You've got a lot going on and it's impossible to really understand where to start. So I'll start by saying SQL Express (any version) is not supported with vRA 7.6. You need to use Standard or better. You also need to take into account the increased load that SQL box will have on your minimal IaaS server and increase the resources. Anything less than 4 x 8 is unacceptable.
I can assure you that installing vRA isn't this painful or fraught with error, but until I can see each step in your installer wizard and the values you're supplying, it's really difficult to try and help.
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To diagnose connectivity problems between Management Agent and VA/VAMI/ check the following:
Log on the problematic machines and check the Management Agent service is running (in services.msc)
Go to MA installation location and check the All.log file inside the Logs folder. It should contain more details in case of connectivity issue.
Thank you for the input, did not reveal much in the shape of errors or otherwise. It did confirm that all was green and that the installation was successful.
I used the vcac management installer that came with the appliance. I noticed afterwards that there are newer versions on my.vmware.com.
I guess I'll have to try it again and see if the errors still is there.
In any case this is a lab built.
Also minimal installation means 4x8 (cpu and memory) was followed.
I did an upgrade in my lab from vra 7.3 to vra7.6 with sql express 2012. I am not sure it will create any issues...
Anybody knows the issues of using sql express ?
SQL Express is pretty crap as far as capabilities, so you may very well hit issues. You can easily get the SQL Developer edition for free, which is a full-functional SQL edition, but for non-production environments.