A Beginner’s Guide: Running ESXi on vCloud Air

VMware has been pushing their vCloud product for quite a while now, but the uptake doesn’t seem to be there when compared to other hosted cloud services like AWS and Azure. With the recent addition of vCloud Air to the VMUG Advantage program, I decided to take a look at what it has to offer. I’ve dabbled with some AWS and Google stuff in the past, but I haven’t had the opportunity (or real desire to be honest) to play around with vCA.

As a first timer, I figured I would record my steps in a post to help others who may be looking to get started, or more likely, so I can look back in a few months if I need a refresher. This is by no means a deep dive into vCloud Air, but rather the equivalent of dipping a toe into a swimming pool.

vCA-01The first thing I did when I logged in was select Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand, which prompted me to choose a datacenter, followed by a message letting me know that they were creating my very own virtual data center. Boy, don’t I feel special now.

Next up I was prompted to create my first VM; they have a template catalog to choose from which includes:

  • CentOS 6.3 / 6.4
  • Ubuntu Server 12.04
  •  VMware Photon OS (Tech Preview 2 …. Interesting)
  • Windows Server Standard 2008R2 / 2012 / 2012R2

… or you can create a VM from scratch. I opted for this as I wanted to see if I could run a nested ESXi lab in the cloud (similar to what Ravello Systems offers). Choosing the new build option brought me to a new vCloud Director page with lots of fancy buttons to click on:

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Luckily William Lam (@lamw) has some handy templates for nested ESXi testing. You can find those here: http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2014/05/how-to-run-nested-esxi-on-the-vcloud-hybrid-service.html – although the page is a tad dated, be sure to follow the instructions regarding importing and exporting it into vCenter. If you don’t, you’ll probably get a failure when you upload it.

At this point I clicked on ‘Add vApp from OVF’ which launched a wizard. Of note is that I had to use Internet Explorer for this part as vCA did not seem to like Chrome all that much. On the first screen I downloaded Client Integration Plugin, and much to my chagrin I had to close all my browser windows to continue the installation.

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Once I got back in I was still receiving the message that I had to install the client integration; I ended up adding the site to my Trusted Sites security zone in IE, and I enabled compatibility mode for the site. That seemed to clear things up quite nicely. Back to the wizard … I selected the source as the local file that I generated as per William’s site, left everything as default, and uploaded the file.

Once the upload was done, I started up the vApp and I was ready to install ESXi on the machines. I uploaded the ISO file by going to Catalog –> Media & Other –> Upload and selecting the ISO image. Once it is uploaded you can mount it to your VMs and do as you wish. Installation of ESXi 6U1 went quickly and smoothly.

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This was my first time using vCloud Air and I had a few bumps along the way. A couple of things I wish they would improve / change (and I might just be missing these) are:

  • Have ISOs / OVFs available for common packages such as ESXi, or the VCSA; no sense in having to download the software just to upload it back to the same vendor’s site;
  • Link the VMware / vCA accounts together; I had to create a new, different, password to get access;

All in all though, I am quite excited to have this as part of the VMUG Advantage program – it more than makes it worthwhile to sign up.

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