VMworld 2015: Managing vSphere 6.0 Deployments & Upgrades, Part 2 #INF5123

Excellent presentation by Brian and Salil! They did a great job laying out the upgrade paths, caveats, as well as legacy references for folks coming from ESXi 4.x and early 5.x.

The biggest takeaways were 1) the encouragement to choose the upgrade path for ESXi host upgrades and 2) the announcement of vCSA including VUM in the next version. VMware now fully recommends vCSA for deployments moving forward–with Windows VUM out the way, this is something I can get behind!

A VMware fling exists to upgrade from vCenter Server to vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) in certain scenarios. Flings aren’t production/supported tools, but may be helpful in the right use case(s).

Highly recommend this session/videos and the notes below!

Live Notes & Commentary


  1. vSphere Upgrade Overview
  2. Upgrading ESXi
  3. Upgrading Virtual Machines
  4. Post-Upgrade Considerations (implied)
  5. What’s New in Tech Preview
  6. Technical Resources

Upgrade Overview

  • Phase 1: vCenter Server (INF4944)
  • Phase 2: ESXi
  • Phase 3: Virtual Machines
  • Phase 4: Post-Upgrade Considerations

Upgrading ESXi


  • How many hosts?
  • Sensitivity to downtime?
  • Maintenance window duration?


  • Choice of upgrade method?
  • DRS / Host Profiles in use?
  • VMs on shared storage?

ESXi Install versus ESXi Upgrade

  • Traditional “OS” upgrade concerns do not apply!
    • Boot disk is not repartitioned
    • Overwrites Boot Bank contents
    • Configuration and VMFS volume preserved
  • How the upgrade works:
    • Saves the config (state.tgz)
    • Replaces VIBs (overwrite)
    • Reboots
    • Config re-applied on reboot
  • Highly recommend considering upgrade path

ESXi Deployment Methods (focus bolded)

  • ESXi ISO: Install or Upgrade
  • VUM: Upgrade, Patch, UI & DRS, Scales
  • Auto Deploy: Install, Upgrade, Patch, Supports Rollback, Scales
  • Scripted: Install or Upgrade
  • esxcli: Upgrade or Patch

Rolling Upgrades with VUM

  • Upgrades with no VM downtime

Introducing AutoDeploy & Host Profiles

  • Scenarios
    • Bare-metal hosts
    • Out-of-date hosts (5.x)
    • Misconfigured hosts
    • Roll-back host (6.x)
  • Benefits
    • Single workflow for various deployment, patch, and upgrade scenarios
    • “Zero-touch” and highly automatable owrkflow
    • Centralized image and configuration management

Upgrading Virtual Machines

VMware Tools Consumption Workflow

  • Pre-installed tools can be upgraded using VUM or API
  • OSP or downloadable tools, typically for Linux guests
  • Upstreaming tools to the Linux community and into Linux kernel
    • RedHat 7
    • Ubuntu 14
    • SUSE
    • CoreOS
    • Canonical

Virtual Hardware / VM Compatibility Upgrade

  • Support matrix back to VM hardware version 4

Best Practices & Recommendations

  • VMware Tools
    • Upgrade recommended!
      • Release notes for tools & common versioning coming soon!
    • Use open-vm-tools wherever possible
    • Cross compatibility
      • VMware Tools 4.x is supported on ESXi 6.x
      • VMware Tools 6.x is supported on ESX/ESXi 4.x
  • Hardware Version or Compatibility
    • Upgrade optional
      • Upgrade VMware Tools first
      • Not backward compatible

VMFS Upgrade

  • Refer back to ESXi 5.x resources regarding upgraded/fresh VMFS-5 (from VMFS-3)
  • New VMFS version coming soon! Get up to VMFS-5 now.
  • No “undo” operation

vSphere Distributed Switch

  • Remember to upgrade (or check)

What’s New in Tech Preview

Steep reduction in ESXi upgrade time (vSphere 6.0 U1, 5.5 U3**)

  • Historically, host evacuation can be ~50% of upgrade time
  • In update, average reduction is 4-7X!

Full support for VUM in Web Client (vSphere 6.0 U1**)

  • Full feature parity with C# client

VUM (vSphere Update Manager) — currently in Tech Preview

  • Fully embedded in vCSA!
  • No Windows!
  • No separate DB!
  • No separate install, upgrade, or patch for VUM!
  • Recommend moving to Appliance moving forward

Technical Resources


  • VMware Fling exists for upgrading from Windows vCenter to VCSA in certain scenarios…

VMworld 2015 | Wednesday | Managing vSphere 6.0 Deployments & Upgrades, Part 2 (INF5123)

Brian Graf, VMware | Salil Suri, VMware

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