McAllisterBy Petr McAllister

As a consumer of VMware technology, would you prefer to install an OS on a virtual machine (VM), then deploy an external database, then install vCenter Server bits – or would it be more logical and enjoyable to deploy and maintain VCSA as a single entity?

For the first time, VMware has brought VCSA in parity with vCenter Server for Windows in terms of scale and functionality in vSphere 6. Take a look at the diagram below:

PMcAllister_Platform Diagram

After talking to my enterprise customers about moving to VCSA during their next vSphere upgrade, and getting them overly excited about a new, flexible way of managing their vSphere environment – the questions I received clearly led me to experimentation.

In traditional vCenter Server for Windows environments, many VMware partners provide their own MSI packages. These packages install plug-ins that can be called from the vSphere management interface. What happens to those plug-ins in VCSA’s world? Let’s take a look.

First, we’ll try the HPE package, and make sure we’re running a VCSA appliance. SSH to it and confirm the OS type. VMware Architect William Lam offers some advice on this in his post, “Quick Tip – Determining the vCenter Server OS platform (Windows or VCSA) using vSphere API.”

PMcAllister_vSphere PowerCLI

Now that we know for sure we are running VCSA, let’s start the installer on a Windows machine – let’s call it OpenView Administrator console.

PMcAllister_OneView for vCenter

During installation we need to provide the address of VCSA and its credentials.

PMcAllister_vCenter Information

Now, let’s connect to vSphere using an old-style client. All HPE plugins are visible when the client is pointed to VCSA, and the MSI plug-in package is used.

PMcAllister_Deployment Wizard

To confirm our findings, we can find different plug-ins from different vendors; what about EMC?

EMC has Virtual Storage Integrator products, which is not actually an MSI package, but is an appliance. Let’s now deploy it and see how to access it. After the template is deployed as a VM, the user is provided with a web interface where vSphere integration can be specified.

PMcAllister_Solutions Integration Service

More on installing and using EMC VSI can be found in Virtual Storage Integrator 6.6 is here!

Note: EMC does not create a shortcut on the home page. However, we can access EMC VSI information from the web client. Additionally, you will see in the green square, that HPE plug-ins that were installed in previous steps and are still available.

PMcAllister_vSphere Web Client

As we were able to successfully demonstrate here, there is no difference in behavior if the plug-in is working with VCSA, or the vCenter Server version for Windows.

It’s totally up to the vendor to either provide an MSI package that requires a Windows machine to install on (not vCenter OS), or the plug-in can arrive in the form of an appliance. It is also the vendor’s choice on how the plug-in is presented in the vSphere interface, whether through a web client, or a traditional vSphere Client.

To learn more about VCSA installation and configuration please refer to the vSphere Installation and Configuration Guide. As a huge fan of William Lam his blog offers some advice, “How to remotely run appliances & other shell commands on VCSA w/o requiring SSH” for more information on the topic, and click here for a complete listing of all of William’s VCSA coverage.

Petr joined VMware in 2012 as a Senior Technical Account Manager based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Since then, he has worked with many customers and diverse industries in three cities on two continents. Petr is recognized as a vExpert 2016, holds multiple industry certifications including VMware VCAP/VCIX, Cisco CCNP, ISC2 CISSP and ITIL. He is a very enthusiastic supporter of Network Virtualization, and uses every chance he gets to discuss with customers a specialized offering called NSX TAM. Petr’s 20+ year technical background helps him to understand customer’s business needs and to find the right technical solution to address those requirements. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

VMware Infrastructure Navigator

Antonin_PerronBy Antonin Perron

Have you ever questioned yourself about the environment you are responsible for and wondered how your servers and applications interact?

VMware Infrastructure Navigator (VIN) is a very powerful tool within VMware’s Cloud Management Platform that can answer such questions and provide application dependency mappings across your environment. Unfortunately, VIN is often forgotten in discussions. Why? Great question! VMware needs to do a better job of showing its value and ensuring our customers utilize this forgotten gem in our toolset. Application dependencies mapping is lacking from competitive Cloud Management offerings, so VIN is a differentiator that could provide tremendous value when trying to deploy and secure applications.


I have had various conversations with customers who are trying to find a quick and easy way to understand their applications workflow and how their environments are actually communicating at various levels, from a virtual and physical standpoint. Leveraging VIN will help in IT consolidation projects, workload migrations, defining firewall flows, and understanding communication from and to the virtual and physical environments.

Used in conjunction with other VMware products, VIN will help with architecture and design. As an example, when defining a disaster recovery (DR) fail-over plan within Site Recovery manager, knowing the applications workflow will help build that plan and prioritize application recovery by grouping the virtual machines. Finally, leveraging the network information (i.e. IPs, ports, services, etc.) captured by VIN will help define NSX distributed firewall (DFW) rules and implement micro-segmentation.


Virtual Infrastructure Administrators can leverage visibility of day-to-day operational management for quicker problem triage, proactive virtual environment resource planning, managing changes, accurate business continuity, recovery planning, and more.

VIN is provided in OVA format (single virtual machine appliance) and has a pre-built application database with easy and accurate labeling of application names and version numbers.

Application relationships extend to virtual machines, hosts, clusters, datastore folders, and virtual networks. VIN can map one hop away to gather information and offers the dependencies via maps and tabular presentations. It is also possible to extract the database information via PowerShell to an Excel format, helping you with internal and external communications. The following diagram shows incoming and outgoing dependencies for each object in the tree. Dependencies from the tabular and maps are exportable to a CSV format.


VIN Architecture and System Requirements

VIN registers with a vCenter server and installs a plug-in in the vSphere Web Client. It probes guest virtual machines with supported operating systems that are running compatible versions of VMware tools. Virtual machines must be powered on and accessible for VIN to gather the information. Data is inserted into the vCenter Inventory service with a default retention period of 72 hours, which can be extended if necessary.

APerron_Infrastructure Navigator Virtual Appliance

User-Defined Services and Application Definitions 

Services that are not part of the vCenter Infrastructure Navigator database are categorized as unknown services. VIN allows you to custom define unknown services within the database. Once defined, these services will be utilized for all discovered instances of the application.

From a VIN perspective, the manual application feature allows you to mark a collection of virtual machines with an application name. From a vCenter Operations Manager standpoint, it can then show the health of that application group, rather than individual virtual machines.

APerron_Infrastructure Navigator Virtual Manage Appliance

APerron_vCenter Operations Manager

VMware NSX and VIN

As mentioned, application definitions, customized services, and all the other information contained in VIN can help with NSX deployments. Using VIN will help to define security groups, tags, and IP sets necessary to develop micro-segmentation rules.

Similar to application definitions, security groups are a collection of assets or grouping objects in the vSphere inventory. They can be used to allow or deny security policies for applications and or solutions. A subset of virtual machines will belong to the same security group and can then be used in Source and/or Destination fields or be applied to other fields of DFW policy rules.

APerron_NSX Manager

Having the network information of all objects helps when defining a collection of IP addresses necessary to create the IP sets.

APerron_vSphere Web Client

For example, security tags can be assigned to virtual machines using the services, user-defined services, or the application definitions from VIN, for use in NSX DFW rules.

APerron_vSphere Web Client Manage

Important Links


Product documentation:

Antonin Perron is a Technical Account Manager for VMware based in Ontario, Canada. He has over 17 years of IT experience filling various roles and after 12 years, 5 overseas deployments as a Communications Specialist in the Canadian Armed Forces, he joined VMware in 2015. He works with Shared Services Canada, Government of Canada, as the only one VMware resource on site and he his using experience to provide technical guidance, optimization recommendations to facilitate their workload migration across their 43 departments.