Welcome to everything you ever wanted to know about VMware vSphere Update Manager!  We are going to cover the basics of what VMware vSphere Upadate Manager does, and I have created a number of step by step guides to help you with your VMware vSphere Upgrades.

Read on to learn more about VMware vSphere Update Manager, and the vSphere Upgrade process.

What is VMware vSphere Update Manager?

VMware vSphere Update Manager is a utility created by VMware to help with vSphere upgades.  In its current iteration, VMware vSphere Update Manager can update the following VMware components for you:

  • ESXi updates and patches
  • VMware Tools
  • Virtual Machine Harware Compatability

It is extremely easy to use, and allows you to schedule your vSphere updates as you see fit.  One nice feature when it comes to updating ESXi is the ability to stage your updates ahead of time to make the update process faster.  vSphere Update manager downloads everything you need, so your new software is there waiting when it is time to perform the vSphere upgrade.

What Should I Consider Before Starting My vSphere Upgrade With VMware Update Manager?

First and foremost, before you even think about upgrading any VMware vSphere component, your first stop should be the VMware Compatability Guide.  You may also hear this referred to as the VMware Compatability Matrix or VMware Interoperabilty Matrix.  This guide tells you what works with your desired version of VMware vSphere.  It is importaint to check this guide for every component of your evnurment such as:

  • ESXi host hardware
  • Storage Arrays
  • Backup Software

You will need to verify the versions of any component that touches your VMware vSphere environment.  Do not proceeed with any portion of your vSphere upgrade before doing so, or you may end up in an unsupported configuration.  Think of the VMware Compatability guide as your one stop shop for making sure your version of VMware vSphere works with 3rd party components – those software and components not creted by VMware directly.

There is also the VMware Interoperability Matrix which is a seperate entity.  Though the terms may be used interchangably, the VMware Interoperabulity Matrix shows you interoperabulity between VMware products components.  For example, you would check to make sure verisons of ESXi and vCenter server were compatible in this Matrix.

One importaint consideration is your VMware vSphere upgrade path, or how do you get to the version of vSphere you want from the current vSphere version you are running?  The VMware Interoperability Matrix is what can help you determine this.

This is an example of what the VMware vSphere Hypervisor, AKA ESXi upgrade path looks like.  Be sure to always check the VMware Interoperability Matrix before each and every upgrade, as things may change over time as new versions of software are released.

First, I accessed the VMware Interoperability Matrix and clicked on Upgrade Path.  Then I selected the component I wanted to upgrade, and accessed the results.  In this case, I selected VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi).

VMware product interoperability matrix ESXi vsphere upgrade

As you can see from this chart, it is easy to see what versions of ESXi I can upgrade from and to.

I can also Copy, Print, or export this data to CSV for later.

Updating VMware vCenter Server

One rule of thumb is that you must always first update VMware vCenter Server, before you update ESXi.  While vCenter Server can manage lower verison of ESXi, such as vCenter Server 6.7 managing ESXi 6.5, this does not work the other way around.  You cannot have a higher version of ESXi than vCenter server.

vCenter server upgrades are not very difficult, and there are a couple of ways to do them.  You will not use vSphere Update Manager to upgrade vCenter, however.  Be sure to check out this detailed guide on how to update vCenter Server to get comfortable with the process before you do it.

vmware vcsa upgrade installer vsphere 6.7 u1

Updating VMware ESXi with vSphere Update Manager

When it comes to updating ESXi, vSphere Update Manager is hands down the easiest way to accomplish this.  It is a powerful tool that is very easy to use, and has been around for quite some time.  As of vSphere 6.5, Update Manager in included as part of the vCetner Server Applaince.

While Update Manager was part of the vCenter Server Appliance, it was not until vSphere 6.7 U1 that it had full feature parity in the HTML5 based vSphere Client.

We briefly talked about the VMware vSphere Upgrade Path.  If you cannot go directly from one version of VMware vSphere to the other, you may have to do two upgrades to get there. This would mean two upgrade of your VMware vCenter Server, and two upgrade of your ESXi hosts.

VMware vSphere update manager remediate ESXi upgrade 6.7 u1

I have written a number of guides on how to ugrade ESXi using VMware Update Manager:

How to Upgrade ESXi 5.5 to 6.5 Note: ESXi 5.5 does not have a direct upgrade to ESXi 6.7.  You must first upgrade ESXi 5.5 to 6.5, then ESXi 6.5 to 6.7.

How to Update ESXi 6.5 to 6.7

How to Update ESXi 6.7 to 6.7 U1 

Updating VMware Tools and Updating Virtual Machine Hardware Compatability

When it comes to your vSphere upgrade, vCenter and ESXi are not the only components to care about.  VMware tools is a software package every virtual machine runs, and new verisons of ESXi often come with new versions of VMware tools.

Likewise, VMware also introduces new Virtual Machine Hardware Compatability (or virtual hardware as we called it in the old days) with major ESXi releasses.  This component can also be updated by vSphere Update Manager.  Updating your Virtual Machine Hardware Compatibility is just like physically upgrading a hardware device.  VMware cautions agianst doing this upgrade unless it is required.  This update does require a reboot of the guest OS, however Update Manager provides the abulity to schedule the update the next time the virtual machine restarts.

I have written a detailed walkthrough of updating both VMware tools and Virtual Machine Hardware Compatibility to help you understand hte process before you try it.

VMware vSphere update manager vm hardware compatibility 6.7 u1

Because both of these componets are so tighly tied to the underlaying version of the ESXi hypervisor, you would only updage VMware tools or update Virtual Machine Hardware Compatibility after your ESXi update is complete.

Why VMware vSphere Update Manager is Awesome

As you can see through these guides, VMware vSphere Update Manager is awesome, it is the easy button for your VMware vSphere updates.  It is important to remember that VMware vSphere Update Manager is part of the VMware vCenter Server Applaince.  While Update Manager cannot upgrade the VMware vCenter Server Appliance, that update is also very easy as we illustrated in our guide.

Before you start using VMware vSphere Update Manager, it is importaint to do a couple of things:

Then you can begin to use VMware vSphere Update Manager to complete your vSphere upgrade!