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Where to run your vCenter Server? (On a vSAN Stretched Cluster)

In a perfect world, you have a management cluster, that hosts your vCenter server and you the management of every cluster lives somewhere else. Unfortunately the real world happens and:

  • Something has to manage the management cluster.
  • Sometimes you need a cluster to be completely stand alone. 

Can I run the vCenter server on the cluster it manages?

It is FULLY supported to run the vCenter Server on the cluster that it is managing. HA will still work. If you want a deeper dive on this issue this short video covers this question. 

So what is the best advise when doing this?

  1. Use ephemeral port groups for all management networks. This prevents vDS chicken egg issues that are annoying but not impossible to work around. 
  2. I prefer to use DRS SHOULD rules so the center will “normally” live on the lowest host number/IP address in the cluster. This is useful for a situation where vCenter is unhealthy and the management services are failing to start, it makes it easy to find which host is running it. Make sure to avoid using “MUST” rules for this as it would prevent vCenter from running anywhere else in the event that host fails. 
You can attach VMK ports to a ephemeral port group even if the VCSA is offline

But what about a stretched Cluster? I have a stand alone host to run the witness server should I put it there? 

No, I would not recommend this design. It is always preferable to run the vCenter server somewhere that it will enjoy HA protection, and not need to be powered off to patch a host. vSAN stretched clusters always support active/active operations, many customers often configure them with most workloads running in the preferred datacenter location. If you use this configuration I recommend you run the vCenter server in the secondary location for a few reasons:

  1. In the event the primary datacenter fails, you will not be “Operationally blind” as HA is firing off, and recovering workloads. This lowers any operational blindspots that would happen for a few minutes while vCenter server fails over. 
  2. It will act as a weathervane to the health of the secondary datacenter. It is generally good to have SOME sort of workload running at the secondary site to provide some understanding of how those hosts will perform, even if it is a relatively light load.