How to install and configure vCenter Server Appliance 5.1 on ESXi 5.1, the easiest way to enable the good stuff for free, like cloning VM templates and the magic of vMotion

Posted by Paul Braren on Aug 27 2012 (updated on May 22 2013) in
  • ESXi
  • HowTo
  • Virtualization
  • console-vcenter-5-1

    Yes, vSphere 5.1 / ESXi 5.1 has been announced. I was actually at the VMworld keynote in person to hear the news, earlier this morning. See also
    Minimum requirements for the VMware vCenter Server 5.x Appliance.

    Using ESXi 5.1 Build 799731, I step-by-step walk you through the process of installing and configuring this vCenter Server Appliance 5.1, Build 799730, in the video seen below.

    Sep 11 2012: 5.1 Released! Complete download steps now posted here:

    This video will give you a good look at what's coming up, using the exact build that is expected to be the actual GA version.

    This vCenter Server Appliance, aka, VCSA has also been changed and streamlined quite a bit since 5.0 Update 1, now including a simpler-to-configure database. And yes, this appliance works with the free Hypervisor, seen in the video below.

    Just in case you're not familiar with Appliances, they're kind of like Apps for your phone: a pre-packaged bundle that's largely pre-configured for you, downloaded directly from VMware:

    Once you administer your ESXi Hypervisor by pointing your vSphere Client to this vCenter appliance, you'll be able to try vMotion, cloning/templates, storage migration (moving VMs from one datastore to another over gigabit, even when ESXi hosts don't have a shared datastore), and many other advanced features not available from just ESXi alone. As a point of reference, here's how the install looked on the previous version:

    and the short written install instructions from VMware here:

    So you'll likely agree once you've seen the video, deploying this has gotten even easier. Enjoy!

    Sep 07 2012 Update:
    Interesting to note the rather lofty claims of the capabilities of this new appliance, seen in the screenshot below, in the web UI's vCenter Server Services Settings section:


    Sep 12 2012 Update:
    Don't forget to set up your NTP timesync, the importance of this is explained here.

    VMware Tools doesn't have NTP sync set to on by default, so simply open the VM's Configuration Editor, Options tab, VMware Tools, "Synchronize guest time with host" and it'll now sync to your ESXi host's clock automatically, it's that easy:


    Jan 25 2013 Update:
    on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2012, "VCSA (vCenter Server Appliance) Resources" was published over at, giving an excellent of resources/links to check out:

    May 20 2013 Update:
    A reader recently contacted me, to let me know of some important licensing considerations. Here's what he said, on May 19 2013:

    I followed your video titled How to install and configure vCenter Server Appliance 5.1 on ESXi 5.1 and I'm having a problem.  The vCenter Server Appliance installed fine, but when I try to add my host, I get an error that says "License not available to perform this action. The host is licensed with VMware vSphere 5 Hypervisor. The license edition of vCenter Server does not support VMware vSphere 5 Hypervisor." and it won't add my host.  You said it works with the free version of ESXi, but I can't get it to work.

    I am running the free version of ESXi 5.1.  It is not in trial mode.  I entered the free license.  Is there a way to get the vCenter Server Appliance to work with this?  If so, is there a free license for it or will it only work for 60 days?

    By the way, I love your videos and you are excellent at explaining everything.  I look forward to more.

    Then, later on, an update:

    I've investigated a bit further and it seems as though you can't use vCenter with the free ESXi.

    Someone suggested that it works during the 60-day trial because you may still purchase a license, but once you enter the free license, it stops working.

    I confirmed this behavior on my 60 day trial ESXi 5.1 Update 1 test lab that I created for recent public presentations, running the vCenter Appliance 5.1 Update 1 with it. So this is a very important consideration for those constructing home labs. If you have a VMware enterprise rep through your workplace, pursuing a 365 day trial is likely considerably more practical than reinstalling ESXi/vCenter every 60 days, reconfiguring, then reimporting VMs. But frankly, for single ESXi hosts, that's not that big a deal either, usually about 2-3 hours of work.

    May 22 2013 Update:
    Here's the basic steps to install and configure this appliance

    1. Import OVA file to create vSphere Appliance
    2. Set VMware Tools to sync clock
    3. Login with browser http://IPaddress:5480
    4. Approve EULA
    5. Cancel wizard
    6. Set IP
    7. Reboot
    8. Set hostname vcenter.local
    9. Reboot
    10. Launch wizard, choose Configure with defaults (as it finished up by configuring the database, it takes quite a while, appearing to be hung for 10-20 minutes, just wait it out)
    11. Use WinSCP to edit /etc/hosts file to add ESXi hostname (optional)
    12. Reboot, let it finish booting (can take 5-10 minutes)
    13. Login using both vSphere Client and vSphere Web Client to ensure proper operation