Importing OVA files with additional configuration options in vCloud Director 9.5

In previous vCloud Director versions (5.x, 8.x, 9.0 and 9.1) importing OVA files was difficult and sometimes impossible. Depending on the type of appliance, many OVA files allow you to configure additional settings during deployment. These can be network settings, passwords, license keys or something else. Whether these options exist, are optionally configurable or required depends on the OVF manifest defined by the manufacturer of this OVA. If these fields were necessary for starting the appliance (e.g. license information), it was previously not possible for customers to import and use these appliances themselves in vCloud Director.

What was the problem with importing OVA files?

When importing OVA files into vCloud Director in previous versions (5.x, 8.x, 9.0 and 9.1), these advanced configuration options were always removed, as they represent a security risk according to VMware. Because vCloud Director could not validate these additional configuration fields and it would theoretically have been possible to execute code. And that is an absolute no-go in a shared cloud platform.

To work around this problem there was a hack on how to define a whitelist for certain fields (see: https://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2014/05/configuring-a-whitelist-for-vm-advanced-settings-in-vcloud-director.html). But VMware never officially supported this, as there was still a risk of executing code on the platform.

What has changed?

vCloud Director 9.5 no longer removes these advanced configuration options¬† when importing OVA files. And to be honest, I’m also a little surprised that VMware didn’t describe this more prominently in the release notes of vCloud Director 9.5. But someone from the GSS has confirmed me that this functionality is new in vCD 9.5.

How can I now import OVA files into vCloud Director 9.5?

That’s pretty simple but require some steps.¬†As an example, I used the vRealize Log Insight Appliance.

But I would like to highlight that the OVA customizations don’t work during import as you know it from the vSphere (Web) client. You have to import the OVA as a vApp template and you can customize the guest properties after you have deployed a VM from this template.

Since I like the new Tenant portal of vCloud Director 9.5, I imported the OVA there as a vApp template. Later you have to switch to the old Web Console, because these additional guest properties can only be done in the old UI (at least in this version).

So, let’s start. At first, we go to the Content Libraries section and add a new vApp Template.

And the import process itself is straight forward.

After the last step you should have successfully imported the OVA file. We can therefore proceed with deploying a new VM from this template.

Go to you virtual datacenter, Compute, Virtual Machines and click on “New VM”.

It is important that you disable automatic power on after creation. Some appliances don’t like that if they are unconfigured and as a result the deployment is broken.

Now, we have to switch to the old web console.

Under My Cloud -> VMs the settings dialog opens with a click on the name of the VM.

And under the tab “Guest Properties” we find the OVA advanced configuration options.

We can also compare the advanced configuration options dialog in the vSphere Web Client which has the same settings:

You might want to adjust the network settings so that the VM runs in the correct orgNetwork.

After all settings are applied, you can power on the VM.

During the boot process of the appliance, you can see how the settings have been applied.

And at the end the VM runs with the desired settings.

That’s it.

3 Replies to “Importing OVA files with additional configuration options in vCloud Director 9.5”

    1. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean. If you import an OVA as a vApp template, it won’t start because it’s a template. And when creating a new VM from this template you can simply deactivate the checkbox “Power on” in the “New VM” dialog.

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