Saturday, September 29, 2012

VMware vCenter Server - Physical vs. Virtual

This post is coming straight out of discussions I had with a client about, "How a vCenter Server should be deployed?". Since vCenter manages a virtual infrastructure you can either install it on a physical x86 server or as a Virtual Machine.

vCenter is an important machine and I have written about the importance of Protecting the VMware vCenter Server in one of my articles - Providing Protection & High Availability to a VMware vCenter Server. I would recommend you read this in order to understand the importance of taking the decision of keeping your vCenter Physical or Virtual.

People often ask me this question not only for vCenter but for all the other applications which they want to Virtualize. My answer to them is usually this "PLEASE ASK THE APPLICATION VENDOR". The team and the organization who have developed the application know the best about the attributes of the application hence they should be able to tell you whether an application can be virtualized or not.

vCenter being a VMware application, let's see what VMware has to say about Virtualizing the vCenter Server. As per page number 2 on the following white paper, VMware says - "Users can run vCenter Server in a virtual machine or on a physical server. We recommend running vCenter inside a virtual machine."

Sweeeett.. I believe the recommendation is exactly inline with my thought process... If you cannot Virtualize your own application (the vCenter Server) which is CRITICAL for a Virtual Infrastructure, you cannot really ask the application owners to Virtualize their critical apps on the VMware vSphere platform... Hence this is a great point which IT today can take to their application owners and convince them to Virtualize whatever fits on a VMware virtual machine today (I guess everything with vSphere 5.1. Read What's New - 5.1 to know more...)

Great, apart from the story of "Eating your own Dogfood", let's look at some other reasons which would help us take this decision around virtualizing vCenter or NOT.....

Well the above points are just a snapshot of what I think and I believe these pointers give you good enough reasons to decide whether your vCenter should be Virtual or Physical. 

I remember someone asking me a question which was "What will happen if the Virtual Machine which is running the vCenter goes down due to an ESXi server failure??"

The answer is that VMware HA will still work since it does not require vCenter to be up and running.. So if you have a HA cluster, you can be sure that you will get back the control on your environment as soon as the vCenter Virtual Machine is up on any other host in the cluster with the help of HA. 

What will happen if your PHYSICAL vCenter Server goes down??? I will leave you with this thought for now... :-)

Yup, Virtual is Better for me....

Hope this helps you take a decision on what is best for your environment..... Do share your thoughts if any!!


  1. we always use virtual vcenter server in our environment,previously installed windows box with manual configuration for database on remote SQL server, but recently used OVF import with prebuild SUSE linux vcenter server from vmware site.

  2. The vCenter Server Appliance (VSCA) has been a great revolution, especially for Linux shops.. I have written about that as well and the pros & cons of having a Suse based appliance (which is quite new) vs. the tradition windows based Virtual Center. You can read it here -

  3. Yes... Vmware is moving out from all dependencies factors with windows. Thus they introduced the linux appliance for vCenter. In future, they are planning to stop the vSphere client for Windows. Then we can only have webaccess for managing the VC. VMware have started that process from VC5 onwards.

    Anish Panthalani

  4. Anish, thanks for your comments. I agree that Web Client is the way forward to remove dependency on a device which should have enough memory of cpu power to install a thick client (vSphere Client), instead access the infra with a light browser based device making things easier for IT.

    Regarding Windows dependency, I have quoted the exact same point which you have over here in my article (Choosing the vCenter Platform)

    As mentioned in this article, the truth behind this has more to do with customers who demanded this option as they were primarily Linux shops.