Part 3 of this series has been a long time coming. I’d been running into some serious problems getting vCenter to build properly, and then I ran out of hours on my promotional hours allotment from the kind folks at Ravello. So I had to wait until I got some fresh hours. To the right, you can see the sorts of problems I was having. My hosts would frequently PSOD either while building, or while booting. I’m really not sure what’s going on, and I’ve been pressed for time, so I didn’t open a case with Ravello to have them check it out. My feeling is that it’s probably just kinks that need worked out from what amounts to what’s been lovingly referred to as hypervisor Inception. (via HVX)
My advice after having sorted through this, which is also in the AutoLab 2.6 Deployment Guide, is to just keep trying. Eventually, I did get it to work as intended, and I didn’t do anything different. It just worked one time. So, after a long wait, here’s a few notes on the steps required to get the hosts and vCenter built.
Build the Hosts
The hosts and vCenter can be built at the same time. The deployment guide says to start them at the same time. Because the hosts are required for the vCenter build to finish (assuming you’ll run the AddHosts script as a part of the build) I opted to get the hosts started before getting the vCenter build started. There’s a trick, and I can’t remember where I heard this – select all three hosts and start them at once as opposed to starting them one at a time. The reason for this is that starting them in one command will launch them on the same back-end hypervisor, causing performance of communication between the three hosts to be improved. Again, I can’t remember where I got that tip, and I can’t find it in the deployment guide, so correct me if I’m wrong 🙂
Assuming the DC build completed successfully, it’s running a PXE server that the hosts will boot an install wizard from. From the menu, on each host, select ‘ESXi [version] automated builds’ and then the corresponding build (e.g. Host1 Automated Install). This will build the respective host with the correct settings like hostname, IP address, and so on.
Once you’ve selected a host to build and the process completes, you’ll be left with a fully configured ESXi host. All that’s left is to get them connected to an added vCenter server. Powering on the vCenter server will get the build started, and it generally takes around an hour to complete. An option was set during the DC build to add the hosts to vCenter during the build, so first the OS customization script will run and set up the box, install vCenter, and dependencies/utilities (utilities being things like 7-zip, PuTTy, etc). Once the OS is ready, vCenter is installed, and the script gets PowerCLI installed, it will kick off the script that customizes vCenter. This builds out everything like the datacenter, cluster, adds hosts, adds datastores, and more.
Once the vCenter script is totally finished (it might be best not to watch it like I did – feels like an eternity!) the final action will be to install VMware Tools and reboot, just like the DC did. Once the reboot is complete and the OS is automatically logged in again, open the AutoLab Script Menu from the shortcut on the desktop and validate the build just as was done on the DC.
And there you have it! Assuming the vCenter is built, you can log in to vCenter via the vSphere Client using credentials in the ‘as-built’ documentation. You will find a fully configured environment with as many hosts as you chose to build. In my build for this post, I just had it build 2.