The VMware content library has evolved over time. vSphere 6.0 introduced a solution to share files across multiple datacenters. The VMware content library is basically a centralized location repository that houses .iso images, templates, scripts, and other content used in your VMware build processes.

Starting with vSphere 6.7 Update 1, content libraries also support VM templates. Templates in the content library can be either of the open virtualization format (OVF) template type or the virtual machine (VM) template type. It will still convert vApp templates to OVF files when you upload them to a content library.

You can import library items such as VM templates, vApp templates, .ovf files, and .iso images.

You can also upload all the files associated with an OVF template (.ovf, .mf, and .vmdk). However, in such a case, you will only see .ovf files under the templates in the vSphere Web Client.

To recap, you can have:

  • VM templates (.vmtx, .ovf, .mf, and .vmdk)
  • vApp templates
  • .iso images
  • Certificates
  • Text files (scripts, text notes, and so on)

You can create and deploy a content library for one local vCenter Server instance. You can also publish and share your datacenter's content across multiple vCenter instances—across multiple sites, for example.

After creating your content library and making it secure and available, you can start creating your VMs from it. You can also secure your content library with a password so that only those who need access will have it.

Two types of VMware content libraries ^

Local content library: You can create a local content library to store and manage content in a single vCenter Server instance. If you want to share the contents of the library, you can enable publishing. When you enable publishing, other users can subscribe to the library and use its content. Alternatively, you can create subscriptions for the library, which gives you control over the distribution of content.

Subscribed content library: You can create a subscribed content library to subscribe to a published library and use its contents. The published library can be on the other side of the city or the country. You cannot upload or import items into a subscribed library.

Subscribers can only use the content in the published library, but only the administrator of the published library has the right to manage the templates and the content.

How do you fill in or populate the library with some content? ^

Clone to library option: this option lets you directly clone a copy of your templates to the local content library. It's as simple as that: right-click your template and select the Clone to Library option, which allows you to do this in a few clicks.

Clone to Library option

Clone to Library option

After this, you'll see you've some additional options such as Preserve MAC addresses on network adapters or Include extra configuration to include vApp-related configuration in the template you clone.

Clone to template in library

Clone to template in library

Upload from local disk: this option allows you to upload .iso files you can then use to create VMs. It's more convenient to store these .iso files in a central location accessible site-wide rather then multiply the copies across different sites.

To access this option, go to Shortcuts > Content Library, select your local library, go to Actions, click the radio button called "local file," and hit the upload file button.

Import by uploading a local file

Import by uploading a local file

Publish your local library: this option publishes the content of the local library and allows remote users to use the link created by this process to access your local content remotely. You can also enable password protection here.

To do so, simply select your local library, go to Actions > Edit Settings, and click the Enable publishing checkbox.

Publish the local library and enable password protection

Publish the local library and enable password protection

Syncing library item: this option allows you to set automatic synchronization from the subscribed library.

Note: you can have local subscribed libraries as well as subscribed libraries from the outside world. My example shows a URL from the VMware content library.

For subscribed libraries, you can change the download method or enable automatic synchronization with the published library.

To do so, select the library, go to Actions > Edit Settings, and select the Download all library content immediately radio button.

Enable automatic synchronization of the content library

Enable automatic synchronization of the content library

The Download library content only when needed option allows you to save storage space and pull the content to local storage only when you really need it. It only stores metadata locally when you activate this option.

Wrap-up ^

With VMware content libraries, you can also create multisite content libraries that let you update any content automatically to other vCenter instances and across your entire organization.

This purges older versions of your content as you add new ones to your content library. By working with your content within the content library, you'll provide consistency, compliance, and more time for everyone to spend on other system administrator tasks.

You can schedule the content library synchronization during non-peak hours in relation to your bandwidth requirements and usage.

VMware vSphere 6.7 U2 brought some innovations to the content library as well. For example, syncing native VM templates between content libraries is available after configuring vCenter Server for enhanced linked mode.

A quote from VMware illustrates this:

One of the biggest use cases for the content library is the ability to distribute VM content across vCenter Servers in order to avoid recreating VM template configurations from scratch. Content Library Sync addresses this concern, allowing the distribution of VMTX templates between vCenter Servers.

Also, published libraries can now become "subscriber aware," which basically allows replication of the newly published items to other subscribed content libraries.

Content libraries are really helpful when you have to deal with complex IT environments where you have hosts connected to multiple vCenter Server instances, but for smaller environments, it add a bit of complexity.

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However, by using content libraries, you can explore their benefits, save time within your organization, and enhance the security and compliance of your vSphere environment.

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