Something each and every one of us virtualization folks will have to upgrade our VMware vSphere versions at some point, it is a fact of life. If you are looking to upgrade ESXi to vSphere 6.5, look no further than vSphere Update Manager 6.5, which has been recently integrated with the vCenter Server Appliance. vSphere Update Manager is now easier to get started with than it ever has been before. If you’ve deployed the vCenter Server Appliance, you’re ready to get started with Update Manager! If you haven’t moved to the vCenter Server Appliance yet, now is a great time to take a look at it, especially since vSphere will now take care of your upgrade of the Windows based vCenter to the vCenter Server Appliance for you. Update manager is very useful if you are looking to update ESXi 5.5 to 6.5, since the ESXi 5.5 end of support date is September 19, 2018.
If you are looking to upgrade from ESXi 6.0 or ESXi 6.5 to ESXi 6.7, be sure to check out this article on how to use the HTML5 based vSphere 6.7 Client to upgrade here.
Let’s take a look at how we can upgrade our ESXi hosts using Update Manager.
Getting Started With Update Manager
The first step to getting started with VMware Update Manager 6.5 is to log into the vCenter Server Appliance (also known as the VCSA). There are a number of ways to get to Update Manager (also known as vSphere Update Manager or just VUM), for example, you can click the Home button and select Update Manager from the drop down menu. Then, click on the your update manager server, which will be the same as your vCenter.
How to Upload an ESXi Image
I’m going to upload an ESXi image to get started with. To do this, click the Manage tab, then navigate to the ESXi Images tab, and click Import ESXi Image.
After the upload finishes, you will see a summary screen, telling you all about the ESXi ISO you have just uploaded.
Your ISO is ready to go. There’s only a few more steps before you can begin to upgrade your ESXi hosts.
Create a Update Manager Baseline
If you aren’t already familiar with vSphere Update Manager, it uses something called baselines to decide which hosts need patching or upgrades. You create a baseline, attach it to a host, and then you can see what the difference is and take action accordingly. To upgrade your ESXi hosts, you will need to create a Host Upgrade baseline. After clicking the Manage tab in Update Manager, click Host Baselines, and click the green + button to create a new baseline.
Select Host Upgrade for the baseline type, and give your baseline a name. In this case I’m upgrading ESXi from 5.5 to 6.5 (yes, you can do that!).
This baseline will only upgrade our hosts to a new ESXi version. Another baseline will be needed for host patches, as Update Manger is kind enough to remind us. Next, we will select the ESXi image we are going to upgrade to.
Attaching An Update Manager Baseline to An Object
You can attach a baseline to different objects, such as a host, datacenter, or cluster. In this case, we are going to attach the baseline we have just created to a specific host. You can attach the baseline by right clicking the object and selecting Update Manager, then Attach Baseline, or selecting the Update Manager tab after you have clicked the object, and click Attach Baseline.
Next, use a similar method to select Scan for Updates on the object. The object will then show a status of Non-Compliant with the attached baseline.
There’s only one step left, and that is to fix this issue and upgrade the host.
Remediating an Object or ESXi Host
You’ll then be greeted by a lovely wizard to help you through the remediation process. First, make sure you’ve selected the correct baseline, and click Next. Then, ensure the proper objects are selected and click Next again. Third is the EULA agreement, make sure to read it thoroughly, then click Next. Now things are about to get interesting.
vSphere Update Manager gives you the ability to schedule the remediation. For example, if you wanted to set up the task now, but configure it to run Friday night at Midnight, you could do that here. We’re going to leave that blank, since I’m going to upgrade this host right now. Click Next.Part of the remediation process is to put the host into Maintenance Mode, which comes with a set of options you can configure and set as default. I remember I used to have a PowerShell script tell me if I had any removable media devices connected to my hosts, but vSphere has come a long way since then. Simply check the checkbox in this screen, and you don’t have to worry about any ISOs were left connected. Tweak any settings you need to here, and click Next.
Here are cluster related settings you may need to edit accordingly based on your environment. Select any settings pertinent to your environment, and select Next.
Now we’re ready to remediate. Review the confirmation screen, and if everything looks good, click Finish. The remediation process will begin. You can keep track of it in the Recent Tasks pane of vCenter.
We also took a look at our host while the remediation process was going on, and everything looked great.
Finally, our host has been upgrade to vSphere 6.5!
Upgrading ESXi hosts is just one task vSphere Update Manager can streamline in your environment. vSphere Update Manager has a slew of features and functionality, and has never been easier to get started with than it is now. Since it is now packaged with the vCenter Server Appliance, Update Manager is just a few clicks away. Don’t forget to check out my VMworld session on Upgrading to vSphere 6.5 the VCDX Way at VMworld 2017. You can also see how to upgrade vSphere 6.5 to 6.7 with Update Manger and the HTML5 vSphere Client by reading this article.