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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.

5 thoughts on “Third-party Plug-ins and vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA)

  1. Damien Solodow

    Now if it would just support VUM and either mssql or a way to migrate from mssql to vpostgresql

      1. Damien Solodow

        Unfortunately we don’t seem to have a TAM, and our account manager doesn’t seem to have any info on the subject. 🙂

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