I recently wrapped up a vSphere 6.7 U1 upgrade project, while on a VMware Professional Services (PSO) engagement, with a customer in Denver Colorado. On this project, I had to upgrade their three VMware environments from 6.5, to 6.7 Update 1. This customer also had three external Platform Services Controllers (PSC), a configuration that is now depreciated in VMware architecture.
Check the VMware Interoperability, and Compatibility Matrices
The first thing I needed to do, was to take inventory of the customer’s environment. I needed to know how many vCenters, if they had external Platform Services Controllers, how many hosts, vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS), and what the versions were.
- From my investigation, this customer had three vCenters, and three external platform services controllers (PSC), all apart of the same SSO domain.
- I also made note of which vCenter was paired with what external PSO. This information is critical not only for the vSphere 6.7 U1 upgrade, but also the convergence process that I will be doing in part two of this blog series.
- Looking at the customer’s ESXi hosts, the majority were running the same ESXi 6.5 build, but I did find a few Nutanix clusters, and six ESXi hosts still on version 5.5.
- The customer had multiple vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) that needed to be upgraded to 6.5 before the 6.7 upgrade.
The second thing that I needed to do was to look at the model of each ESXi host and determine if it is supported for the vSphere 6.7 U1 upgrade. I also need to validate the firmware and BIOS each host is using, to see if I need to have the customer upgrade the firmware and BIOS of the hosts. We’ll plug this information into the VMware Compatibility Guide .
- From my investigation, the three ESXi hosts running ESXi 5.5 were not compatible with 6.7U1, however they were compatible with the current build of ESXi 6.5 the customer was running on their other hosts. I would need to upgrade these hosts to ESXi 6.5 before starting the vSphere 6.7 U1 upgrade.
- This customer had a mix of Dell and Cisco UCS hosts, and almost all needed to have their firmware and BIOS upgraded to be compatible with ESXi 6.7 U1.
The third thing I needed to check was to see what other platforms, owned by VMware, and/or bolt on third parties, that I needed to worry about for this upgrade.
- The customer is using a later version of VMware’s Horizon solution, and luckily for me, it is compatible with vSphere 6.7 U1, so no worries there.
- The customer has Zerto 6.0 deployed, and unfortunately it needed to be upgraded to a compatible version.
- The customer has Actifio backup solution, but that is also running a compatible version, so again no need to update it.
Lets Get those ESXi 5.5 hosts Upgraded to 6.5
I needed to schedule an outage with the customer, as they had three offsite locations, with two ESXi 5.5 hosts each. These hosts were using local storage to house and run the VMs, so even though they were in a host cluster, HA was not an option, and the VMs would need to be powered off.
Once I had the outage secured, I was able to move forward with upgrading these six hosts to ESXi 6.5.
Time to Upgrade the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS)
For this portion of the upgrade, I only needed to upgrade the customers VDS’s to 6.5. This portion of the upgrade was fast, and I was able to do it mid day without the customer experiencing an outage. We did submit a formal maintenance request for visibility, and CYA. Total upgrade time to do all of their VDS’s was less than 15 minutes. Each switch took roughly a minute.
Upgrade the External Platform Services Controllers Before the vCenter Appliances
Now that I had all hosts to a compatible ESXi 6.5 version, I can move forward with the upgrade. I was able to do this upgrade during the day, as the customer would only lose the ability to manage their VMs using the vCenters. I made backups of the PSC and vCSA databases, and created snapshots of the VMs just in case.
I first needed to upgrade the external PSCs (3) to 6.7 U1, so I simply attached the vCSA.iso to my jump VM, and launched the .exe. I did this process one PSC at a time until they were all upgraded to 6.7 U1.
Upgrade the vCenter Appliances to 6.7 Update 1
Now that the external platform services controllers are on 6.7 U1, it is time to upgrade the vCenters. The process is the same with the exe, so I just did one vCenter at a time. Both the external PSC’s and the vCSA’s upgraded without issue, and within a couple of hours both the external PSC’s and vCSA’s had finished the vSphere 6.7 Update 1.
Upgrade Compatible ESXi Hosts to 6.7 Update 1
I really wanted to use the now embedded VMware Update Manager (VUM), but I either faced users who re-attached ISO’s to their Horizon VMs, or had administrators who were upgrading/installing VMware Tools. In one cluster I even happened to find a host that had improper networking configured compared to its peers in the cluster. Once I got all of that out of the way, I was able to schedule VUM to work its way down through each cluster, and upgrade the ESXi hosts to 6.7 Update 1. There were still some fringe cases where VUM wouldn’t work as intended, and I needed to do one host at a time.
Conclusion for the Upgrade
In the end, upgrading the customer’s three environments, vCSA, PSC and ESXi to 6.7 Update 1 took me about a couple of weeks to do alone. Not too shabby considering I finished ahead of schedule, even with all of the issues I faced. After the upgrade, the customer started having their Cisco UCS blades purple screen at random. After opening a case with GSS, that week Cisco came out with an emergency patch for the fnic driver, on the customer’s UCS blades, for the very issue they were facing. The customer was able to quickly patch the blades. Talk about good timing.
Part 2 Incoming
Part 2 of this series will focus on using the vCenter Converge Tool. Stay tuned.
Blog Date: 4/15/2019