On March 12, 2015, VMware released vSphere 6 for General Availability. I thought it would be a good time to recap, and pretty up, my older upgrade post. The previous post was based on vSphere 5.5 and the specifics of the software upgrades have changed, but the general order has not.
Read all of the Hardware Compatibility List, Interoperability Matrix, and other similar documents for all your components. Make sure all hardware is supported with ESXi 6 and that all software solutions support both ESXi and vCenter 6. Repeat with all other vSphere suite components such as SRM and the vRealize products. Contact vendors of incompatible solutions and find out when their v6 support is expected. If anything in your list does NOT support the latest version, make a decision on whether to remove or replace the components or to halt the upgrade until they are available.
The first component to upgrade is vCenter. vCenter 6 can manage earlier ESXi versions, meaning you can perform this step well in advance of host upgrades or you can do it an hour before. Follow the upgrade instructions for your vCenter install (VCSA or vCenter on Windows Server). Be sure to review release notes and try the upgrade in your test environment first. Whether you have a test environment or not, be sure to take a backup before beginning – and test a restore! – and use a snapshot to allow easy backout if needed.
Once vCenter is upgraded, update your plugins. This includes VUM, which be helpful with Host and VM upgrades. Your patch baselines and install images for v6 will need created. Include any host VIBs in your new baseline/image.
Anytime after vCenter is upgraded, you may proceed with host upgrades. You may do this with VUM, by hand, or with other automation.
Anytime after all the hosts in a cluster or a “share-nothing” group where VMs may migrate between the hosts, you may upgrade the VMs on that cluster/group. You should always updated VMware Tools as soon as possible, but you should only upgrade vHardware when required for performance benefits or abilities from the new vHardware version. Upgrading vHardware limits portability to older versions of vSphere and may be limit your ability in the future for no gain in the present. Migrating a VM with upgrade VMware Tools to an older host will not usually prevent the VM from running but may prevent VMware Tools from reporting correctly or introduce driver issues in the Guest OS. Some Guest OSes may require a reboot after VMware Tools is upgraded.
I left this out of the chart above as hopefully you migrated to VMFS5 a long time ago! If not, you should upgrade now, there are lots of benefits, but only when the datastore is created as VMFS5. VMware’s recommendation is to create a new VFMS5 datastore and move all your data there. This may require some data shuffling, such as svMotioning/migrating all data off a VMFS3 datastore onto another VMFS3 datastore, deleting the original VMFS3 datastore, and creating a new VMFS5 datastore in that space.
You’re done, but you’re not done-done yet. You have to upgrade the surrounding components like VDP, the vRealize Suite, etc. Get rid of any snapshots that you may have created during the upgrade process. Document the changes. Then you’re done-done.
Some other tips:
- Use snapshots when upgraded your vCenter, vRO, and other related VMs. Delete the snapshots when the upgrade is complete, don’t let them hang around.
- Upgrades include a free 60 day trial license. That includes Storage vMotion, which is helpful for your VMFS3->VMFS5 efforts if your license doesn’t normally include that feature.
- There is no undo on an update. I suggested using snapshots above, which seems to conflict. What I mean is that you can use the snapshot to roll back a failed vCenter update immediately, but if you carry on with the update you’re committed. Other individual component updates may benefit from snapshots, but if you have an issue with your vRO update, it only lets you retry the vRO update; you can’t bring the whole thing back to v5.0.
- You can set the default vHW version at the cluster level through the vSphere Web Client. This is especially helpful if you will have heterogeneous ESXi versions in your datacenter for a while as it increases portability of your VMs.