vCenter Appliance 6.5 Upgrade

VMware vCenter Server pools ESXi host resources to provide a rich feature set delivering high availability and fault tolerance to virtual machines. The vCenter Server is a centralised management application and can be deployed as a virtual appliance or Windows machine. This post walks through an upgrade of the vCenter Server Appliance from v5.5 or v6.0 to v6.5. See also vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 Install Guide, or Migrating Windows vCenter Server.

27/07/2017: vSphere 6.5 Update 1 has now been released: DownloadRelease Notes | What’s New | Upgrading to vCenter Server 6.5 Update 1

About VCSA

The VCSA is a pre-configured virtual appliance; as of v6.5 the operating environment is built on Project Photon OS 1.0. Since the OS has been developed by VMware it benefits from enhanced performance and boot times over the previous Linux based appliance. Furthermore the embedded Postgre database means VMware have full control of the software stack, resulting in significant optimisation for vSphere environments and quicker release of security patches and bug fixes. The VCSA scales up to 2000 hosts and 35,000 virtual machines.

In vSphere 6.0 the VCSA reached feature parity with its Windows counterpart, 6.5 begins to pave the way for VCSA to become the preferred deployment method for vCenter Server. One key addition is the inclusion of Update Manager bundled into the VCSA, as well as vCenter High Availability, Backup and Restore, and other features. The appliance also saves operating system license costs and is quicker and easier to deploy and patch.

Upgrading to VCSA 6.5 involves the deployment of a new appliance and migration of all configuration and historical data (optional) using the upgrade installer. The VCSA uses a temporary IP address during migration before switching to the IP and host name of the new VCSA, the old appliance is then powered off.

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Software Considerations

  • VCSA 6.5 must be deployed to an ESXi host running v5.5 or above. All hosts you intend to connect to vCenter Server 6.5 should also be running ESXi v5.5 or above.
  • The VCSA to be upgraded can be either v5.5 or v6.0.
  • VCSA 6.5 does not support the use of an external database. Where a system using an external database is upgraded, the data is imported into the internal Postgres database within VCSA 6.5.
  • You must check compatibility of any third party products and plugins that might be used for backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. as these may need upgrading for use with vSphere 6.5.
  • If you are unsure check the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component. Read more about the PSC in this KB.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • When upgrading vCenter the deployment model already in place will be migrated, the upgrade supports different deployment topologies but can not make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
  • In this post we will be upgrading vCenter Server 6.0 using the embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC appliance must be upgraded before the vCenter Server.
  • Consider if the default self-signed certificates are sufficient or if you want to replace with custom CA or VMware CA signed certs, see Installing vCenter Internal CA signed SSL Certificates for more information.

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Other Considerations

  • VCSA 6.5 with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources (disk can be thin provisioned)
    • Tiny (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs) – 2 CPUs, 10 GB RAM.
    • Small (up to 100 hosts, 1000 VMs) – 4 CPUs, 16 GB RAM.
    • Medium (up to 400 hosts, 4000 VMs) – 8 CPUs, 24 GB RAM.
    • Large (up to 1000 hosts, 10,000 VMs) – 16 CPUs, 32 GB RAM.
    • X-Large (up to 2000 hosts, 35,000 VMs) – 24 CPUs, 48 GB RAM – new to v6.5.
  • Storage requirements for the smallest environments start at 250 GB and increase depending on your specific database requirements. See the Storage Requirements document for further details.
  • Where the PSC is deployed as a separate appliance this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM, 60 GB disk.
  • Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
  • The ESXi host on which you deploy the new appliance should not be in lockdown or maintenance mode.
  • All vSphere components should be configured to use an NTP server. The installation can fail or the vCenter Server Appliance vpxd service may not be able to start if the clocks are unsynchronized.
  • FQDN resolution should be in place when deploying vCenter Server.
  • Review the list of Required Ports for vCenter Server and PSC.
  • Official resources – vSphere 6.5 Documentation Centre, vSphere 6.5 Release Notes.
  • Read the Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.5 KB.

Installation

Download the VMware vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 ISO from VMware downloads: v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1.

Unlike the Windows vCenter installer, which hasn’t changed much in v6.5; the VCSA installer has had a complete overhaul. You’ll notice straight away that the GUI is much cleaner, and multiple deployment options (install, upgrade, migrate, restore) are now bundled into one installer.

Mount the ISO on your computer. The VCSA 6.5 installer is compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows. Browse to the corresponding directory for your operating system, e.g. \vcsa-ui-installer\win32. Right click Installer and select Run as administrator. As we are upgrading an existing system click Upgrade.

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The installation is split into 2 stages, we begin with deploying a new appliance. The second stage migrates all data and settings. Click Next.

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Accept the EULA and click Next.

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Enter the details for the existing vCenter Server Appliance and the host or vCenter it is managed by. Click Next.

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Enter the FQDN or IP address of the host, or vCenter upon which you wish to deploy the new VCSA, then click Next. The installer will validate access, if prompted with an untrusted SSL certificate message click Yes to continue. Tip – connect to the vCenter for visibility of any networks using a distributed switch, connecting to the host direct will only pull back networks using a standard switch.

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Enter a VM name and root password for the new appliance, and click Next.

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Configure the deployment size of the new appliance and click Next.

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Select the datastore to locate the virtual appliance and click Next. Configure the temporary network settings for the appliance. These will only be used during migration of the data, once complete the temporary settings are discarded and the VCSA assumes the identity, including IP settings, of the old appliance. Click Next.

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The new VCSA will now be deployed, once complete click Finish.

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Stage 2 migrates data and identity across to the new VCSA, click Next.

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Select the data to migrate and click Next.

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Select whether or not to join the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program and click Next.

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Review the summary page, confirm you have taken a backup of the vCenter and click Finish.Click OK to the shut down warning.

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Data will now be migrated to the new VCSA, once complete the old VCSA will be powered off and the network settings transferred.

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When finished click Close, the vCenter upgrade is complete.

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Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.

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Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.

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You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

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Windows vCenter 6.5 Upgrade

VMware vCenter Server pools ESXi host resources to provide a rich feature set delivering high availability and fault tolerance to virtual machines. The vCenter Server is a centralised management application and can be deployed as a virtual appliance or Windows machine. This post gives a walk through of upgrading a Windows based vCenter Server from v6.0 to v6.5, you may also want to consider Migrating Windows vCenter Server to VCSA 6.5.

27/07/2017: vSphere 6.5 Update 1 has now been released: Download | Release Notes | What’s New | Upgrading to vCenter Server 6.5 Update 1

Software Considerations

  • The vCenter must be running v5.5 or v6.0 to upgrade to v6.5.
  • All ESXi hosts connected must also be running version v5.5 or v6.0, vCenter 6.5 cannot mange ESXi v5.1 hosts or earlier. For other VMware products see the Update Sequence Table.
  • The operating system should be 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 SP2 or above.
  • An external database should be Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 or above, or Oracle 11g or 12c. You can review a full list of compatible versions at the Database Interoperability Matrix.
  • You must check compatibility of any third party products and plugins that might be used for backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. as these may need upgrading for vSphere 6.5 compatibility.
  • To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component. Read more about the PSC in this kb.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • The upgrade supports different deployment topologies but does not, and can not, make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
  • When upgrading vCenter 6.0 the deployment model already in place will be migrated. When upgrading vCenter 5.5 the following will apply:
    • If SSO was installed on a different machine from vCenter Server then the machines running SSO will become external Platform Services Controllers.
    • If SSO was installed on the same machine as vCenter Server then this becomes vCenter Server with embedded Platform Services Controller.
  • In this post we will be upgrading a Windows vCenter 6.0 using the embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC must be upgraded before the vCenter.

embedded

Hardware Considerations

  • Windows vCenter Server with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources:
    • Tiny (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs) – 2 CPUs, 10 GB RAM.
    • Small (up to 100 hosts, 1000 VMs) – 4 CPUs, 16 GB RAM.
    • Medium (up to 400 hosts, 4000 VMs) – 8 CPUs, 24 GB RAM.
    • Large (up to 1000 hosts, 10,000 VMs) – 16 CPUs, 32 GB RAM.
    • X-Large (up to 2000 hosts, 35,000 VMs) – 24 CPUs, 48 GB RAM – new to v6.5.
  • Where the PSC is deployed on a separate machine this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM.
  • Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
  • The Windows vCenter Server requires the following free disk space for installation: (the first 2 may not necessarily be the system drive depending on installation location) Program Files 6 GB, Program Data 8 GB, System folder 3 GB. The PSC machine requires; Program Files 1 GB, Program Data 2 GB, System folder 1 GB.

Other Considerations

Installation

Download the VMware vCenter Server and Modules for Windows ISO from VMware downloads: v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1.

Mount the ISO and right click autorun.exe, select Run as administrator. The VMware vCenter Installer will open. Ensure vCenter Server for Windows is selected and click Install.

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The vCenter Server 6.5 Installer will open in a separate window, the existing installation is auto-detected, click Next.

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Accept the end user license agreement and click Next.

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Enter the SSO administrator password, if you removed this account from the vCenter administrators enter the credentials of a vCenter administrator. Click Next.

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The installer will now run pre-upgrade checks.

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Accept the default port configuration and click Next.

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Select the type of data to migrate during the upgrade, click Next.

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Select the installation directories. Note the data export location, you will need to remove this folder after verifying the upgrade is successful. Click Next.

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Tick or untick the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program as appropriate and click Next.

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Check the configuration on the review page, check the box to confirm you have backed up the vCenter Server, click Upgrade to begin the installation process.

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A progress bar will be displayed.

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Once complete click Finish.

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Post-Installation

Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.

vsphereweb

Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.

vsphereclient

You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.

client

When you are satisfied the vCenter is working as it should be and backups have completed; remove the temporary data – the default location was C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\export.

Consider upgrading any other products you may use, such as Update Manager.

Updating Nimble OS

Although non-disruptive upgrades are a great feature of Nimble storage arrays, I’ll not be throwing administrative best practises out of the window just yet; and will be completing this update out of core business hours.

At the time of writing Nimble software updates are only available by downloading directly on the storage device. This shouldn’t be a problem since Nimble support is centred around remote monitoring, however if you do have an array without internet connectivity then the software can be manually obtained from Nimble support. The release notes are available on the Infosight portal but there are no download links.

Log into the web interface of the Nimble device. Select the Administration drop down menu and click Software.

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On the software page click Download to download the latest operating system version, this does not being the update process but downloads the software to the array. If you have obtained the software from Nimble support click Upload and browse to the folder location.

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Once the software has downloaded click Update. In this example we are upgrading from v2.3.14 to v3.4.1. The process involves updating one controller at a time, since they run as active / passive there should be no outage.

When prompted with the license agreement click Agree. Click Ok to the message about clearing your browser cache and reloading the page once the update is complete.

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The update will now commence, keep in mind that you may see the process stages ‘1 of 7’ jump forward and then back a step, this is normal. Once the first controller has finished updating the browser will reload during fail-over.

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Once the update is complete you will be returned to the software page, where the current version number should now be updated. Some of the menu pages look a little different, such as the home page. If you have any issues with the web client at this stage then delete your browsing history and restart the browser.

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Check in recent events, you should see the software successfully updated message for both controllers. If you have email notifications setup you will also have been notified of this via email. It’s worth checking over the servers that have Nimble storage volumes mounted and that all paths are available.