• Paul Kennard

Install vCloud Foundation 4.0.1 Using LAB Constructor

VMware Cloud Foundation Logo

I have been eager to deploy vCloud Foundation since its announcement so have given it a spin using the licences made available via my VMUG Advantage subscription, however with things being so busy recently I needed to get the environment up and running as quick as possible.

That’s when I stumbled upon the awesome VCF LAB Constructor created by Ben Sier & Heath Johnson which is a PowerShell based tool that deploys everything needed, including hosts and all the core components of VMware Cloud Foundation. You can use the VCF Lab Constructor in a few ways, automated or manual install, for this post I chose the latter as it would provide me with the most rapid route to a VCF play area with the little time I have nowadays as where the manual option required some additional pre-req components.

So saving time and wanting to get my hands dirty with the SDDC Manager & VCF components I opted for automated, and wow hats off to both Ben & Heath, other than some basic info and preparation it really was easy to deploy and at the end left me with a sandbox cloud environment from what was really very few clicks.

My Platform

To get this up and running, I was using the following kit:

  • Dell PowerEdge R620

  • CPU 2x Intel Xeon E5-2650v2 – 2.60GHz

  • Memory 192GB

  • 6x 240 Samsung SSDs in RAID 0 for max performance, risky but hey it’s just a LAB

Power Edge R620 ESXi

VCF ESXi Requirements – Automated Mode

This post only covers the automated install there is an excellent guide included with the LAB Builder that covers everything in much more detail.

The automated install requires a single physical host with the following minimum specification:

  • Minimum 12 cores

  • At least 128GB RAM

  • 800GB SSD

  • Host running ESXi 6.7 or above

So if you meet HW requirements above, you can move on as there is a few configuration bits needed prior to kicking off the build:

Set vSwitch MTU on your lab host to 9000

vSwitch MTU

Create a new port group on the vSwitch for the nested VMs and change VLAN to 4095 to allow for VLAN trunking and ensure Promiscuous Mode, MAC Address Changes & Forged Transmits are all set to Accept.

vSwitch Port Group Edit

VCF Jump Box Requirements – Automated Mode

As we are following the automated mode if you haven't already got a spare VM on your lab host it will need one as a jump box into the lab and also to start the LAB Builder deployment, the jump box VM needs to be running Windows 10/2012/2016.

The jump box VM the following software & it requires minimum versions below:

Powershell 5.1

You get 5.1+ with Windows 10/2016 so should be good but can check your version with the following command:

PowerShell Version Command

PowerCLI 11.3+

Install the latest PowerCLI with the following command:

Install-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI
Install PowerCLI Command

.Net Framework

You most likely already .Net but you can check and validate versions from within the registry under the following key:

.Net Registry Location

FYI Microsoft guide on how to determine .Net versions is here..

OVFTool 4.3+

Make sure you have the latest OVF Tool installed on the jump box:

VMware OVATool download

Now all the SW pre-requisites are in place it's almost time to kick off the VCF Lab builder.

The jump box vNIC 1 should already be connected to your local LAN port group already, however in order to gain access to the VCF sand box environment you will need to add a new second vNIC and make sure its type is VMXNET 3.

The new vNIC needs connection to your new trunked “vcf-nested-vms” port group that you created earlier.

Edit VMware VM

Boot the jump box VM and configure the new second NIC within the OS with the IP/VLAN ID details below:

  • IP –

  • DNS – (Cloud builder appliance IP which will also provide DNS services)

  • Subnet Mask –

Configure the vNIC VLAN ID to 10, this is used within the management network in the VCF lab and will also provide the access from your jump box into the rest of the VCF sandbox environment.

Set vmxnet3 VLAN ID

And the last change recommended in the official documentation as part of the deployment is to ensure you disable the Windows firewall.

Using the VCF Lab Constructor – Automated Mode

To gain access to download the VCF Lab Constructor you need to follow the link below to register for the download:

Download VCF Lab Constructor

Download VCF 4.0.1 OVA

To gain access to download the VMware Cloud Foundation OVA & some licence keys from my VMUG Advantage subscription, which is one of the many benefits included with this subscription, for more info read my post on the subject hear...

Upload both Lab Constructor & OVA to your jump box to a drive with at least 22GB as the VCF OVA being fairly large then extract the Lab Constructor ZIP which contains the following files..

Lab Constructor ZIP

Even with the automated deployment being so straight forward I would still highly recommend you read the excellent “VCF Lab Constructor Install Guide” included in this ZIP as it covers all other modes in a lot more detail including diagrams on the VCF environment and how to expand and many other details.

You will see two .json build files choose the one you want to deploy, I choose the version that included application virtual networks which I will go to into more detail in another post.

Edit the json file if you haven't used Notepad++ I would highly recommend it, but any text editor will do. Search for the lines containing licenseFile and enter the relevant product licence key within quotations.

You don’t need to change anything else just add the product keys and save.

VCF Lab Constructor JSON update

Open PowerShell as administrator navigate to and run the VCF Lab Constructor directory and run.

VCF Lab Constructor PowerShell

The Lab Constructor will now carry out some pre-req checks, once completed enter your Host/VC/IP/FQDN details and Username and Password for deployment & click Connect.

If it is a standalone host like mine select the Network port group created earlier that had the trunk support & the Datastore where your VCF vSAN Cluster will be created, the datastore needs at least 800GB for the automated option.

VCF Lab Constructor Details

Fill in the remaining highlighted fields pointing to your VCF EMS JSON file and VMware Cloud Builder CB OVA Location and hit button Validate.

VCF Lab Constructor Form

Finally, hit that Construct! button and then you can kick back and chill for some time.

The Construction

Once started you really can walk away if you want, I ended up dipping in and out as after it had deployed the cloud builder it allows you to connect to the appliance and see progress towards the vast amount of tasks it's carrying out.

VMware Cloud Foundation Builder

Collapsed view of all the tasks

As you can see, there’s lots going on under the hood. My VCF environment was fully deployed within 4h 14mins, which I though was superb considering what it deployed.

After successful deployment, you can connect to the SDDC Manager from your jump box and get your hands dirty.

VMware SDDC Manager Login

The new SDDC Manger dashboard lets you manage vCenter and workload domains including life cycle management for the VCF components.

My first impressions were I really like the dashboard and the single pain and insights it provided into resources in use and what compute remained and found the dashboard very intuitive to use.

VMware SDDC Manager Dashboard

I believe VMware Cloud Foundation is going to help drive adoption and help streamline the deployment and management of more SDDC & hybrid clouds this post really just scratches the surface so is very high level really just cover off the lab builder, the VCF solution itself and it details I will cover in future posts.

This concludes the VCF Lab Constructor post but in summary getting my LAB to this point in such a short period whilst not having to do much really was down to the awesome VCF Lab Constructor and how Ben & Heath have made this possible for the masses with minimal prior knowledge required so check it out.

If you don't have the HW etc.. and just want a quick spin on VMware Cloud Foundation check out the VCF VMware Hands On Lab where you can demo the solution.


Cloud & Virtualization Blog by ITBOD - paul kennard