Cisco ISE · Security

Installing ISE 2.3 on ESXi 6.x

We’ve just had quite the head scratcher trying to install the ISE 2.3 OVA on ESXi 6.5 and figured we won’t be the only ones.

Tl;dr – Convert the OVA to VMX then convert that VMX to OVF. Do not go directly from OVA to OVF.

*Edit* 26/11/2018 – Can confirm this works for ISE 2.4 on ESXi 6.7 which I tested in my home lab. Make sure you use separate folders to convert each step below or your VMDK file will get overwritten on the last step and ruin it. Thanks to crystal for pointing that out.

The OVA can’t be deployed as.. an OVA

Yep. The install file provided by Cisco needs to be converted to a different format in order to work with VMware i.e. OVF.

The error message when attempting this:

3.5: ATTRIBUTE_REQUIRED: Attribute “id” is required.

3.5: ATTRIBUTE_REQUIRED: Attribute “href” is required.

15.3: ATTRIBUTE_REQUIRED: Attribute “id” is required.


To be fair this is partly documented by Cisco but it doesn’t clear much up on what to do next.

The ISE 2.3 OVA templates are not compatible with VMware web client for vCenter 6.5. As a workaround, use the VMware OVF tool to import the OVA templates.

Download VMware OVF Tool

For ISE 2.3 on to ESXi 6.5 I used OVF Tool version 4.2

You can convert directly from OVA to OVF but we encountered the error below after doing this and importing to ESXi. A senior colleague saved my bacon by saying they’d had luck going from OVA to VMX then to OVF.

4:5: PARSE_ERROR: Parse error: Unexpected character ‘.’ (code 58) (missing namespace prefix?) at [row,col,system-id]: [4,11,”descriptor.ovf”].


Convert OVA -> VMX

  1. Install the OVF Tool
  2. Place your OVA somewhere easily accessible (C:) and open up elevated command prompt.
  3. Navigate to cd C:\Program Files\Vmware\Vmware OVF Tool
  4. Initiate the executable in the format ovftool.exe “source file” “destination file” e.g. ovftool.exe “C:\ISE-” “C:\ISE-”
  5. The above will convert from the OVA to the VMX in the same directory of C:


Once complete you will see both the original OVA and the two new VMX/VMDK files


Convert VMX -> OVF

Now that VMX can be converted to OVF. Note you can choose not to use the quotations like in this example as long as there’s a space between source and destination. I created an OVF directory so that it didn’t overwrite any files during this process.

ovftool.exe C:\ISE- C:\OVF\ISE-

You will end up with three files in your OVF directory and the OVF can be used for the import to ESXi.

Import to ESXi

This time there is no error on the import and the resources are automatically filled out via the OVF template.


Additional Note Feb 2018 from Frank (comments below):

“When deploying in VMware, I needed to select both the converted OVF-file and the VMDK-file. When selecting only OVF-file, VMware said that files where missing.”


18 thoughts on “Installing ISE 2.3 on ESXi 6.x

  1. When deploying in VMware, I needed to select both the converted OVF-file and the VMDK-file. When selecting only OVF-file, VMware said that files where missing.

  2. I had the issue with version 2.1 as well and this resolved it for me. I just wanted to add that if a separate directory is not specified for the ovf files and it does try to overwrite the files it may error out with something like this:

    ovftool.exe C:\ISE- C:\ISE-
    Opening VMX source: C:\ISE-
    Opening OVF target: C:\ISE-
    Writing OVF package: C:\ISE-
    Transfer Failed
    Error: Output file C:\ISE- already exists. Use overwrite flag to delete it.
    Completed with errors

    Using a separate directory as mentioned in the steps above for the ovf resolves the error. so the syntax I used should have used is:
    ovftool.exe C:\ISE- C:\ovf\ISE-

  3. Many Thanks for sharing this, i wonder how did you worked it out.
    Im getting 1 error while converting from ova to vmx

    C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware OVF Tool>ovftool.exe “H:\VMX\ISE-” “H:\VMX\ISE-”
    Opening OVA source: H:\VMX\ISE-
    The manifest validates
    Opening VMX target: H:\VMX\ISE-
    – Line 79: Unable to parse ‘enableMPTSupport’ for attribute ‘key’ on element ‘Config’.
    Writing VMX file: H:\VMX\ISE-
    Disk progress: 100%

    1. Hey,

      I actually cannot claim credit for this. A colleague suggested it originally last year and I just made sure it was blogged because there’s so little info regarding it! As to your error I cannot assist a whole lot as I am not great with vmware. I would run it in elevated privileges if not already (cmd prompt) and try different versions of the conversion tool.

      Also double check the hash on your ISE file matches the one Cisco have and it isn’t corrupt.


    2. Hi Jamshed,

      I got the same error, even with the actual SNS3515 OVA. Did you find a solution for that issue?

  4. BTW, did you write any blog on how to Install ISE 2.3 ovf on VMware esxi 6.5
    I could find any good blog like you did on this page, step by step, please let me know.
    Many thanks!

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