How to install the ShoreTel Virtual Switches!
February 10th, 2014
Virtualization has significantly altered the options available for your choice of deployment models.  With the introduction of ShoreTel 14.2 you can completely virtualize your VoIP deployment right down to the Gateways!  If you have no Analog telephone device requirements or telephone company lines,  you can now eliminate those ShoreTel Orange boxes!  This is a significant advancement in the state of the art and one that will become increasingly more prevalent as we look for viable business continuity strategies.     The ShoreTel virtual switches come in a number of flavors:  Service appliance, phone switch and trunk switch.   The Virtual appliance is similar to the ShoreTel SA100/400 server and is essentially a free feature enhancement!  The ShoreTel Virtual Phone switch can also be used as the "spare" switch available for use by phones that need to register with a new switch when the ShoreGear switch they were using fails.  Again, no cost associated with this unless you leave them on that virtual switch for longer than the normal 45 day grace period.
The VoIP technology in general has become more complex demanding new skill sets from those who install them.   In addition to the telephony, network, firewall, SIP and Microsoft software applications that historically touch your ShoreTel deployment, you will now need to understand VMware ESXi deployments including the use of OVA files.   The ShoreTel Virtual switches are now distributed as a part of your HQ and DVM server images.  They live in the FTP server and can be retrieved in one of two ways.  You can either download the image file when you configure your appliance in the Shoreware Director portal, or you can load it as a URL in the VMware machine configuration as the target for your OVA file.
If you are familiar with VMware, the installation process is relatively simple, straight forward and easy to understand. Once the machine is specified the Vmware configuration is as simple as adding the basic network IP components including the address of the Shoreware HQ server.   The machine will ultimately configure, load and become available as a virtual machine on your ESXi platform.   From that point on, there is little difference to the installation of a virtual appliance or a real ShoreGear switch in Shoreware Director.   The basic difference has to do with the selection of the hardware platform type.  Normally you would select an SA100 or a ShoreGear 50, for example.  In the case of a virtual appliance, you will select a new category from the drop hardware list, that indicates what type of appliance you are installing.  The rest of the configuration is the same.  The virtual appliances behave like the normal orange" boxes,  even requiring a firmware upgrade.   They appear in both the Diagnostic Monitoring and Quick View and in all respects operate like their real world hardware brethren.
We should all understand that those little orange boxes contain application specific microprocessors or digital signal processors (DSP's).  The real heavy lifting normally done by those chips for CODEC work, for example, will now be done in software.  Additionally, don’t make the mistake of deploying virtual appliances at sites logically, without understanding that the VMware hardware platform location is just as important on over all performance as ever!   All and all this is a major step forward for ShoreTel and you can expect these virtual appliances to become a standard part of your deployments over time.    The video clip reviews the actual installation of both a phone switch and a service appliance!
Note - The ShoreTel news here is that the actual Voice Gateways are virtualized, not just the application, but the Gateways!