Updating vCenter Server with External PSC

The following post demonstrates the update process for applying minor updates to a vSphere environment running multiple vCenter Server appliances and external Platform Services Controllers.

In this instance we are updating vCenter to 6.5 U1e as one of the remediation actions for the Branch Target Injection issue (CVE-2017-5715) commonly known as Spectre. For more information on Meltdown and Spectre see this blog post, VMwares responses can be found here, on the VMware Security & Compliance Blog here, as well as VMware Security Announcement VMSA-2018-0004.2 here.

meltdown-spectre-vmware

Pre-Update Checks

When upgrading vSphere with an external Platform Services Controller (PSC), upgrade the PSC first, then the vCenter Server, then the ESXi hosts, and finally the virtual machines (hardware versions, VMware Tools).

Prior to updating vCenter ensure you have verified the compatibility of any third party products such as backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. Also cross-check the compatibility of other VMware products using the Product Interoperability Matrix. Since we are applying a minor update to vCenter Server the usual pre-requisites such as FQDN resolution, time synchronization, relevant ports open, etc. should already be in place. For vCenter 6.5 U1e all hosts must be running at least ESXi version 5.5. For more information on the requirements for vCenter Server 6.5, or if you are upgrading from an earlier version, the following posts may be of use:

Before beginning the update process take a backup and snapshot of the vCenter Server Appliance. There is downtime during the update but this is minimal – around 10 mins to update and reboot using an ISO as an update source, when using the online repository the update time may vary depending on your internet connection.

Review the version release notes and the VMware Docs site here.

VAMI Update

Platform Services Controller (PSC) appliances that are replicating should all be updated before the vCenter Server appliances. The easiest way of updating the vCenter Servers and Platform Services Controllers is through the VAMI (vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface). Browse to https://PSC:5480, where PSC is the FQDN or IP address of the external Platform Services Controller. Log in as the root user.

VAMI1

Select the Update option from the navigator.

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Click the Check Updates drop-down. If the VCSA has internet access then select Check Repository to pull the update direct from the VMware online repository.

If the VCSA does not have internet access, or you’d prefer to provide the update manually then download the relevant update from VMware here (in this case VMware-vCenter-Server-Appliance-6.5.0.14000-7515524-patch-FP.iso) and attach the ISO to the CD/DVD drive of the VCSA in the virtual machine settings. Back in the VAMI update page select the Check Updates drop-down and click Check CDROM.

VAMI3

Details of the available update from either the online repository or attached ISO are displayed. Click Install Updates. Accept the EULA and click Install to begin the installation.

vcupgrade3

When the update process has completed click OK. From an attached ISO the update took around 5 minutes. The updated version and release date should now be displayed in the current version details. Finally, to complete the upgrade reboot the vCenter Server Appliance. Select Summary from the navigator and click Reboot.

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If you are running multiple external PSCs then repeat the above process for each PSC in the SSO domain. Do not update the vCenter Server appliances until all PSC appliances are running the same updated version.

Once all external PSC appliances that replicate between one another have been upgraded then move on to the vCenter Server appliances. Repeat the above process for each vCenter Server in the SSO domain.

CLI Update

Alternatively the vCenter Server Appliance can be updated from the command line. Again, either using the online repository or by downloading the update from VMware here (VMware-vCenter-Server-Appliance-6.5.0.10000-5973321-patch-FP.iso or latest version) and attaching the ISO to the CD/DVD drive of the VCSA in the virtual machine settings. For more information on updating the vCenter Server Appliance using the appliance shell see this section of VMware docs.

Platform Services Controller (PSC) appliances that are replicating should all be updated before the vCenter Server appliances. Log in to the external Platform Services Controller appliance as root. First stage the patches from your chosen source using either:

  • software-packages stage --iso --acceptEulas stages software packages from ISO and accepts EULA.
  •  software-packages stage --url --acceptEulas stages software packages from the default VMware online repository and accepts EULA.

Next, review the staged packages, install the update, and reboot the VCSA.

  • software-packages list --staged lists the details of the staged software package.
  • software-packages install --staged installs the staged software package.
  • shutdown reboot -r update reboots the VCSA where ‘update’ is the reboot reason. Use -d to add a delay.

CLI4

If you are running multiple external PSCs then repeat the above process for each PSC in the SSO domain. Do not update the vCenter Server appliances until all PSC appliances are running the same updated version.

Once all external PSC appliances that replicate between one another have been upgraded then move on to the vCenter Server appliances. Repeat the above process for each vCenter Server in the SSO domain.

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