Looking at vCenter Past and Present

I mentioned in my last post that I have started the process of preparing for my VCP5 exam that I need to have finished by the end of February.  While I was watching the Trainsignal training video about installing and configuring vCenter, I got to thinking about how much vCenter had changed and matured over the years. Let’s start with a look at where vCenter started and where it is today.

The year was 2003 and VMware had just released VMware ESX Server 2.0. In November of 2003, VMware launch Virtual Center to collectively manage and control all the VMware ESX servers.  All the demo’s that I saw streaming a video from one virtual machine during a vMotion.  I did some digging and verified the minimum requirements for VMware Virtual Center 1.4 were as follows

  • ·        Minimum of 2GB RAM for 50 hosts or fewer

3GB RAM for 51 – 100 hosts

4GB RAM for 100 hosts or less running less than 2000 virtual machines

  • ·        Minimum of Pentium IV 2.0GHZ processor.

Dual Processors recommended for deployment with more than 25 managed hosts

  • ·        Minimum of 1 10/100Mbps NIC

1Gbps NIC recommended

Now let’s fast forward to today and check out the minimum vCenter 5 requirements.

  • ·        Minimum 4GB RAM

Web Services require 512MB to 4.4GB of additional memory

  • ·        Minimum Dual or more logical cores running at least 2Ghz
  • ·        1Gbps Network Connection recommended

Take a close look and you can see that the minimum requirements for vCenter have basically stayed the same for over the last decade. I know I have added extra processor and memory resources to vCenter Server for each of the newer releases.  I know these are minimum requirements listed and one thing I have learned over the years is how brutal it is working with just the minimum requirements for any application.

My personal take is vCenter is becoming quite a resource intensive and growing with all the new features and updates.  With the vSphere 5 release, VMware has released the vCenter Server 5.x Appliance.  I think is significant,  because I believe VMware will follow the same model they used for the migration from VMware vSphere ESX  to VMware vSphere ESXi.  I think this is just the start and I will step out on a limb and say that VMware vSphere 6 will be the last version that will have a Windows based vCenter server and by the vSphere 7 release only the appliance will be available.

I showed what the minimum requirements are for vCenter and now I present the requirements for the vCenter appliance.

Memory in the vCenter Server Appliance Very small inventory (10 or fewer hosts, 100 or fewer virtual machines): at least 4GBSmall inventory (10-100 hosts or 100-1000 virtual machines): at least 8GBMedium inventory (100-400 hosts or 1000-4000 virtual machines): at least 13GBLarge inventory (More than 400 hosts or 4000 virtual machines): at least 17GB

This table outlines the recommended JVM Heap settings for VMware vCenter Server Appliance vCenter Server Appliance Hardware:

vCenter Server Appliance Hardware


Query Service (QS)

Policy Based Storage Management (SPS)

Small inventory (1-100 hosts or 1-1000 virtual machines)




Medium inventory (100-400 hosts or 1000-4000 virtual machines)




Large inventory (More than 400 hosts or 4000 virtual machines)




If my math is correct that is at least 28GB of RAM needed for a large environment.  No way to get around it, vCenter will become one of the more resource intensive items in your environment.  VMware is already deploying virtual applications for other products in the suite.  One example of another virtual appliance is the VMware vCenter Operations Manager vApp (VCOPS). This vApp consist of two virtual appliances and the aggregated requirements for the two virtual machines in the vApp can be from 4 vCPU (2 vCPU per appliance) and 16GB of RAM (7GB and 9GB) through 16 vCPU (8 vCPU per appliance) and 34GB of RAM (13GB and 21GB).

I am thinking that before long the VMware infrastructure will consist of many virtual appliances performing different tasks and reporting all to the vCenter Server.   I have started to see where clients have been creating a specific and separate VMware cluster to handle only the virtual management appliances and vCenter itself. This isolation of the “management” applications themselves will become more and more prevalent as we keep adding more and more appliances and advanced features

As we move in to 2012 I still think this will be a year for the network and also the year of the appliance.  What trends are you starting to see in your or others environments?  Are you separating your environments based on function at all?  Post your trends and practices you may have implemented since vSphere 5.

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