Sep, 2015

Objective 4.2: Perform vCenter Server Upgrades

To wrap up upgrade processes and things, we are going to go over vCenter Upgrades. The following points will be covered:

  • Identify steps required to upgrade a vSphere implementation
  • Identify upgrade requirements for vCenter
  • Upgrade vCenter Server Appliance (VCA)
  • Identify the methods of upgrading vCenter
  • Identify/troubleshoot vCenter upgrade errors

Identify steps required to upgrade a vSphere implementation

There are many things to think about for your vCenter and vSphere architecture. Especially now that we have the split of new types of Roles. The Platform Services Controller and the vCenter Role. You have the options of creating an Embedded installation which has all the roles installed on one server, or you can do an External Installation with a separation of the roles. There are advantages and disadvantages of each of these installations. Namely:



  1. Connection between the vCenter and the PSC (Platform Services Controller) is not over the network and is not subject to issues associated with DNS and connectivity
  2. Licensing is cheaper (if installed on Windows machines)
  3. Fewer Machines to keep track of and manage
  4. You don’t need to think about distributing loads with a load balancer across Platform Services Controllers


  1. There is a Platform Services Controller for each product – This consumes more resources
  2. The model is suitable for small-scale environments

vCenter with External Platform Services Controller:


  1. Less Resources consumed by the combines services in the Platform Services Controller, reducing the footprint and reduced maintenance
  2. Your environment can consist of more vCenter Server instances


  1. The connection between the vCenter/s and Platform Services Controller is over the network and is subject to any issues with connectivity or DNS
  2. You need more Windows licenses (if using Windows)
  3. You must manage more virtual machines or physical – causing more work for you, the admin

The actual steps for the upgrade process are as follows

  1. Read the vSphere release notes… This should go without saying. There are a lot of services going on in the background, you don’t want to have to hurt your current setup (which brings us to Step 3- Backup your configuration)
  2. Verify that your system vSphere hardware and software requirements
  3. Backup your current configuration including your DB
  4. If your vSphere system includes VMWare solutions and/or plugins, verify they will work with the version you are upgrading to. Think about all them. It is a bad day if you upgrade and then realize your backup software won’t work with the new version.
  5. Upgrade vCenter Server

Concurrent upgrades are not supported and upgrade order matters. You will need to give this due consideration if you have multiple vCenters or services that are not installed on the same physical or virtual server.

Identify upgrade requirements for vCenter

The upgrade requirements will in part depend on your current setup. Do you have the Windows version? Or the Appliance? Do you have the Full on SQL server, Express? And so on. Documentation will be your best friend here, but we are going to go over the highlights.

For Windows Server PreReqs:

  • Synchronize the clocks on the machines running the vCenter Server 5.x services
  • Verify the DNS name of the machines running vCenter are valid and accessible from the other machines
  • Verify that if the user you are using to run the vCenter services is an account other than a Local System Account, it has the following permissions 1) Member of Administrators Group 2) Log on as a Service and 3) Act as part of the OS
  • Verify the connection between the vCenter and the Domain Controller

When you run the installer it will perform the following checks on its own

  • Windows Version
  • Minimum Processor Requirements
  • Minimum Memory Requirement
  • Minimum Disk Requirements
  • Permissions on the selected install and data directory
  • Internal and External Port availability
  • External Database version
  • External Database connectivity
  • Administrator privileges on the Windows System
  • Any credentials you enter
  • vCenter 5.x servers

The next thing you will need to think about it disk space. Depending on what type of deployment model you are going with, the requirements change. An embedded will require about 17 GB minimum. If you are using an external PSC, you will need that 17GB on the one machine but you will need 4GB minimum on the external PSCs.

Hardware Requirements again depend on the type of installation you require (based on size). A PSC will require 2 CPUs and 2 GB of RAM regardless – since it is scaling out vs scaling up. The others are based on the size:

  • Tiny (10 or under Hosts and 100 or under VMs) = 2 CPUs and 8 GB of RAM,
  • Small (up to 100 Hosts and 1000 VMs) = 4 CPUs and 16 GB RAM
  • Medium (up to 400 Hosts and 4000 VMs) = 8 CPUs and 24GB RAM
  • Large (up to 1000 Hosts and 10,000 VMs) =16 CPUs and 32 GB RAM

You will also need a 64-Bit Windows OS to put this on. The earliest version that will work is Windows 2008 SP2. You will also need a 64 bit DSN to connect to your Database.

Those are all the normal things you consider when simply deploying the machine. What does it do when you upgrade it though? Well there is a decent amount going on behind the scenes. The database schema is upgraded; the old Single Sign-On will be migrated to the new Platform Services Controller. And then you have the upgrade of the normal vCenter server software. Some of the upgrades depend on your current version.

  • For vCenter 5.0 you can choose to configure either an embedded or external PSC during the upgrade.
  • For vCenter 5.1 or 5.5 with all services deployed on a single machine, you can upgrade to a vCenter with an Embedded PSC.
  • For vCenter 5.1. or 5.5 with a separate SSO server, you will need to upgrade that to a PSC first
  • If you have multiple instances of vCenter installed, concurrent upgrades are not supported and order does matter.

The following information is a good check list to have before upgrading, as they will ask you for these information items.

Upgrade vCenter Server Appliance (VCA)

This is a bit simpler in my opinion, than the Windows version. There are still a few gotchas you need to be mindful of however. You need to make sure that you are running at least vCenter 5.1 Update 3, or 5.5 Update 2 before you can do an upgrade to 6.0. So if you are not at least at those levels, you will need to update those first to the needed version. In order to do this, it is really simple. Go to the IP or URL of the vCenter Appliance and port 5480. When you login, go to the Update tab and click on Check Updates

Then go ahead and click on Install Updates – You are asked to confirm and after you click yes, it will start.

A reboot is required afterwards for the changes to take effect.

Now that you are at a required level for you to be able to upgrade, you will need to have the VCSA install ISO and the Client Integration Plugin installed on your computer. Then open up the ISO (or burn it to a CD) and run the vcsa-setup.html file

You want to do an upgrade – So go ahead and click on that.

You will next need to accept the EULA
Now you need to tell it the host you are going to deploy the appliance to

The rest of the setup is just as if you are going to deploy a new appliance (because you are) with the addition of one screen. Where you tell it where the source appliance is and user name and password for it, so that it can copy the configuration over.

Identify the methods of upgrading vCenter

As of currently, the only supported method is using the user interface based installer (the web page) – Found on KB2109772
As far as the Windows version, you would use the regular installer. Depending on the deployment method you already have (embedded PSC or external)

Identify/troubleshoot vCenter upgrade errors

So as with most things, the best thing to do when things go wrong, is to look at the logs. If there are any error messages, that might be helpful as well. The log you will want to look at is the installation logs. There are a couple of ways you can go about this. If the install errored out before it fully finished, you can leave the check box selected on the screen for collect logs and it will save it in a zip on your desktop. In the Windows Server the logs will be located at:

%PROGRAMDATA%\VMware\CIS\logs directory, usually C:\ProgramData\VMware\CIS\logs

    %TEMP% directory, usually C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp

You can open the files in the above locations in a text editor such as Notepad++ to look for clues. The Appliance houses the log files in a little different location, since the machine is Linux. First you need to access the appliance. You can do this via SSH or if you have direct access to the appliance (like through the console in the Windows Client). Either way once you get access, you will need to log in and get a command line prompt. If you are not already at a PI Shell prompt, run pi shell to get to the Bash prompt. Then run the script to get a support bundle. You can then export it from the /var/tmp folder. Either to your desktop or you can cat or vi the firstbootStatus.json file to see which services failed.

You can also grab logs from the ESXi host by running the vm-support command in the ESXi shell or SSH or you can connect via the Windows Client and export logs from there. There are a lot of possible errors – you can go over a few in the Upgrade guide here: vSphere Upgrade Guide .

Next up… Resource Pools.

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