Data Centers

Installing VMware vCenter prerequisites on Windows Server 2008 R2

Scott Lowe explains how to prepare a Windows Server 2008 R2 server for VMware vCenter and how to tackle two problems that are sure to arise during the installation process.

With Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft has finally abandoned the 32-bit world in server land in favor of a 64-bit only operating system. While this is a very good step in the right direction toward solving the 32-bit/64-bit selection dilemma, it can present some installation challenges.

I recently encountered this issue when our organization installed VMware vCenter Server on Windows Server 2008 R2. With older versions of Windows, there is a 32-bit option, so vCenter has no trouble installing; however, once things move in the 64-bit direction, there are two items that you'll need to address before the vCenter installation will be successful:

  • The need for the .NET Framework 3.5.1.
  • The need for a 32-bit Database Source Name (DSN)/ODBC connection pointing to the vCenter database.

I'll outline tips that will help you with the installation process.

Important notes

Before we proceed, you should be aware of these important product and article notes:

  • Although VMware indicates that small organizations can safely run vCenter on a 32-bit OS, it recommends that administrators consider 64-bits for all new installations.
  • If you're installing vCenter on a virtual machine running under vSphere/ESX 4, you should know that support for Windows Server 2008 R2 is currently experimental. Even though everything will probably work just fine, VMware won't provide support if you have problems.
  • This article assumes that you have already followed VMware's guidance as outlined in the documentation and created a database and database user for vCenter. For my purposes, I created a database named VCDB and a SQL Server account named vcenteruser.
  • Bear in mind that VMware does not yet support vCenter on Windows Server 2008 R2.¬†Proceed at your own risk!

.NET Framework 3.5.1

To install the .NET Framework 3.5.1 on Windows Server 2008 R2, follow these steps:

  1. Open Server Manager.
  2. Select the Features navigation item.
  3. On the Feature Summary page, click Add Features.
  4. When you get to the Select Features page of the wizard, expand the .NET Framework 3.5.1 Features option.
  5. Select the .NET Framework 3.5.1 item. (Do not choose to install both the .NET Framework 3.5.1 and WCF Activation together — doing so will force the installation of IIS 7.5, which will interfere with vCenter's Web services.) Figure A shows you the Select Features window.
  6. Click the Next button.
  7. On the Confirm Installation Selections page, click the Install button to complete the process.

Figure A

32-bit DSN to the vCenter database

When you create a DSN on an out-of-the-box Windows Server 2008 R2 system, the DSN is created as a 64-bit object, whereas the vCenter installer will only be looking for 32-bit DSNs. In order to create a 32-bit DSN on your 64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2 server, you need to download and install the SQL Server Native Client on your server and use the new client's utilities to create the DSN. For this article, I'm using SQL Server 2005 because that is what we're using in production at Westminster College.

The SQL Server Native Client is included as a part of the SQL Server 2005 Feature Pack. From the Feature Pack download page, download the X64 package under the SQL Server 2005 Native Client option. Although you're installing the 64-bit package, this is only because you're installing the tool to a 64-bit operating system; the package includes a method to create 32-bit DSNs. Once you download the package, install it.

Next, go to Start and, in the Search box, type odbcad32. Select the odbcad32 option under the Programs heading to run this utility.

Figure B

This is a 32-bit version of the ODBC Data Source Administrator utility; in this utility, create a System DSN that points to your vCenter database. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Select the System DSN tab.
  2. Click the Add button.
  3. On the first page of the Create New Data Source wizard, choose SQL Native Client.
  4. When prompted, provide a name and description of the new System DSN and indicate on which SQL Server the vCenter database resides.
  5. For my example, I've used SQL Server authentication. On the authentication page, choose the authentication method most appropriate for your use. If you use SQL Server authentication, use the same login ID and password that you created as per the VMware documentation. This page is shown in Figure C.
  6. When prompted, test the data source to make sure it's set up properly.

Figure C

When you're done, you will see the vCenter DSN appear in the ODBC Data Source Administrator.


With these two items in place, your vCenter installation should proceed without interruption. The true test will come when you get to the installation step that asks you to provide the 32-bit DSN that you want to use for the vCenter database. If you've set the DSN up properly that DSN will be available to you; if it's not set up properly, make sure that you didn't accidentally create a 64-bit DSN.

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Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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