My deep dive into how the VMware VSA works was really brought on by necessity.
On the surface, it sounded like a great solution – and to be fair it does work quite well overall. It acts as a RAID-1 of local storage over Ethernet which is a life saver for cost-conscious companies or the SMB space. And it is really designed as a fire and forget solution – if you don’t plan on patching your hosts or really making any changes to things ever.
Up front, your investment seems like a good choice – in some cases it may have been the only one. (I’ll let you figure out where I sit on this.)
But as a virtualization admin or engineer, you will have to update it, patch it, and do maintenance at some point. For one location, it’s easy.
For hundreds of locations, it gets a lot more interesting.
The Lab Requirements
In short, you need a minimum of 2 ESXi hosts running 5.1 or higher, a Windows vCenter 5.1+ installation, and some local disks. For my home lab setup, I’m just building nested ESXi with a single thin provisioned 100gb disk per host – that’s enough to get you going for building this out.
Keep in mind, I’m setting these nested instances up in VMware Workstation!
You will need 4 vmnics on each host – 2 bridged or on the same network as vCenter, and 2 host-only for the VSA replication portgroups. The vmnics must be in this order by default:
- vmnic0 – Bridged
- vmnic1 – Host-Only
- vmnic2 – Bridged
- vmnic3 – Host-Only
If you are asking “why?” at this point, don’t worry – it will all make sense. I’m a professional.
Once you have vCenter running in Windows, you will need to install the VSA Manager plugin. It is Windows-only, and must be installed on vCenter itself, hence the earlier requirement.
The only gotcha is to make sure that the account you are logged in as on vCenter has admin privileges to both the box, and vCenter inventory.
Other than that, it’s pretty much a next-next-next type of deal.
Add your 2 ESXi hosts to a new datacenter object, and you are almost ready to get started.
Team Make It Fit
By default, the VSA will do a check on the host hardware to see if your RAID controller is on the HCL. For obvious reasons using Nested ESXi isn’t going to work exactly as planned.
The solution is simple – just disable the auditing of the host during installation entirely!
On the vCenter Server, go into the VSA Manager config folder and find the ‘dev.properties’ file, typically it’s found here:
- C:\Program Files\VMware\Infrastructure\tomcat\webapps\VSAManager\WEB-INF\classes\dev.properties
In this text file you’ll see a number of tweaks you can perform to suit your lab. The value we care about though, is this:
# Other operations host.audit=true vm.rollback=true vm.config=true test.on=false
Simply change the value for host.audit to false, save the file and restart the vCenter Management Webservices service on the server. Then restart your vSphere Client. When you run the wizard next time, you should only get a warning, and not a fatal error about how totally unsupported you are. It’s a shame we can’t say the same back to it, at least until September, 2018.
Click the datacenter object and you should see a tab called VSA Manager. All operations are done from this menu – it doesn’t exist in any other context. You’ll get a certificate warning, even if you have a signed internal certificate installed for vCenter – so just accept it. This is only the first crack in the armor!
The installation should be pretty straightforward. You’ll need to specify a cluster IP, and a cluster SERVICE IP since you’re running 2 nodes.
When you installed VSA Manager, the clustering service was installed on vCenter, so just point the SERVICE IP to your vCenter server.
- On a remote / ROBO deployment, you can run the clustering service on another VM – there is an available clustering service installer in the VMware portal for Linux or Windows.
The cluster IP itself can be whatever you want as long as its on the same network as vCenter, or the Cluster Service in the remote location.
In about 15 minutes, you should hopefully have a functional VSA installation ready to rumble for your lab to tinker with and destroy!
And destroy it, we shall.