Upgrade VCSA through CLI Installer

My team and I were tasked with a global vSphere upgrade on all of our ESXi hosts, hyper-converged systems and our vCenter. We took enough time to get the inventory, check all the hosts for compatibility and test the various upgrade paths. The upgrade will be rolled out in multiple steps due to personal resources (we’re a small team and currently, it’s summer holiday season) and also to avoid too much downtime. In this blog post, I’d like to share some personal experiences regarding the upgrade of our vCenter. It didn’t work as we’ve planned. But in the end, all worked fine. I’d like also to shoutout a big thank you to my team. You guys rock!

Foreword

Before we dive deeply into the vCenter upgrade process, and what happened, I’d like to explain some steps first to better understand our approach and the upgrade process in general.

One of the milestones is (at the writing of this blog post already “was”) the upgrade of our vCenter. We’re using vCenter for our daily tasks like managing virtual workloads, deployment of new ESXi hosts, etc. But before we could upgrade our vCenter from 6.5 to 6.7, we had to do some host upgrades first. Our hyper-converged infrastructure was running 24/7 without getting much care, like care in the form of firmware upgrades. There was just not enough time to do maintenance tasks like this throughout the last few months or maybe years. Maybe some people also were just afraid of touching these systems, I don’t know for sure. The firmware was old but at least the hypervisor was on a 6.0 version and also in pretty good shape as well.

So we’ve scheduled various maintenance windows, planned the hyper-converged upgrades and made sure that we’ve downloaded everything from the manufacturer we need to succeed. The firmware upgrade went well on all hosts. One host had a full SEL log and that caused some error messages. No real issue at all, but some alerts in vCenter on that cluster we had to get rid of.

The firmware upgrade on one of the hyper-converged cluster took about 18 hours. That was expected, somehow, because the firmware was really old, and did not support higher ESXi versions that 6.0. But everything went well and we had no issues at all, expect the full SEL log which then has been cleared.

After that firmware upgrade, we were able to upgrade the ESXi version on all of the hyper-converged clusters to a 6.5 level. This was needed because of some plugins used to manage these hyper-converged systems. Ok, to let the cat out of the bag, we’re using Cisco HyperFlex and the plugin I’m talking about is that HX plugin. The version for ESXi 6.0 wasn’t supported in vCenter 6.7. That’s the reason we had to upgrade the HyperFlex systems first to ESXi 6.5.

As you know for sure, you can’t manage ESXi hosts later than 6.5 in vCenter 6.5. So we had to do a stop here for the moment, but we were now at least able to upgrade our vCenter. All other hosts were already on 6.0 since they were installed, so no issues upgrading to vCenter 6.7.

Oh, did I already mention that our vCenter doesn’t run on-premises but on a cloud provider? No, it’s not VMC on AWS, but some other IaaS provider. That didn’t make it easier.

But let’s dive into the main topic now, enough of explanation, let’s do the hard work now.

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VMware – Read before upgrade to vSphere 6.5

VMware

Yesterday VMware announced the general availability of the brand new vSphere 6.5. They announced the new version at this years VMworld in Barcelona. But now you can download and install the bits. But there is a catch. Please make sure you read and understand all the important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.5 because there might be some limitation at the moment. Let me bring some light into the darkness.

Compatibility considerations

You should not upgrade to vSphere 6.5 if you are running one (or some / all) of these software components in your environment:

  • VMware NSX
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack
  • vCloud Director for Service Providers
  • vRealize Infrastructure Navigator
  • App Volumes
  • Horizon Air Hybrid-Mode
  • Integrated OpenStack
  • vCloud Networking and Security
  • vRealize Business for Cloud
  • vRealize Configuration Manager
  • vRealize Hyperic
  • vRealize Networking Insight

These components are not yet compatible with vSphere 6.5. But as we know VMware, they are already working for updates. Please check the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix for further information about updates to the products above.

  • If you have to revert a migration, please check VMware KB2146453 for reverting a vCenter Server to Appliance migration.
  • To roll back a vCenter Server Instance on Windows, please check the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

Upgrade Considerations

Before upgrading your environment, review these critical KB articles to make sure the upgrade will be successful.

vCenter Server

vCenter Server to vCenter Server Appliance

PSC High Availability

ESXi

NSX

vRealize Operations

vSphere Web Client

Known Issues

vCenter Server

vRealize Operations Manager

Security Considerations

TLS protocols

Encryption considerations

  • Running a encrypted KMS virtual machine can cause a loss of data in the event of a host failure.

More details in the VMware Knowledgebase (KB2147548):

https://kb.vmware.com/kb/2147548

*** Update ***

Backup Considerations

There is one thing i missed to mention. If you are using Veeam Availability Suite v9.5 then you can’t do backups with vSphere 6.5 at the moment, because Veeam does not support this vSphere version yet. But also the guys at Veeam are working on an update, which will be (historically) release about two months after general availability of the new vSphere version.

So stay tuned!