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VCF 4.4 gives you two node clusters

With the release of VCF 4.4 you are able to create a 2-node cluster! There are a few caveats with this;

  • You must use NFS or VMFS over FC for storage
  • You must use vLCM Images

Both of those mean that you can’t have a 2 node cluster in the management domain, as vSAN is required and it uses vLCM Baselines.

Let’s walk through what it takes to create a new workload domain with a two node NFS.

The first thing you’ll need to do is install ESXi on the hosts you intend to use and configure them to VCF specs so they are ready to commission, we won’t go into detail on this here but there are many options including VLC’s expansion pack if you have a nested lab.

Just a note, the correct version of the ESXi ISO for VCF can be found on Cloud Builder in the /mnt/iso/sddc-foundation-bundle-x.x.x.x-{build}/esx_iso directory, just an easy scp command away!

If you don’t already have a vLCM Image, you’ll need to create one. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this we’ll focus on what I feel is the easiest way. Create a new cluster in your management or workload domain. It’s not important what you call it but make sure you select the “Manage all hosts in the cluster with a single image” checkbox, and then select the “Import image from a new host”. Lastly click next.

On the next screen you’ll need to enter in the host details of one of the hosts you built earlier and then click Find Host and select Yes on the security alert that pops up.

Now you’ll see that an Image for the selected host is displayed, in my case it’s a nested host and I don’t have any additional components like vendor specific VIBs or firmware. Uncheck the “Also move selected host to cluster” check box and click next.

Look at the review page and then click Finish. After a minute or two you’ll see the new cluster appear in vCenter. If you select that cluster and then go to the Updates tab you can see the image that was just created.

Once your image is created we’ll need to import it into SDDC Manager. Log in to SDDC Manager and navigate to Lifecycle Manager -> Image Management -> Import Image tab. Select your management domain and the new cluster that just got created. Give the image a meaningful name and Click “Extract Cluster Image”

You can monitor the task in the tasks window, clicking refresh on the tasks window every so often until the task shows Successful. Once the Image Upload task is complete you can delete the cluster we created in vCenter.

Then you’ll want to setup a new Network Pool in SDDC Manager that includes NFS and vMotion networks.

At this point you’re able to commission the hosts into SDDC Manager. When filling out the form you’ll want to select NFS for the storage type and the new network pool we created above for the Network Pool Name. After the hosts are in the Hosts Added table, tick the Confirm Fingerprint check and click Validate All.

After validation is done click Next and then Commission. You can watch the task in the tasks window.

Once the commissioning is complete you’ll be able to see the hosts in the inventory under Inventory -> Hosts.

It’s finally time to create our workload domain! Just for clarity, many of the steps we did above can be infrequent events if planned properly. Ensuring you have enough IP’s in your network pool to scale your environment is very important. Since you can scale either by adding hosts to an existing cluster or adding additional clusters or workload domains, you may not have all the info needed when starting out, but err on the side of BIG when it comes to IP addressing.

There are plenty of tutorials and blogs (even on this blog) showing how to create a workload domain so we’ll just focus on the differences you’ll see with vLCM, NFS and 2 nodes. Logged in to SDDC Manager dashboard, click the + Workload Domain button in the upper right and select VI workload domain.

You’ll see a popup window with Storage Selection, as stated in the beginning both NFS and VMFS on FC are supported for 2 node clusters. For our purpose we’ll select the NFS radio button and then click Begin

On the VI Configuration window you’ll enter a name for the workload domain and organization (company name), and select the “Manage Cluster in this workload domain using images” checkbox and click Next.

On the next screen enter a cluster name, select the image that we created above and click Next.

Then you’ll enter your vCenter and NSX information, there is nothing different here so we’ll skip the screenshots!

Once you get to host selection we can see our two hosts and, that IT’S OK! Go ahead and select both hosts and click Next.

On the NFS Storage page, enter a name for your datastore to be created as. Also enter the export folder path and IP address of your NFS server.

If you didn’t know with VLC I’ve enabled NFS on Cloudbuilder in automated mode to test things like this!

Select your licenses on the next screen and click Next. On the object names screen you can’t change anything so click Next and then click Finish. You can follow the workload domain deployment in the tasks. In my lab this takes about an hour and a half to complete.

Once the workflow is complete you’ll be able to see your new workload domain by navigating to Inventory -> Workload Domains in SDDC Manager.

Drilling down further into “Services” will allow you to click on the vCenter link where you can further explore your new workload domain.

Having two node clusters could offer more flexibility and be more cost effective for certain use cases, such as a small development cluster for new projects. I hope you enjoyed this post and got some use out of it, thanks for reading!