Don’t Let vCenter Deployments Become a Time Suck

Insight from Jeremy Martin, Senior Solutions Architect A failed vCenter deployment. The thought of it might have just caused a quick wave of anxiety to wash over you. We’ve all been there, how many manhours have you and your team lost to failed deployments?

Recently, as the NTS Engineering team worked to prepare for upcoming automation demonstrations, the following thought came up­—why don’t we conduct a real-world test to determine the actual time savings difference between using our newest automation platform, Mantle-X, and manually building out the same VMware vSphere environment.

Once the question was asked, there was no going back. We had to know the answer.

I began by timing out the Mantle-X deployment. This involved running an Ansible Playbook to generate the demo configuration, which was based on variables pulled from NetBox, and then importing said Ansible-generated configuration into Mantle-X.

One-click of the “Deploy” button, and 38 minutes later (which I spent doing other things) my vCenter deployment is ready. While I was occupied elsewhere, Mantle-X created automated ESXi installation ISOs, mounted those ISOs to SuperMicro-based servers, wiped all SSD and NVMe drives, installed ESXi on four hosts, kicked off a vCenter installation to a new vSAN datastore, created the datacenter and cluster, added in the remaining vSAN disk groups, and migrated the networking to a distributed switch.

Now for the fun part, I started my stopwatch and began the work of manually deploying the vSphere suite on the same four-node cluster.

The first step involved removing each SSD and NVMe drive from each host and then wiping the residual vSAN off of them. Next, I utilized Rufus to mount a vanilla ESXi 6.7 ISO to a USB drive. Then, I performed the manual install on all four hosts. Once each host was finished installing ESXi, I dusted off my KVM and logged in locally to each server blade’s console in order to set the management adapter and configure the IP address information.

Once I was able to ping all four hosts from the workstation, I mounted the vCenter 6.7 ISO and started the GUI-based installation. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the vCenter install reached 40 minutes, then 50, then 1 hour, before it finally failed at 1 hour and 37 minutes.

As I searched through the logs, I discovered that my local domain controller went to sleep during the install process and caused the vCenter installation to fail. It took VMware 1 hour and 37 minutes to notify me that something in the environment was not right and failed.

Mistakes happen and no one is perfect, but why can’t there be some sort of preliminary check before the Stage 2 install process begins? So, as I restarted the process, I had to wipe the vSAN-configured drives and re-install ESXi in order to remove the vSAN datastore from my first host. This added another 15 minutes to the build time. So, one error resulted in the loss of two hours of development time. I could have been working on another project, or preparing a brisket for my smoker, or any number of productive tasks.

Think about organizations that are building these packages every day, how many manhours are wasted due to simple human errors?

Mantle-X enables true Infrastructure-as-Code, integrating with existing automation platforms and sources-of-truth software.

With a simple click of a button, I can build a complete vSphere environment configuration through a configuration management-approved template and send it to the local administrator for implementation. The local administrator needs only to load the configuration and click a single button to start the deployment. This initiates everything; the drive wiping, hypervisor installation, vCenter deployment, vSAN configuration, and advanced networking are all performed through Mantle-X.

In addition to simplifying operations, Mantle-X offers noticeable time savings in comparison to a standard, manual deployment. Take a look at the deployment times below to see how Mantle-X can help expedite your vSphere deployments and reduce user errors.

Mantle Deployment TimelineNexTech Solutions is a team of experts and engineers who understand the challenges that Federal agencies face in finding and implementing the best technologies and IT solutions to meet their mission requirements. For more information, view our range of capabilities.

If you would like to explore your options with NTS MANTLE and receive more information or have additional questions, please email