What is VMware vCenter Server?

VMware is the enterprise leading Virtualization Platform which comes as a software suite named VMware vSphere. This flagship software suite comes as a combination of VMware products such as VMware ESXi, vCenter Server, etc. There are differences between datacenter products offered by VMware. This article answers the question “What is VMware vCenter Server?”

What is VMware vCenter Server?

VMware vCenter is the centralized management component of the VMware vSphere Virtual environment. vCenter server can be used to administer the control plane entities in the virtual environment such as ESXi hosts, virtual machines, virtual networks, datastore, etc from a centralized location. vCenter server mainly handles many features which are directly involve with the virtual environment administration. It brings many benefits to the underline VM workloads such as maximizing the availability and recoverability, easy and simple administration, analyze the performance and alerting to notify any rising issues of the environment.

Main features of vCenter Server

  • vSphere High Availability (HA)
  • vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS )
  • vSphere Storage DRS (SDRS)
  • vSphere vMotion (Host and Storage)
  • vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT)
  • Management of vSphere Distributed Switches
  • Global Patch Management

vCenter Server Installation Types 

Currently, VMware vCenter has two main installation types based on the operating systems, Windows based and Suse Linux based appliances with customized operating system called Photon OS. VMware announced there won’t be a Windows based vCenter server from the next numbered version release and as customers, there is no choice of selection between Windows and Photon appliances in the near future. Existing VMware customers who are running with the Windows based vCenter Servers are advised to migrate their vCenters to a latest vCenter Server Appliances.

There are few main reasons behind introducing an appliance

  • Fast and less error prone deployment
  • Reduce the deployment time of the vCenter and the virtual infrastructure
  • Provide a low cost alternative to the Windows Based vCenter server

What are the components of the vCenter server?

vCenter server consists with set of services in order to provide the services and maintain the control plane of the backend infrastructure. Below software extensions come with the vCenter server appliance

  • Photon OS as the Operating system, it’s a customized Linux distribution
  • Platform Services controller to provide the authentication services (Previous releases such as version 5.5 contains the Single Sign-On as a separate component)
  • vCenter server group services
  • Postgres SQL for Appliance, SQL or Oracle databases for the Windows based vCenter server
  • VMware vSphere Update Manager extension, separate installation must be maintained to run the Update Manager for Windows based vCenter Server

vCenter server architecture 

Basic vCenter administration architecture can be explained as belowWhat is VMware vCenter Server

The administrator can connect to the vCenter server via a web client. In the previous releases of the vSphere suite used a C# flat client and it is already been depreciated and at the time of writing this article VMware released the vCenter server 6.7 U2 and it comes with a fully functional HTML 5 based client which makes administrator’s lives easier with the fast and reliable response.

The new architecture of the vCenter server consists with two main components, vCenter Server and the Platform Services Controller. The underline services are distributed across these two components.What is VMware vCenter Server

Below services are installed with the Platform Services Controller

  • vCenter Single Sign-On Services to provide the authentication
  • vSphere Licensing Services
  • VMware vSphere Certificate Authoruty

Services Installed with the vCenter Server are,

  • vSphere Web client
  • vSphere Client (HTML 5 client)
  • Postgres SQL as the database
  • vSphere Dump Collector
  • vSphere Syslog collector
  • vSphere Auto Deploy
  • vSphere Update Manager

For more information about the VMware components and Services follow the VMware vCenter Documentation. Previous releases of the vCenter server supported with Oracle and SQL server databases, but with the introduction of the Postgres SQL server, scalability has improved. At the time of writing this article the latest release of the vCenter 6.7, has the scalability up to 2000 Hosts and 35000 of Virtual Machines. You can specify the size of the vCenter server according to your environment when you are installing the vCenter server.

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Associate Technical Lead at Pearson, Sri Lanka. Technology junky, enthusiast, a VMware vExpert and a blogger with more than 6 years of Experience in Information Technology more focusing on VMware Virtualization, Microsoft and Datacenter Technologies.

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