Getting to know the VMware VC Administrator Portal (VCAP) – vmetc.com

This is a very nice step-by-step manual to get and configure the Beta version of VMware Administration Portal – VCAP
I will test it now.

Thanks to vmetc.com

I first heard that the new VMware Administrator Portal (VCAP) for consolidated management of multiple VirtualCenter Servers (VC) would soon be released as a free product during VMworld 2008. True to their promise, VMware provided a technology preview version for download at the end of last week. I found out it was released when Yellow-bricks.com posted about it and then the VMTN Blog and Mike D posted about the Yellow-bricks.com update. So, I downloaded the virtual appliance and did some basic testing this weekend. Although I do not have multiple VCs or a lot of VMs to test with, the following is a summary of my notes and thoughts while setting it up.

Download options

The VC Admin Portal Technology Preview page provides the VCAP distribution options and documentation currently available for download.

Download:

Documentation:

I downloaded the VCAP Appliance, extracted the contents of the .zip to my notebook, and then copied the folder with the VM’s files to my VirtualCenter 2.0 server. I was able to run the appliance without any additional conversion.

This screen shot shows the VCAP VM after it is finished booting.

Configuration

I followed the configuration steps straight from the Installation Guide:

Configuring and Running the Virtual Appliance

  1. Run the virtual appliance in VMware Player or convert into a VM using VMware Converter, or import the .ovf file using VI Client.
  2. Login to the appliance using root/vmware as the default username and password.
  3. Open /usr/share/vcap/tomcat6/webapps/vcap/config.xml, and enter the name of the vCenter Servers you would like to connect to within the <name></name> fields. Ensure that you have “/sdk” appended to the vCenter Server name.
  4. Connect from the browser using the following URL – http://<ipaddress of appliance>. The appliance is configured to use port 80.

After changing the config.xml file for my single VC server per step 3 above I was ready to open the VCAP interface from a web browser by going to http:// [VCAP IP ADDRESS]. My first attempt to log on stalled in both Firefox and IE6, but I rebooted the VCAP appliance so the new config.xml settings would take effect and then was able to log in without issue.

Note that the https://[VCAP IP ADDRESS]:5480 URL is a VM configuration page for changing the appliance ip address, rebooting, or shutting down the VCAP VM. I know it’s just a technology preview right now, but it would be a good feature to be able to add, remove and edit your VC servers in the future from this interface too. While I am making suggestions, it would be nice to have the option to restart the appropriate services after adding the VC servers as well.

Using VCAP

The VCAP VM is actually a proxy for authenticating to the VC Servers, so you need to log on as an account with permissions in VirtualCenter and not the appliance’s root account.

Once you log on the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.

My Thoughts

The VCAP appears to be a great tool for monitoring a VMware infrastructure. My initial impression is that it is perfect for a Network Operations Center or a Help Desk where it can provide a single pane of glass for a complex and distributed topology. The web interface eliminates the need to distribute the VI Client to multiple desktops and provides a centralized way to monitor alarms without flooding your mailbox with SMTP alerts. In some cases the VCAP could probably be an excellent alternative to installing SNMP agents on ESX hosts.

I expected to be able to perform common VirtualCenter administrative tasks from the VCAP, but there is only reporting available today. I’m not sure if I have a wrong expectation or if this ability will be added later. Hopefully the latter is the case. There is some basic management at the virtual machine level. You can filter by a few predefined fields, and once you find the VM you are seeking you can change the power state or use the remote console to connect (if you already have the VI Client installed on the computer you are browsing with).

To see the VCAP in action with multiple VCs and VMs check out the video by Alberto Gonzalez of the vpxd.blogspot.com site