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Bootstrapping VSAN Without vCenter. You Heard Right!

Bootstrapping VSAN Without vCenter. You Heard Right!
Eric Wright, vExpert, Cisco Champion

VMware VSAN is being driven hard out of the VMware camp as a comparable alternative to traditional shared storage architectures for a number of different use-cases. The product makes use of shared-nothing architectures using a combination of SSD and magnetic disks across 3-32 hosts that I’ve written about earlier this year when it launched as a production product.

The commonality with all of the initial documentation is that vCenter and the vSphere web client are at heart of the configuration. What some have noted along the recent months since the production launch is that this could be a limitation. What about the case where vCenter is not available which, although potentially rare, is a realistic failure scenario.

ESXCLI to the Rescue!

This may not be the most desired solution for many VMware administrators who live inside the web client or full (aka C#) client, but the command line tool esxcli if a powerful one, and will be the savior for our VSAN in this case.

The full details on being able to bootstrap the VSAN environment in the absence of a working vCenter, you can follow the full tech note as published by the folks at VMware here.

The challenge with adapting to command line tools and techniques is that many of the VMware admins out there today spend a majority of their time using GUI tools for management. In fact, to deploy and administer VSAN it is among the tools that is only available in the web client which drives most people to follow that method.


Using the esxcli from the shell, or alternatively through the vMA (vSphere Management Assistant), you can now manage services and vSphere products with relative ease once you adapt to the syntax. Luckily the tech note clearly lays out the process for you which is a big time saver, so make sure you bookmark or download that one!

How Common is This Scenario?

This is the big question for many because there is not as much love for the command line management, although there very much should be, and the loss of vCenter should be a relatively rare occurrence, right?

That may be true, but we have a responsibility to understand the failure scenarios for every case possible. Having your VSAN configuration become unmanageable due to a vCenter issue that may take longer to resolve means that these types of tips should move to the common documentation.

It is highly encouraged to review the process, and also to gain familiarity with VMware esxcli for your environment. Put some time into your lab and get as comfortable and confident as you can because it is precisely when things fail that you don’t want to be trying something new!


  1. Hi Eric,

    Even though I signed on, i still cannot retrieve the VSANTechnote_BootstrappingVSAN_final.pdf from the location that you provided.
    Do i need some special access? How can i make that happen?

    Thank you

  2. i think i found it somewhere else:

    Better update your link for anyone can take it 🙂


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