The following question about vCenter Server is which version to deploy: Windows vCenter Server or vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).
First, let’s examine the components of any vCenter Server. They’re Single-Sign On (SSO), Inventory Service, vCenter Server, Web Client and a back-end Database.
To answer the question above, we need to take a deep look at how answer of the above question affects all of these components. Keep in mind that it’s also related to the way you’d deploy your vCenter Server Components according to your customer/case needs and requirements or constraints. Some components and other VMware products deployment are affected by wither you’d use Windows vCenter or vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).
My vExpert colleague, Mohammed Raffic, made a great comparison between version 5.5 of Windows vCenter and vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) in his blog post: “Difference Between vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 and vCenter Server 5.5 on Windows” and it’s what I want to say exactly, and I want to add couple of things too as following:
vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA)
|SSO Service||Can be installed separately on different machine or on the same server for small deployments.||Embedded inside the appliance by default. You can use another external SSO if you want.|
|SSO Database||Can be on separate DB server or on a DB instance installed on the same server.||Can be on separate DB server or on a DB instance installed on the same server.|
|Inventory Service||Can be installed separately on different machine or on the same server for small deployments.||Embedded inside the appliance by default.|
|Other VMware Products Deployments||Horizon View Composer: Can be installed on same server or different server.||Horizon View Composer: Must be installed separately and that’s why View 5.0 couldn’t leverage vCSA as it didn’t support Separate Composer.|
|Recoverability (Backup Method)||Windows vCenter Server can leverage nearly any backup solution that can take full Windows Backup or even has some Application aware features.||Should use only Full VM Backup solution.|
|Manageability||As most of deployments are based on Windows Servers, it’s considered easier to manage and troubleshoot than Linux-based VM.||In some environments where all servers are based on Linux, vCenter Server Appliance, may be easier to manage & troubleshoot than Windows vCenter.|
|Cost||Higher cost as you need OS License Cost for vCenter Windows OS plus any additional Window OS needed for vCenter Server components HW cost in case using physical deployment.||No additional license needed for vCenter Server Appliance. Additional cost is only needed in case of using separate vCenter components on other Windows Servers.|
Now, you can see the differences between Windows vCenter and vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) capabilities. Each one can suit certain business cases/requirements. It’s your role as an architect/consultant to decide which is suitable for your customer’s case. You should also keep in mind other design considerations about vCenter Server that you can find it here.