Deploying a Centralized VMware vCenter™ Single Sign-On™ Server with a Network Load Balancer

Overview

With the release of VMware vSphere® 5.5 and VMware® vCenter Server™ 5.5, multiple components deliver the vCenter Server management solution. One component, VMware vCenter™ Single Sign-On™ server, offers an optional deployment configuration that enables the centralization of vCenter Single Sign-On services for multiple local solutions such as vCenter Server. If not architected correctly, centralization can increase risk, so use of vCenter Single Sign-On server is highly recommended.

This paper highlights the high-availability options for a centralized vCenter Single Sign-On environment and provides a reference guide for deploying one of the more common centralized vCenter Single Sign-On configurations with an external network load balancer (NLB).

When to Centralize vCenter Single Sign-On Server

VMware highly recommends deploying all vCenter Server components into a single virtual machine—excluding the vCenter Server database. However, large enterprise customers running many vCenter Server instances within a single physical location can simplify vCenter Single Sign-On architecture and management by reducing the footprint and required resources and specifying a dedicated vCenter Single Sign-On environment for all resources in each physical location.

For vSphere 5.5, as a general guideline, VMware recommends centralization of vCenter Single Sign-On server when eight or more vCenter Server instances are present in a given location.

A Centralized vCenter Single Sign-On Server Environment

Figure 1 – A Centralized vCenter Single Sign-On Server Environment.

Centralized Single Sign-On High-Availability Options

The absence of vCenter Single Sign-On server greatly impacts the management, accessibility, and operations within a vSphere environment. The type of availability required is based on the user’s recovery time objective (RTO), and VMware solutions can offer various levels of protection.

VMware vSphere Data Protection

VMware vSphere Data Protection™ provides a disk-level backup-and-restore capability utilizing storage-based snapshots. With the release of vSphere Data Protection 5.5, VMware now provides the option of host-level restore. Users can back up vCenter Single Sign-On server virtual machines using vSphere Data Protection and can restore later as necessary to a specified vSphere host.

VMware vSphere High Availability

When deploying a centralized vCenter Single Sign-On server to a vSphere virtual machine environment, users can also deploy VMware vSphere High Availability (vSphere HA) to enable recovery of the vCenter Single Sign-On server virtual machines. vSphere HA monitors virtual machines via heartbeats from the VMware Tools™ package, and it can initiate a reboot of the virtual machine when the heartbeat no longer is being received or when the vSphere host has failed.

VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat

VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat™ provides a richer availability model for the monitoring and redundancy of vCenter Server and its components. It places a centralized vCenter Single Sign-On server into an active–passive architecture, monitors the application, and provides an up-to-date passive node for recovery during a vSphere host, virtual machine, or application failure.

Network Load Balancer

A VMware or third-party NLB can be configured to allow SSL pass-through communications to a number of local vCenter Single Sign-On server instances and provide a distributed and redundant vCenter Single Sign-On solution. Although VMware provides NLB capability in some of its optional products, such as VMware vCloud® Networking and Security™, there also are third-party solutions available in the marketplace. VMware does not provide support for third-party NLB solutions.

Deploying vCenter Single Sign-On Server with a Network Load Balancer

Preinstallation Checklist

The guidance provided within this document will reference the following details:

Centralized vCenter Single Sign-On Requirements

Table 1 – Centralized vCenter Single Sign-On Requirements

vCenter Single Sign-On Server with a Network Load Balancer

Figure 2 – Example of a vCenter Single Sign-On Server with a Network Load Balancer

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