Most VMware administrators will know that it’s possible to run VMware vCenter on one server and have the vSphere SQL database on another server.  This is a perfectly acceptable configuration and, in anything but smaller environments, is probably the best thing to do.

Anyway, the latest release of Microsoft SQL Server, SQL Server 2012, was released during the first half of 2012 and is, of course, supported for use with VMware vSphere.  That means that your vCenter server has to be able to connect to the remote instance of SQL Server 2012 – here’s where things get tricky.

At the most basic level, connecting to the server is easy, but the VMware vSphere 5 running on a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008 requires that the vCenter have a 64-bit DSN (data source name) configured to manage the connection.  Easy, right?  You’d just thrash ahead and install the SQL Server 2012 management tools or some other Microsoft package with the latest SQL Native Client on the vCenter server … yeah?  If you do, vCenter will not be able to connect to the remote SQL Server 2012 instance.  As of the date of this article, May 31st 2012, the latest version of the SQL Native Client is 11.0 – this is where the problem lies.

There’s something in version 11.0 of the SQL Native Client that prevents vCenter from being able to use the 64-bit DSN you create.  I don’t know or care what the problem is, but I spent the best part of 3 hours trying to get it working, including trawling the VMware community forums, running c:windowssystem32odbcad32.exe, c:windowssyswow64odbcad32.exe and all manner of other things.

The final thing I tried did the trick and that was to simply remove version 11.0 of the SQL Server Native Client and install version 10.0.  Version 10.0 of the SQL Native Client is the version that ships with SQL Server 2008 and the SQL Server 2008 Management Studio.  In my setup, I need to be able to access the remote SQL Server 2012 database from the vCenter server so installing the SQL Server 2008 Management Studio didn’t present an issue.

At the date of writing this article, May 31st 2012, the SQL Server 2008 Management Studio can be downloaded by going to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=7593 – this article relates specifically to the 64-bit version of Windows so please make sure you download the 64-bit version of the management studio.

Hopefully that long-winded explanation helps someone.