Terraform automation: vCenter Server

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To deploy the vCenter Server in our nested home labs and we want to deploy these lab instances multiple times we need to pre-install and pre-configure the vCenter server a little bit. When we have a fully installed vCenter Server instance we can clone this in each lab instance that we create. In this article: The nested labs' project overview/introduction I explain how many lab instances I can create (or replicate).

There are plenty of blog articles on how to deploy a vCenter Server and there are a few ways to do this. I use the CLI deployment where we have to use a.JSON file with input parameters to deploy the full vCenter Server. I learned this a few years ago from my colleague Wesley van Ede.

So before I started the deploy I prepared the .JSON file:


CLICK ON EXPAND ===> ON THE RIGHT ===> TO SEE THE OUTPUT (vcsatemplate.json code) ===> :

    “__version”: “2.13.0”,
    “__comments": "Sample template to deploy a vCenter Server Appliance with an embedded Platform Services Controller on a vCenter Server instance.”,
    “new_vcsa”: {
        “vc”: {
            “__comments”: [
                “’datacenter’ must end with a datacenter name, and only with a datacenter name. “,
                “’target’ must end with an ESXi hostname, a cluster name, or a resource pool name. “,
                “The item ‘Resources’ must precede the resource pool name. “,
                “All names are case-sensitive. “,
                “For details and examples, refer to template help, i.e. vcsa-deploy {install-upgrade-migrate} —template-help”
            “hostname”: “vcsa-01.home.local”,
            “username”: “administrator@vsphere.local”,
            “password”: “<my vcenter server password>”,
            “deployment_network”: “L1-APP-MGMT11",
            "datacenter": [
            "datastore": "vsanDatastore",
            "target": [
        "appliance": {
            "__comments": [
                "You must provide the 'deployment_option' key with a value, which will affect the VCSA's configuration parameters, such as the VCSA's number of vCPUs, the memory size, the storage size, and the maximum numbers of ESXi hosts and VMs which can be managed. For a list of acceptable values, run the supported deployment sizes help, i.e. vcsa-deploy --supported-deployment-sizes"
            "thin_disk_mode": true,
            "deployment_option": "small",
            "name": "Embedded-vCenter-Server-Appliance"
        "network": {
            "ip_family": "ipv4",
            "mode": "static",
            "ip": "",
            "dns_servers": [
            "prefix": "24",
            "gateway": "",
            "system_name": ""
        "os": {
            “password”: “<password for the vCenter Server you are deploying>",
            “ntp_servers”: “",
            "ssh_enable": true
        "sso": {
            “password”: “<SSO password for the vCenter Server you are deploying>",
            "domain_name": "vsphere.local"
    "ceip": {
        "description": {
            "__comments": [
                "++++VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP)++++",
                "VMware's Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) ",
                "provides VMware with information that enables VMware to ",
                "improve its products and services, to fix problems, ",
                "and to advise you on how best to deploy and use our ",
                "products. As part of CEIP, VMware collects technical ",
                "information about your organization's use of VMware ",
                "products and services on a regular basis in association ",
                "with your organization's VMware license key(s). This ",
                "information does not personally identify any individual. ",
                "Additional information regarding the data collected ",
                "through CEIP and the purposes for which it is used by ",
                "VMware is set forth in the Trust & Assurance Center at ",
                "http://www.vmware.com/trustvmware/ceip.html . If you ",
                "prefer not to participate in VMware's CEIP for this ",
                "product, you should disable CEIP by setting ",
                "'ceip_enabled': false. You may join or leave VMware's ",
                "CEIP for this product at any time. Please confirm your ",
                "acknowledgement by passing in the parameter ",
                "--acknowledge-ceip in the command line.",
        "settings": {
            "ceip_enabled": false

Other prerequisites that need to be in place are:

  • Create “L1-APP-MGMT11” NSX-T Segment on NSX-T infra
  • Clone the control server VM and make sure a new DNS zone “lab1.local” on the DNS server
  • Created new A record for new VCSA deployment on the control server

NOTE: Before deploying the vCenter Server (template) the Control Server needs to be online and the DNS + DNS records need to be configured because the vCenter Server needs this for the initial deployment. When the install is done you can turn it off for the full lab deployment (clone) later.

This installation is done using the CLI deployment tool using the command:

E:\vcsa-cli-installer\win32>vcsa-deploy.exe install C:\Scripts\PowerCLI\Terraform\VCSA\vcsatemplate.json —accept-eula —no-ssl-certificate-verification

After deployment, I turned off the VCSA and downgraded the memory from 16 GB to 8 GB.

Now that the vCenter Server (template) is fully installed we are ready to clone it with Terraform. The scripts for cloning the vCenter Server can be found below:

❯ tree
├── main.tf    
├── terraform.tfvars
├── variables.tf


CLICK ON EXPAND ===> ON THE RIGHT ===> TO SEE THE OUTPUT (terraform.tfvars code) ===> :

vsphere_user = “administrator@vsphere.local"
vsphere_password = “<my vCenter Server Password>"
vsphere_server = "vcsa-01.home.local”
vsphere_datacenter = “HOME”
vsphere_datastore = “vsanDatastore”
vsphere_resource_pool = “Lab1”
vsphere_network = “L1-APP-MGMT11”
vsphere_virtual_machine_template = “vcsa-template”
vsphere_virtual_machine_name = “l1-vcsa”


CLICK ON EXPAND ===> ON THE RIGHT ===> TO SEE THE OUTPUT (variables.tf code) ===> :

root # vsphere login account. defaults to admin account
variable "vsphere_user" {
  default = "administrator@vsphere.local”

root # vsphere account password. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_password” {
  default = “<my vCenter Server Password>” 

root # vsphere server, defaults to localhost
variable “vsphere_server” {
  default = “vcsa-01.home.local”

root # vsphere datacenter the virtual machine will be deployed to. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_datacenter” {}

root # vsphere resource pool the virtual machine will be deployed to. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_resource_pool” {}

root # vsphere datastore the virtual machine will be deployed to. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_datastore” {}

root # vsphere network the virtual machine will be connected to. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_network” {}

root # vsphere virtual machine template that the virtual machine will be cloned from. empty by default.
variable "vsphere_virtual_machine_template" {}

root # the name of the vsphere virtual machine that is created. empty by default.
variable “vsphere_virtual_machine_name” {}


CLICK ON EXPAND ===> ON THE RIGHT ===> TO SEE THE OUTPUT (main.tf code) ===> :

provider “vsphere” {
  user           = "${var.vsphere_user}"
  password       = "${var.vsphere_password}”
  vsphere_server = “${var.vsphere_server}”
  allow_unverified_ssl = true

data “vsphere_datacenter” “dc” {
  name = “${var.vsphere_datacenter}”

data “vsphere_datastore” “datastore” {
  name          = “${var.vsphere_datastore}”
  datacenter_id = “${data.vsphere_datacenter.dc.id}”

data “vsphere_resource_pool” “pool” {
  name          = "${var.vsphere_resource_pool}"
  datacenter_id = “${data.vsphere_datacenter.dc.id}”

data “vsphere_network” “network” {
  name          = “${var.vsphere_network}”
  datacenter_id = “${data.vsphere_datacenter.dc.id}”

data “vsphere_virtual_machine” “template” {
  name          = “${var.vsphere_virtual_machine_template}”
  datacenter_id = “${data.vsphere_datacenter.dc.id}”

resource “vsphere_virtual_machine” “cloned_virtual_machine” {
  name             = “${var.vsphere_virtual_machine_name}”
  resource_pool_id = “${data.vsphere_resource_pool.pool.id}”
  datastore_id     = “${data.vsphere_datastore.datastore.id}”
  num_cpus = 4
  memory   = 8192

  #num_cpus = “${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.num_cpus}”
  #memory   = “${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.memory}”
  guest_id = “${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.guest_id}"

  scsi_type = "${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.scsi_type}"

  network_interface {
    network_id   = "${data.vsphere_network.network.id}"
    adapter_type = "${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.network_interface_types[0]}"

  disk {
    label = "disk0"
    size  = "12"
 #   unit_number = 0

  disk {
    label = "disk1"
    size  = "2"
    unit_number = 1

    disk {
    label = "disk2"
    size  = "25"
    unit_number = 2

    disk {
    label = "disk3"
    size  = "50"
    unit_number = 3

    disk {
    label = "disk4"
    size  = "10"
    unit_number = 4

    disk {
    label = "disk5"
    size  = "10"
    unit_number = 5

    disk {
    label = "disk6"
    size  = "15"
    unit_number = 6

    disk {
    label = “disk7”
    size  = “25”
    unit_number = 7

    disk {
    label = "disk8"
    size  = “1”
    unit_number = 8

    disk {
    label = “disk9”
    size  = “10”
    unit_number = 9

    disk {
    label = “disk10”
    size  = “10”
    unit_number = 10

    disk {
    label = “disk11”
    size  = “100”
    unit_number = 11

    disk {
    label = “disk12”
    size  = “50”
    unit_number = 12

  clone {
    template_uuid = “${data.vsphere_virtual_machine.template.id}”

So we are ready to execute the terraform code on a per-directory basis.

Validate your code:

ihoogendoor-a01:#Test iwanhoogendoorn$ tfenv use 0.11.14
[INFO] Switching to v0.11.14
[INFO] Switching completed
ihoogendoor-a01:Test iwanhoogendoorn$ terraform validate

Plan your code:

ihoogendoor-a01:Test iwanhoogendoorn$ terraform plan

Execute your code to implement the Segments:

ihoogendoor-a01:Test iwanhoogendoorn$ terraform apply

When the segments need to be removed again you can revert the implementation:

ihoogendoor-a01:Test iwanhoogendoorn$ terraform destroy