This post is a very descriptive way to install vCenter 5.1 on a 2008 R2 server and utilize SQL on another server. We’ll install the database, necessary prerequisites and ensure it all works. On a single server, we’ll install the SSO, Inventory Manager and the vCenter server (including the fat and web client).
I want to start by saying that this isn’t intended for a VCDX, this is intended for someone to get this up in the lab, check what I did and perhaps suggest some improvements. I also want to state I’ve started with a 2008 R2 Standard server, joined to the domain and run through Microsoft updates.
First off, you need .NET Framework 3.5 installed, open the server manager, and add a new feature. Expand and select the .NET Framework 3.5.1 only (otherwise you’ll end up installing IIS).

I always use service accounts, so I’m going to use contoso\svcvc (vcenter service account) and add that guy to the local Administrators group (I do not use a domain admin account for the service account, there is no need and if you follow what I’m doing, you’ll see it all works, just need to add him to the local admins)
Mount that ISO for 5.1 vCenter and open it up, select the 2nd option (the 1st is a simple all-in-one install, you don’t want that, trust me). Select the SSO (which is the 2nd option). Accept the EULA and all that. When you get to the Deployment Type, accept the default for the primary node (this is your first time, right?)

This screen is actually NOT the default, and it’s why we are installing the SSO option , not the simple install. Select the second so we can add other nodes and utilize and hardware load balancer (I see no downside from setting this up regardless if you use a load balancer). BTW, I would suggest an open source Load Balancer than nothing at all, you really should be learning load balancing if you haven’t already, you’ll need to for vCloud and other more complex deployments. That being said, you don’t have to setup any load balancer yet.

We can’t change the name so that’s set. The password needs to be somewhat complex, mine was so I had no issue but testpassword probably won’t cut it. Don’t forget this password. You need it at least twice more and you need it if you update the SSL certifcates which you ALWAYS should 😉

Honestly, if I wanted to install 2008 R2 Express I’d be in a lab or I would just use the vCenter virtual appliance. The whole point of the full vcenter is scale and the “small” deployment can handle 1,000 VMs and 100 hosts, so you really ought to be using a full SQL install. I believe you can even use SQL 2008 R2 Express on another server by hacking it a little bit and opening ports and enabling protocols. I’m not explaining how to do that here. I have a SQL 2008 R2 Enterprise I can use (Standard is perfectly fine. BTW, the big difference between the two (other than scale) is the SQL Reporting functionality. Need something with SQL Reporting, think Enterprise.)
Below you can see I’ve filled out my SQL server, database name and user already. They aren’t setup yet so stop what you’re doing and head on over to your sql server to set this guy up. Before you do, copy the files from the vCenter installation in the directory listed above (on the screenshot) to your sql server so you can open/edit it.

This is the file but modified. I would recommend using it even if you know SQL. The database name can change but the actual filegroup names need to be RSA_DATA and RSA_INDEX. This script also sets SIMPLE recovery and auto-shrink. Go ahead and modify the FILENAME to point to the right directory. Did you just install SQL? Well add an E: drive and save your stuff there. Notice I added the DEMOVC_SSO directory? Don’t forget to create the directory, if you don’t it won’t work.

Now we need to create a database user. Why? Because I know vCenter 5.0 didn’t work well with AD authentication and I’m assuming the same is true here. Honestly, if I have to use even one SQL user, I might as well have all these services use it. Once they fix VUM, I’ll probably stick to AD since it’s MUCH MORE than SQL users. What I did is create a user called demovc (the name I called my vcenter server) and set a password, unchecked password enforcement and made that user sysadmin. Once I create the the database (I called mine DEMOVC_SSO) I select User Mapping and checked the db_owner.

Ok so back to the demovc server, we can now hit next.

This is the Load Balancer name but I’m not using one yet so I’m entering the server name.

Ok, anytime you get the option to use network or system account, you should think twice. Generally, the most secure way to run multi-node services in windows is through a domain service account. That’s what we’re using. No SPN is needed here, SSO install does all the work.

Again, I made him a member of the local admins group (check again now if you’re not sure)

I believe someone mentioned that changing from C: didn’t work, I have no idea, I install to C: since it’s all the server does.

I accept the default port.

Last chance? Did you hit Install? Let’s go!

Done! That was easy! Ok now install the Inventory Service

Accept the defaults here.

This is pretty self-explanatory. Remember this is per inventory “cluster” if I may use the term. If you are segmenting inventory to multiple databases, don’t use the total, just what you’re managing. We’re managing about 10 hosts maximum and 300 servers so “small” is what I want.

Here is where you remember your password from SSO. The administrator user name should already be filled in.

Here is where it would be awesome for Vmware to let you import/generate a SSL certificate to use. As it is, they do not, you just need to install the self-signed insecure certificate they give you.

Ok, now hit install.

Done! That was easy! Now for something a little more complicated.

I entered a key below, if you have one, you should also. No, I will not let you use my key. I actually just used my 5.0 Enterprise Plus vCenter key, worked great! (It’s an NFRU key btw)

Obviously we want the existing supported database, but before you think you can hit next, you can not. You need to create an ODBC connection.

Sounds simple enough. Hit Start button, type ODBC and open up that app. Uh-oh, we don’t have the native drive installed. Vmware doesn’t link or have it, you need to add it. I’m going to show you the complicated way to install it here (for VUM we’ll use a webpage download). Feel free to vary but I know my way works.

Mount the SQL 2008 R2 install somewhere and run the autorun.exe from the vcenter server.

Click New Installation or add features to an existing installation


I didn’t use Evaulation but you could, we’re just installed the client parts.

All passed except the firewall, you can ignore that.

Select the first option.

Only click Client Tools Conenctivity, click next.

Click next.

Finally! Install.

That was a lot of work to get this. Select it.

Oh wait! We didn’t setup the database yet! This one is easy. Remote or open SQL Management and create a new database. Here are my entries. I only changed the name on this page. Select the Options on the left before clicking OK.

Change the recovery model to Simple. We do this because we probably aren’t backing this up. If you are, leave as Full. Otherwise, your transaction logs will grow and eventually consume all the free space on the drive. Also select Auto Shrink and set it to True, leave the rest as defaults.

Click OK and create the database. Open our demovc user (or whatever you named him). This user can differ from the other user but you need to have User Mapping selected and add them to db_owner.

Now let’s go back to the ODBC and fill in the blanks. The only thing important here is the server name. You need to remember the Name for later but you can call it what you want. Hit Next.

Select SQL authentication and put in the username and password

Select Change the default database and select the correct one we just created.

Leave the defaults and click Finish.

Check and Test, it should be successful, if not you messed something up, go back and check your password.

Type in the name of the ODBC connection and click next on the vcenter install.

Click next. Fill in the username and password for the sql user account.

Uncheck Use SYSTEM account and enter your service account information.

You probably want a standalone right?

Accept the default ports. You only need to increase ephemeral if you’re doing a dense View deployment. That is probably the only way I see you powering one 2000 at once. Don’t select that if you don’t need it.

Again, select your size, I say small. I would still have multiple vcenters before I had 400 hosts on a vcenter but that’s just me. BTW I have 4GB memory on my server for this.

Enter the SSO password.

Now I want to show you my AD usergroup, I called this VCAdmins for vCenter Administrators.

When I enter the GROUP in here I use the format. I leave the check box checked. Even if it’s only you doing this, create a global group in AD, add yourself to it (I also added the service account) and use that.

Click next accepting the defaults.

This install is a little long.

And we’re done! Now just install the clients.

I accept the defaults.

Again, enter that SSO password.

Here I test the fat client using my AD credentials.

I hate this self-signed certificate warning. Once I figure out how to perfectly update to a signed cert I’ll post it.

Testing the web client (link is in your start menu). You need to click ignore in IE.

You need flash also apparently. No, I don’t want Google desktop, stop asking Adobe.

And I’m in! Most functions are now through the web client. You can see Orchestrator is in there.

All my services look good

I create the datacenter

I create my Cluster

I add a host.

And I’m done. Congratulations, you’ve installed vCenter 5.1!