Upgrade Series

vSphere 6.0 End of Support: How to Plan vSphere upgrade ?

VMware vSphere 6.0 is going to end of support in march 2020 to be precise on 12th March 2020. So once vSphere 6.0 support is ended you will not get any support from VMware if you face any issues or problems in your environment. So this post we have created on how you can easily plan your vSphere upgrade so that you are compliant with the latest version of vSphere & you will have your VMware support.

Lot of organizations are using vSphere 6.0 or let’s say some are also using the vSphere 5.5. There are many reasons for using the older versions of vSphere such as licensing cost, No future plan, comfortable with the older version etc etc. But as technology goes ahead you must plan & go for upgrades so you will always have better resource utilization, future proof technologies, support is available whenever required & most importantly security which comes with the newer versions.

In this post we will not talk about the steps on how you will click upgrade or the migrate steps but we will discuss about how you can plan you upgrade from vSphere 6.0 to vSphere 6.5 or vSphere 6.7 & what are the points you must check before performing vSphere Upgrade.

Below is the simple & high level vSphere Upgrade process:

Image credits: VMware

Physical Hardware & Storage Compatibility:


Check Physical Server Compatibility:

First point comes which is Hardware compatibility:

Is your current or older hardware compatible with the latest version of vSphere ?
Answer to the above question is very simple you can easily check your hardware compatibility in multiple ways by contacting your HW provider, by checking on your OEM site. To check for Hardware compatibility VMware has provided simple & easy way by which you can check your current or older hardware against the version you want to upgrade.

So let’s see how to check it:

Open the VMware compatibility guide using below URL:

https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php

You will get the same screen like below:

Image credits: VMware

Here you need to select the version you want to upgrade to & then provide your current physical server details & features you want to use such as:

  • Partner Name: HPE or DELL or anyone which you are using.
  • Keyword: You can specify your current server model.
  • System Type: Provide your system type weather it is Tower, Rack or blade.
  • Features: You can choose which feature you would like to be supported in your hardware.

Other details you can provide such as Memory, CPU socket, CPU family etc.

Click on Update and View results.

Below you can see that we have taken example on vSphere 6.5 to 6.7 & selected hardware as HPE DL380.

Image credits: VMware

Now here you can view the results based on the criteria you have selected you will see partner name, model, CPU series & supported releases, So if one version of vSphere is not supported it will not be listed under supported releases.

So that’s how you check your physical server compatibility with vSphere.

More on you must check with the Firmware version compatibility of your physical server, to check on it click on your server model.

Image credits: VMware

Here you will see the exact details about your server model , firmware & features which are supported. If you do not see your current firmware version listed here than you must check with your OEM for the upgrade of server firmware before vSphere upgrade.

Check Storage Compatibility:

Every organization uses storage to store their virtual server’s data, So at the time of upgrade of vSphere you must be sure that your current storage is compatible with the upgrade you are going to perform. This can be checked easily with the same vSphere Compatibility list.

Choose the Storage/SAN from “what you are looking for” , so storage compatibility section will be displayed.

Image credits: VMware

Here you need to provide below details to check the compatibility of the storage :

  • Product Release version: Select the vSphere version you want to upgrade to.
  • Partner Name: Your storage OEM name.
  • Keyword: You can specify the model no for easy output.
  • Array Type: Specify the storage array type you are using.

Other details you can also provide based on your requirement but above details are must for basic compatibility check.

Click on View and Update results.

Image credits: VMware

Here you will see the list of storage is being displayed as per your specified criteria & details are listed as Partner Name, Model, Array type & supported releases. So you can check & verify your storage is supported or not with the vSphere version.

More on you must check with the Firmware version of your storage, to check on it click on your storage model:

Image credits: VMware

Here you will see the exact details about your storage model , firmware & features which are supported. If you do not see your current firmware version listed here than you must check with your OEM for the upgrade of storage firmware before vSphere upgrade.

Like wise you must check for various sections such as IO devices, Guest OS etc based on your requirement.

Now you are aware on how you can check for the Physical device compatibility but we must also check for solution or product interoperability with current vSphere solution, database interoperability with different vSphere solutions & supported upgrade paths.

VMware Interoperability with Solutions & Upgrade Paths:

Interoperability with vSphere solutions:

If you are using the multiple vSphere solutions in your environment then it is must that you check for the interoperability within different vSphere products so that after the upgrade you will not face any issues. In this case you will also come to know that if one solution is not compatible with another then you must upgrade the same.

To check for interoperability go to below URL or you can simply type in google “VMware interoperability matrix”

https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/sim/interop_matrix.php#interop

You will see below screen, Here we will check interoperability of vCenter Server with Site Recovery Manager.

How to check interoperability:

  • Select solution & version: Specify your VMware product or solution with version.
  • Add Platform/Solution: Provide the solution which you are using & you want to verify whether it is compatible with other solution.
Image credits: VMware

For example:

In above example we are checking the vCenter Server 6.7 is compatible with which site recovery manager version. So as you can see that Site Recovery Manager 6.5.1 is not compatible with vCenter 6.7. In this case you must also upgrade your site recovery manager to the version supported.

Solution/Database interoperability:

Every product or solution requires database in the back-end. In case of vSphere as well every solution either uses external database or the embedded database. So if you are using the external database for your vCenter server than you must check for compatibility of your database solution with vCenter server you will be upgrading to.

So that if database solution is not compatible , you must upgrade your database as well.

How to check Database interoperability:

Go to Solution/Database interoperability section.

  • Provide your solution & version: Specify your VMware solution or product.
  • Provide database version: Provide your current database product.

You will see that which database is supported to the solution which you will be upgrading.

Image credits: VMware

In our example above you can see that for vCenter Server 6.7 Microsoft SQL Server standard (64 bit) is not supported but Microsoft SQL Server standard SP1(64 bit) is supported. So in this case if your current database is not supported to the vCenter you will be upgrading then first upgrade your database with the supported version to make it compatible.

Upgrade Path:

Upgrade path show you the path where you can see from which version to which version you can directly upgrade to. Let’s see how it works.

Go to Upgrade Path section.

Select the solution for which you want to view the supported upgrade paths. In this below we have taken 2 example first is for ESXi & second is for vCenter server.

ESXi Upgrade paths:

Image credits: VMware

In above example you can see that you can directly upgrade from ESXi 6.0 to ESXi 6.7 but for older versions such as ESXi 5.5 it is not supported to upgrade directly to ESXi 6.7. So in that case you must follow 2 step upgrade where you will first upgrade your ESXi to 6.5 & then you can go for upgrade of 6.7.

vCenter Upgrade paths:

Imagecredits=vmware

In above example you can see that you directly upgrade your current vCenter server from vCenter 6.0 to vCenter 6.7 but if you are using the vCenter 5.5 it is not directly upgradable to vCenter 6.7 so in that case you must first upgrade your vCenter Server to 6.5 & then go for 6.7.

In the same way you can check for different VMware solution supported upgrade paths.

VMware vSphere 6.0 Upgrade Sequence:

VMware has pre-defined sequence for different VMware solutions so what that means is if you have multiple vmware products in your environment you should follow the upgrade sequence. It will show you the sequence in which order you start your upgrade from vCenter to ESXi & other VMware products or solutions.

Below is the official VMware KB which will help you to understand in which order you should start your upgrade:

https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2109760

 

vCenter Server Upgrade or Migrate:

In the previous releases of vCenter server such as 6.0 and earlier where appliance was not having all the features but windows based vCenter was the only option but after vCenter 6.0 versions vmware has added many functionalities & improvements in vCenter server appliance where you don’t need to be dependent on the windows server, you can directly deploy vCenter appliance.

After vCenter 6.5 & later you saw features & functionalities only available in the appliance but not in the windows based vCenter, So you must go for appliance version instead of windows based. By going for appliance version of vCenter it saves your one windows server license as well.

While running the vCenter deployment wizard you can easily choose the “Migrate” option which will help you to easily migrate from windows based vCenter server to vCenter appliance.

External or Embedded PSC:

PSC (Platform service controller) is very critical part of vSphere environment where it provides services such as authentication, licensing etc. While deploying the vCenter server you have option to choose external or embedded PSC. Based on your requirement you deploy the PSC but from vCenter 6.7 onward VMware started deprecating the option of deploying external PSC. Where PSC will be deployed in embedded mode with the vCenter appliance so it is very easy to manage & avoid the single dependency of failure.

In case where you are using the external PSC in your environment you should plan & migrate it to embedded PSC. Migration from external PSC to embedded PSC is performed using the vCenter server convergence tool which will migrate your external PSC to the embedded into appliance.

Image credits: VMware Blogs

vCenter server convergence tool is only available after vCenter server 6.7 version so you must go for vCenter 6.7 if you plan to convert your external PSC into embedded PSC.

Below are the 2 links which will help you to understand what is the convergence tool & how it works:

https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2019/02/understanding-the-vcenter-server-converge-tool.html
https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2019/04/vcenter-server-converge-tool-enhancements-in-vsphere-6-7-update-2.html

 

ESXi Upgrade:

After you upgrade your vCenter server you must upgrade your ESXi host as well. ESXi upgrade can be done in below ways:

  • GUI Installer : You will use ESXi installation CD to perform esxi upgrade using GUI method.
  • Scripted Upgrade: You can upgrade your ESXi from 6.0 to 6.5 or 6.7 by running an update script for an efficient, unattended upgrade.
  • esxcli command line: You can use built-in utility esxcli to perform upgrade of ESXi.
  • Update Manager: You can use vSphere Update Manager to upgrade your esxi host easily from vCenter server.
  • vSphere Auto Deploy: If an ESXi host is deployed with vSphere Auto Deploy, you can use vSphere Auto Deploy to reprovision the host and reboot it with a new image profile. This profile contains an ESXi upgrade or patch, a host configuration profile, and optionally, third-party drivers or management agents that are provided by VMware partners.

So as you have seen above that you can use multiple ways based on your feasibility & ease of doing to upgrade your ESXi from 6.0 to 6.5 or 6.7. ESXi upgrade is very simple process where you don’t require any additional configuration.

Virtual Machine HW & VMware Tools upgrade:

Virtual Machine HW is the virtual hardware devices which are attached to each virtual machine which emulates as physical device which allows vms to have their own independent devices. VMware tools is suite of drivers & utilities which is must have in every virtual machine guest os. VMware tools provides benefits for guest OS for optimization, key board & mouse support, graphics simulation etc.

Once you have upgraded the ESXi host you need to upgrade the Virtual Machine HW & VMware tools of the virtual machines. It takes time to upgrade both because it requires downtime. Before starting with the upgrade you must first upgrade VMware tools & then upgrade VM HW version.

VMFS upgrade:

VMFS is the virtual machine file system which is developed by VMware. VMFS is used by the each datastores created in the virtual datacenter. With the release of the major versions of vSphere VMware upgrades the VMFS to the newer version to provide more functionality & features to the VMFS.  When you upgrade your ESXi host VMFS is not upgraded automatically you must follow the process to upgrade your VMFS datastores.

With the release of vSphere 6.5 , VMware has announced the newer version of VMFS is VMFS 6 which adds many functionalities & improvements over the VMFS 5.

For upgrading VMFS from VMFS 5 to VMFS 6 is not direct upgrade, You must re-add & format your datastores using VMFS 6.

Image credits: VMware

Let’s take example where you have 3-5 datastores with VMFS 5 & you want to upgrade it to VMFS 6. In that case you should have temporary 1-2 datastores with VMFS 6 or you can empty the datastores by migrating VMs from one datastore to another so that you can re-add datastore using VMFS 6 format & migrate back VMs to the VMFS 6 datastore. This is the simple process where you need to perform storage vMotion of VMs to upgrade your VMFS 5 datastores.

Third Party Solutions Compatibility:

Every organization uses solutions which are integrated into vSphere or connects with the vSphere environment. Most common example of third party solution is backup solution which is used by almost every organization. So before starting with the Upgrade you must check for compatibility of your third party solutions so to avoid issues & problems later on.

 

So that’s comes to an end where we complete the vSphere Upgrade planning. This post is for overview on how you can plan your vSphere upgrade & check for compatibility & interoperability of different VMware solutions. For exact information & planning of your environment you must check with VMware support.

If you have any queries & suggestions you can provide us in the comments section. If you want to plan for your current vSphere Upgrade you can contact us on below email id so we will help you for upgrading your vSphere Infrastructure.

Email ID: admin at masteringvmware.com

That’s it for Today Friends. I Hope you liked reading this post & If you find anything more to be added or removed feel free to write it in our comments. If you find it useful You are Feel free to share this on social media to help others & spread knowledge.
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Mayur Parmar

Hi I am Mayur Parmar. Independent Author & Founder of Mastering VMware. I am working in IT industry for more than 4 Years with knowledge of VMware , Microsoft Server's, Linux Server's.

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