August 15, 2015

Objective 4.1: Perform ESXi Host and Virtual Machine upgrades

Here we are again, starting Objective 4.1. The following points will be covered:

  • Identify upgrade requirements for ESXi hosts
  • Upgrade a vSphere Distributed Switch
  • Upgrade Virtual Machine hardware
  • Upgrade an ESXi host using vCenter Update Manager
  • Stage multiple ESXi host upgrades
  • Determine whether an in-place upgrade is appropriate in a given upgrade scenario

So to begin with we should go over a few things before performing an upgrade. Your infrastructure is, I am guessing rather important to you and your company’s livelihood. So we need to take a measured approach to it. We can’t just go ahead and stampede into this without giving it an appropriate amount of thought and planning. There is an order to which components to upgrade first, and there are a number of ways to do it. And for the love of God, make sure your hardware is on the Hardware compatibility list…..before you begin. I just had a case this week from a customer that upgraded to 6 and now will need to downgrade as their server was not on the HCL and they couldn’t get support on it. The PDFs have a pretty good approach to the upgrade process

  1. Read the Release Notes
  2. Verify ALL your equipment you are going to use or need to use, is on the HCL
  3. Make sure you have a good backup of your VM’s as well as your configuration
  4. Make sure the plug-ins or other solutions you are using are compatible with vSphere 6
  5. Upgrade vCenter Server
  6. Upgrade Update Manager
  7. Upgrade Hosts
  8. You can actually stop here, but if you go on you could upgrade your HW version on the VMs etc. and any appliances.

So now we will look directly at the ESXi hosts for upgrading. I am assuming you have gone through the above. In addition to this, make sure there is sufficient disk space for the upgrade. And if there is a SAN connected to the host, for safety sake, it might be best to detach that before performing the upgrade so that you don’t make the mistake of choosing the wrong datastore to overwrite and create a really bad day. If you haven’t already, you will want to move off any remaining VMs or shut them down. When the system is done rolling through the upgrade, apply your licenses. If it wasn’t successful then if you had backed it up, you can restore. Otherwise you can reload it with the new version.

You can upgrade an ESXi 5.x directly to 6.0 a couple of different ways. You can upgrade via Update Manager, interactive upgrade, scripted upgrade, auto deploy, or esxcli command line. A host can also have third part VIBs (VMWare Installation Bundles). They could be driver packages or enhancement packs such as Dell’s Open Manage Plugin. Occasionally you can run into a problem upgrading the host with these installed. You can choose to do a number of things at that point. You can remove the VIB and then retry, or you can create a custom installer ISO.

Upgrade a vSphere Distributed Switch

This is a relatively painless process. You can upgrade from 4.1 all the way to 6.0 if you so choose. You need to make sure your hosts support it. If you have even one host attached to this distributed switch that is at a lower level, that is the level you will need to make the distributed switch. For example, if you have all 6.0 hosts except for one 5.5 host, you will either need to make your distributed switch a 5.5 or remove that host from the vDS. One other thing to be mindful of, you can’t downgrade.

To upgrade, navigate to your networking and then to the distributed switch you wish to upgrade

Now you need to click on upgrade

That will open this dialog

This will show you the versions you can upgrade the switch to. After you click on Next, it will check version against the hosts that are attached to the vDS. It will let you know if any hosts are not able to be upgraded to that version.

Upgrade Virtual Machine hardware

In order to upgrade your virtual machine hardware, you can right-click on the VM you need to upgrade and click on compatibility and then either Upgrade VM Compatibility or Schedule VM Upgrade – as seen here:

This is irreversible and will make it incompatible with previous versions of ESXi. The next screen will ask you what version you want to upgrade to.

This will then upgrade it as soon as you scheduled it.

Upgrade an ESXi host using vCenter Update Manager

To upgrade a host to vSphere 6, you will need to follow the following procedure:

  1. Configure Host Maintenance Mode Settings – Host updates might require you to reboot the host and enter maintenance mode before they can be applied. Update Manager will do this, but you will need to configure what to do with the VMs and the host if it fails to enter maintenance mode
  2. Configure Cluster Settings – The remediation can happen in sequence or in parallel. Temporarily disable DPM, HA Admission Control, and Fault Tolerance to make sure your remediation is successful
  3. Enable Remediation of PXE booted ESXi hosts (if you have them)
  4. Import Host Upgrade Images and create Host Upgrade Baselines
  5. Create a Host Baseline Group – Create a baseline group with the 6 image that you want to apply
  6. Attach Baselines and Baseline groups to Objects – You will need to attach the baseline in Update Manager to the objects you want to upgrade
  7. Manually Initiate a Scan of the ESXi hosts – You will need to do this for Update Manager to pay attention to these hosts
  8. View Compliance Information for vSphere objects – Make sure the baseline that you want to apply is correct for the hosts
  9. Remediate Hosts Against an Upgrade Baseline / Groups – NOW the fun starts, this is where Update Manager starts to apply the patches and upgrades to the ESXi hosts.

Stage multiple ESXi host upgrades

In order to stage patches or upgrades the process is going to be relatively the same as what we just went through. The difference would be you are going to have multiple hosts that are attached to the baseline and instead of Remediating, you will just be Staging. Staging allows you to load the patches or upgrades to the hosts without actually rebooting or applying them yet. This will let you decide when the best time is to take executive action against them. Possibly on the weekend or some other designated time. The actual process is lifted from the guide and transplanted here:

Procedure

1 Connect the vSphere Client to a vCenter Server system with which Update Manager is registered and select Home > Inventory > Hosts and Clusters in the navigation bar.
2 Right click a datacenter, cluster, or host, and select Stage Patches.
3 On the Baseline Selection page of the Stage wizard, select the patch and extension baselines to stage.
4 Select the hosts where patches and extensions will be applied and click Next.

If you select to stage patches and extensions to a single host, it is selected by default.

5 (Optional) Deselect the patches and extensions to exclude from the stage operation.
6 (Optional) To search within the list of patches and extensions, enter text in the text box in the upper-right corner.
7 Click Next.
8 Review the Ready to Complete page and click Finish.

Determine whether an in-place upgrade is appropriate in a given upgrade scenario

This question can encompass a number of things. The hardware requirements aren’t extremely different from ESXi 5.5 to 6. You will need to take into account if you are going to use the same boot type, are you already using something on 5.5 that isn’t yet compatible with 6, or are you more interested in upgrading machines period because your current ones are long in the tooth (old)? All these questions and more are going to have to be considered by you and the members of your team in order to answer if you are going to do an in-place upgrade vs migrate to new systems or installs over the top of the current. There are valid reasons of course for all of them and it all depends on your environment and your vision for it.

This one was the longest to get out so far. Lots of things going on in personal life. I hope to get back to a normal blogging schedule really soon.

-Mike

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