Posted by: Sid Smith
Configuration Baselines, ESX4, ESXi4, Installation, Upgrade, VMware, vSphere
Many of you are wonder how you will go about upgrading to VMware vSphere when it is release. Well I’m here to say don’t worry. The upgrade path from ESX 2.x & 3.x is very painless and fairly simple. A lot of you will remember all the phone you have had in the past performing upgrades and scripting installs, well VMware is quickly trying to make all of that a thing from the past with new features available in vSphere.
First let’s talk about vCenter. vCenter is a fairy simple upgrade unless of course you are using the no longer supported SQL 2000 as your database server. If you are running SQL 2005 or higher you are in the clear. Simply run the install, choose to upgrade your installation of vCenter, choose to upgrade your database and you are on your way. I know what many of you are thinking. Your thinking it can’t be that simple. Don’t get me wrong every environment is different and I’m sure there will be challenges is some, but for the most part it is simple and straight forward.
Ok so you have upgraded vCenter whats next? Now you will want to upgrade Update Manager. If you’re not using Update Manager now would be a good time to start. Upgrade Manager is the key to making this upgrade as simple and easy as possible. Just like vCenter SQL 2000 is no longer support for the database so make sure if you are currently still running SQL 2000 that you upgrade to at least SQL 2005 before upgrading.
Now that you have vCenter and Update Manager installed you are ready to upgrade your ESX hosts and VM’s to VMware vSphere. There are two paths to take to move form your current version of ESX. You can perform an actual upgrade, or you can perform a fresh install. I have always been a big fan of fresh installs for two reasons. The first reason is because they are simply cleaner than upgrades and I find fresh installations to be less problematic. The second reason is to allow you to consider the new features. Prior to installing vSphere you can learn the new feature and account for them as part of a new configuration. This method requires careful planning and close considerations to the current environment configuration and sometimes may require an intermediary staging host.
In either case you have many options that were not available to you in previous versions. If you decide to perform a fresh install you can now utilize Configuration Baselines to consistently configure your new installs. If you decide to upgrade you can easy perform the upgrade using Update Manager.
Once you have upgraded your ESX hosts to vSphere hosts there are a few additional thing that need to take place. You need to upgrade he virtual hardware to Virtual Hardware Version 7 in order to take advantage of new VM features such as:
Hot Plug Support (Supports CPU’s, Memory, Netowrk Adapters, SCSI Adapters, etc…)
Paravirtual SCSI adapter
LSI Logic SAS (Virtual SAS controller)
You will also need to upgrade the VMware tools. It’s important that you upgrade the VMware tools prior to upgrading the Virtual Hardware. The VMware tools provide drivers necessary for the Guest OS to be able to utilize some of the newer Virtual Hardware. With Update Manager you can simple create a baseline, add the VMware tools, and upgrade away. The one issue here is the installation of the VMware tools still requires a Guest OS reboot. This is the only part of the upgrade that will require downtime for the Virtual Machines.
Once the VMware tools are upgraded to the latest version you are ready to upgrade the Virtual Hardware. Unlike previous verions to do you have to go VM to VM and right click on them and choose to upgrade VMare Tools. You are now able to create a baseline in Update Manager that will scan and remediat VM’s with out of date VMs. Update Manager has become a very powerful. I highly recommend you become familiar with the improvements.
As you can see update manager plays a large role the upgrade process. VMware has also released a new tool for those of you not running vCenter. Included with the VI client is the VMware host update utility. The VMware host update utility allows you to perform similar upgrades as well as update vSphere hosts without vCenter.