VMware vSphere 6.5 Lab on a MacBook

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My main Nested vSphere lab (virtualized virtualization hosts running virtualized infrastructure) is a beefed-up, DIY desktop running on Windows OS. I used to connect to my home lab whenever I need to run some configurations through. However, I’ve been finding myself in places with weak internet connections recently, which leaves me with capable but unreachable lab to work with.

Due to my apparent predicament, I’ve decided to promote my mobile workhorse, a MacBook Pro (MBP), to a portable virtual infrastructure (VI) lab too. And on this post, I’ll share some tips that could help with building yours too, and some experiences that could spare you the trouble managing it.

Gears:

  • MBP with macOS Sierra, quad-core CPU, 16GB RAM, and 512 SSD.
  • VMware Fusion Pro 8.0
  • And, my favorite Spotify playlist on the background!

Install and set up

1. After downloading and mounting the VCSA ISO into my MBP, import the vcsa-xxxx.ova (located in the vcsa folder inside the ISO) into VMware Fusion. However, instead of clicking on Finish to conclude the import wizard and immediately turn on the virtual machine (VM), click on Customize to further configure the appliance and prevent it from booting up.

2. Locate the path where you saved the VCSA in the MBP, right-click on the vcsa_name.vmwarevm file and choose Show Package Contents to reveal the .vmx file.

3. Edit the .vmx file with whichever tool you’re comfortable with and add the following:

guestinfo.cis.deployment.node.type = “embedded”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.addr.family = “ipv4”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.mode = “static”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.pnid = “10.0.0.5

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.addr = “10.0.0.5

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.prefix = “24”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.gateway = “10.0.0.1

guestinfo.cis.appliance.net.dns.servers = “10.0.0.2

guestinfo.cis.appliance.root.passwd = “P@ssw0rd”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.ssh.enabled = “True”

guestinfo.cis.deployment.autoconfig = “True”

guestinfo.cis.appliance.ntp.servers = “10.0.0.1

guestinfo.cis.vmdir.password = “P@ssw0rd

guestinfo.cis.vmdir.site-name = “lab.pri

guestinfo.cis.vmdir.domain-name = “vsphere.local”

guestinfo.cis.ceip_enabled = “False”

4. Power on the VCSA VM and let it automatically run the set up.

In my experience, the set up seemed like it was stuck and was waiting for me to type something on the ” photon login:” prompt. I simply gave it a few minutes until it finally completed and booted up the VCSA.

Press F2 if you wish to further customize the VCSA.

Tip: If you ever reboot this VCSA (like I did) and wonder why the familiar DCUI doesn’t come back. Simply press Fn + Option + F2 to get it back.

5. Open an internet browser and go to https://IP_or_FQDN_of_VCSA:5480 to check the progress of the VCSA set up.

Upon importing the VCSA into VMware Fusion for the first time, I was startled to see that it was configured with 10GB of RAM. There’s no way I can have that and still allocate decent amount of RAM to a couple of ESXi hosts. So before starting the VM, I cut its RAM down to 4GB and that badly affected the setup of the appliance – when I came back from lunch, it was still at 0%.

Tip: Leave the beefy RAM config for now, let setup finish, then reduce the RAM later (I’m currently running it with 4GB only).

6. Optional, download, install and enable Adobe Flash Player to get the vSphere Web Client working on Safari, in this world of HTML5. I know right.

The new vSphere Client is still accessible if you point your browser to https://IP_or_FQDN_of_VCSA/ui but just understand its limitations (a lot of them) listed out on this VMware post.

7. Installing ESXi remains uneventfully easy, as it should be since the hypervisor itself has very small install base. The same could be said with regard to simply adding hosts to vCenter. The entire process and the options to choose from are very self-explanatory.

I have three ESXi 6.5 hosts in my MBP lab, with 2 CPU cores, and 4GB of RAM each. They also have 2 storage: first datastore is 40GB for ISO and test, small VMs, while the second datastore (60GB) will be for future vSAN – not sure if my MBP could take this in too.

Other than that, I also have a Windows Server 2012 Domain Controller with 1 CPU and 1GB of RAM.

As simple as that, we have a vSphere 6.5 lab running inside a MacBook that we can keep playing and building VMware configurations upon.

Additional Tips

Use VMware Fusion to easily upload existing VMs in your computer to the vSphere lab. I had to do three things to make this work:

a. Manually put necessary entries (ESXi hostnames and IP addresses) in my MBP’s /etc/hosts file because my lab uses a different Domain Controller compared to my MBP. The local computer, which is my MBP in this particular post, must be able to resolve the ESXi’s hostname.

b. Go to Menu of VMware Fusion > click File > Connect to Server > authenticate to the VCSA.

c. Right-click the VM to copy over > choose Upload to Server…

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elaguni

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