vSphere 5.0 is a great step up in terms of new functionality and features from vSphere 4.1. VMware have introduced some awesome new features that are definitely worth making use of by getting your environment upgraded. A few that caught my eye are sDRS (Storage DRS), Storage vMotion of VMs with Snapshots, and of course the ability to now run those “monster” VMs (much larger VMs supported now).
Before you take the plunge and upgrade, I would recommend doing a good amount of reading best practises documentation and planning. I have linked to two very useful documents from VMware that will help with your planning. There is an upgrade checklist which you can work through systematically, as well as a best practises whitepaper which helps explain the process in good detail with some great screenshots. In my post I will be going through the process I followed to upgrade my lab environment from vSphere 4.1 to 5.0. As it is a lab environment, I didn’t do too much in terms of planning, but for production environments, this would be a good idea as it never hurts to be prepared.
As part of the process, I also set up a brand new VMware Update Manager server in a VM once my vCenter server was updated to 5.0 to aid upgrading my ESXi hosts from 4.1 to 5.0. I only have three virtualised ESXi hosts running in my lab cluster, so it would have been quicker to use the ISO and do them manually, but I wanted to go through the process myself as I don’t spend enough time on Update Manager in my work environment.
Documentation to read
So without further ado, let’s begin.
Update your vCenter Server
- First of all, make sure you are running vCenter Server 4.0 or above. If you are, then chances are you’ll be running a 64bit OS. Just be sure to check though, as it is possible to run vCenter Server 4.0 on a 32bit OS. If you have vCenter Server running on a 64bit OS, then you are good to go, otherwise you’ll need to take a slightly more complicated route, which involves creating a new vCenter server on a 64bit OS, installing vCenter 5.0 and then migrating the existing database over to the new server. For specifics there is documentation on this process in the vSphere 5.0 Upgrade Guide from VMware.
- Next up, check that the other minimum requirements are met; especially in terms of CPU and RAM.
- Backup your existing vCenter database – this is clearly a very important step. Make sure you back up everything. Before I upgraded my lab, I took a backup of my vCenter SQL 2005 Express Database as well as my SSL certificates. The vCenter 5.0 upgrade wizard will remind you about this too. Keep your backups safe. For my lab vCenter database, I simply installed Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio Express (free) and used the backup option in there to backup the database as well all other SQL system databases just to be safe.
- Also take a backup of your vpxd.cfg file. On a 2003 Server this would by default be located under %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Application Data\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\ or for a 2008 Server, it would by default be under C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\
- Now you should look at your Database options and upgrade path. Review the Prerequisites documentation in the Upgrade Guide for databases and ensure yours is supported. If it is not, then be sure to follow the correct procedure to migrate to a supported one.
- Ensure your vCenter Server has a 64bit DSN – it will already have one if you are running vCenter Server 4.1 (as this is 64bit only) but could be different if you are still on vCenter 4.0.
- If you are running a Microsoft SQL Database (as I am in my lab), ensure your System DSN under ODBC connections is using the SQL Native Client driver.
- Ensure you have Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 and Windows Installer 4.5 or greater installed on your vCenter server.
- Note down all your database login credentials and ensure the vCenter database login has db_owner permissions.
- Make sure your current installation path of vCenter does not have any commas or periods in it. (I assume this can cause trouble for the upgrade!)
- Ensure your vCenter Server name is not longer than 15 characters and is registered correctly with your AD Domain’s DNS.
- Ensure all required ports in/out of the vCenter server are open.
- Make sure any additional plug-ins you use for vCenter Server are compatible with 5.0 – also make sure you re-enable or reconfigure these post-upgrade.
- Make sure you know the rest of your hardware is compatible with vSphere 5.0! i.e. check your ESX / ESXi hosts are compatible and there will be no issues there. You can use the vCenter Host Agent pre-upgrade checker utility included with the vCenter 5.0 installation media for this.
After this wizard is completed the upgrade will begin. If applicable your vCenter database schema will also be upgraded and soon you’ll be up and running with vCenter 5.0. Note that this upgrade does require your vCenter service be down for the duration of the installer upgrade process – how long this is really depends on how big your vCenter DB is. My lab vCenter upgrade took about 25 minutes to run through, but its inventory is very small – for most production environments with up to 100 VMs or so I wouldn’t see this taking longer than 45-60 minutes in most cases, but remember its dependant on various other factors. Once the installer is finished, it would be a good idea to also update your vSphere client to access your vCenter server with – install the version that comes with your vCenter 5.0 installation media and login again. You should see your inventory as per usual and hopefully all will be well. One thing I noticed immediately following my upgrade was that I had an alert for my datastores – I blogged about this over here actually. This is only really applicable if you are running a lab environment (or small production) with only 1 or 2 shared datastores. Other than this, the rest of my VMs were all running happily on their respective ESXi hosts and everything else was just fine.
So coming up in Part 2, I will cover the next step in upgrading your environment to vSphere 5.0 – the ESX(i) hosts along with a couple of different methods of doing this. If there is anything that I have missed, or you have any tips or additional info, please feel free to update using the comments section.
More in this series: