Simple vCenter 5.1 Installation

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By now, you must have heard a lot of good things about the vSphere 5.1 web client, and you are without a doubt super exited to try it. The good news is that there is a simple install that does the job so easily, and produces a Windows based vCenter Server. In this article we will follow this path. However, before we start the actual setup there are some points that we need to pay attention to.


The vCenter server has become a heavy beast that needs a lot of resources. VMware recommends 10GB of RAM if you are planning to install all components on a single server (which is what the simple install does). 64-bit dual logical CPU cores have been required since vSphere 4.1, so no change here. You will also need at least 40-60GB of free disk space after installation (100GB recommended).

vCenter Server supports IBM DB2, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server databases. If you choose to let it install its own SQL 2008 R2 Express database you will need Windows installer 4.5 (preinstalled on Windows 2008 R2 SP1). vCenter server also requires .NET 3.5 SP1, which must be added as a feature on Windows 2008 R2.

Simple Install

Multiple Components

Notice that the “simple install” installs Single Sing on, Inventory Service and the vCenter server on a single server. If you chose to scale out your environment on multiple servers, then you need one “Single Sign On” instance installed to service the whole infrastructure. However, you will need an “Inventory Service” for each vCenter Server you install. Also, keep in mind that although vCenter Databases can be all on one database server (or one database cluster), each vCenter server needs its own separate database.

But What Do These Components Do?

Single Sign On (SSO): enables authorized vCenter Server users to access Multiple vCenter Server-related systems with a single login. Rather than authenticating each component separately, vSphere components use SSO to communicate to each other using secure token exchange. When you login you can manage multiple components in a unified interface.

This may sound vague at start, but it has two clear practical implications. The first is being able to manage multiple vCenter Servers from the same web interface without re-authenticating each of them and the second is seamless integration with vCloud Suite.

vCloud Suite

To manage SSO you need to login as the SSO admin and navigate to the SSO configuration in the web client, attach identity sources to the server, set passwords and lookout policies, add system users and groups. But it has no vCenter permissions unless vCenter administrators add them to the SSO admin user, as only a vCenter Server Administrator can assign permissions.

Single Sign OnvCenter Server

Thanks to VMware for those lovely illustrations

The vCenter inventory service stores vCenter application and inventory data, enabling you to search and access inventory objects across linked vCenter servers. In previous versions there was no separate inventory service, which was a bit annoying since it used to cause all sorts of issues that required a restart. By providing users with a dedicated service, managing it should become much more efficient.

The Actual Install

Before installing vCenter server, you need to join the machine to the domain and make sure that it has registered its DNS records. This includes both A records and PTR records for reverse DNS lookup unless you like to be interrupted by a warning like the following:


Then you mount the vSphere 5.1 ISO to the VM (or burn, put the DVD in the drive if you are still using physical machines), run the autorun.exe file, chose “VMware vCenter Simple Install” and things will roll forward.

The SSO is installed first, and you will be asked to provide password for the SSO admin ([email protected]). Then, soon after, the wizard will ask for your choice of Database. I went with installing a local SQL express instance which only supports up to 5 hosts and 50 VMs (supported, not actual limit, although weird things may start to happen if you push it). If you are planning to use an existing database, please prepare the needed accounts.

InstallShield Wizard

Sign On Information

Similarly, if you are not satisfied with using the default network service account for the Security Support Provider Interface Service, then prepare accounts according to your own security policies and practices. By default, setup will use HTTPS on port 7444 for the SSO (and the lookup Service), and open the port in Windows firewall if it is running.

Use Network Service Account

Port Settings

After some time that includes setting up the local database (if you chose to). The SSO setup will finish and the Inventory Service setup will happen on its own without any interruption.

Unfortunately the vCenter Server setup feels a lot like previous versions' setup, and will interrupt you multiple times like asking for the license key (which you can choose to run in trial mode and install it later), your database choice (note that a SSO database is different than a vCenter database), service account, service ports, the size of the inventory for web service JVM memory (Do not make the mistake of confusing this setting with what your vCenter database can store).

License Key

Database Options

Use SYSTEM Account

Configure Ports

JVM Memory

Install the Program

When all is configured according to your needs, conclude the wizard by hitting "Install" and wait for a long time (actually do not wait, go do something else as this may take more than an hour). Eventually you will be greeted with an "Installation Completed" screen, followed by an additional note that the whole package is now installed.

But We Are Not Done Yet

Although at this point you can connect to the new vCenter 5.1 using a Windows Client (also version 5.1), this is not our aim. We started with the goal of having the vSphere Web Client, which we now can install from autorun.exe (I wonder why VMware did not make it part of the “Simple Setup”).

Web Client

Choose your ports or keep the defaults, provide the SSO admin account we've specified a couple of hours earlier and lookup Service URL as below, then hit install.



After a short while, the setup will conclude and you can now login to your new vCenter server using the web interface using this URL.

Getting Started


vCenter 5.1 setup is a bit different than preview versions in adding SSO and inventory services. Yet, it is largely unchanged. If you already feel comfortable with installing vCenter 5.0 you will only need to understand what SSO and Inventory Service does and you should be ready to go.

The Windows based vCenter is still the standard way in vSphere 5.1, but it is not clear yet for how long it will continue to be an option in future versions. For the moment, the vCenter server with Web Client is the most scalable way to manage your vSphere infrastructure. Yet, the Linux based vCenter Virtual Appliance is becoming a much more solid alternative with each vSphere release, which is covered in vCSA Simple Installation.

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Ashraf Al-Dabbas

Ashraf Al-Dabbas is a vExpert, VCP, 3xMCSE, MCITP, CCNP, ITIL v3 Certified and an MBA holder. He has 10+ years of diverse experience working in a large organizations in systems infrastructure support, leading corporate wide IT initiatives, organizing and conduction projects and social activities.

For Ashraf, IT is a passion not a profession. He is self-motivated, persistent and full of positive attitude. Exploring new technologies, learning new knowledge, visiting new places and meeting new people are the things that drive him forward. He likes to write, share ideas and interact with different people. As part of his upbringing in the Jubilee School for gifted students (Amman, Jordan), Ashraf learned to understand, accept then debate all points of view objectively and respectfully.