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If you run just a single host, you can use the command-line interface (CLI) to upgrade it. However, with more hosts connected, the process might need more of your time where you manually put your host into maintenance mode each time, do the upgrade, exit the maintenance mode, and so on.
That's why VMware has VUM, which can take care of this automatically. Since vSphere 6.7 U2, VUM has had some changes in the right direction: ease of use.
I assume your ESXi hosts are on the VMware hardware compatibility list (HCL) and your backup software supports vSphere 6.7 U2. You should always check whether it is wise to upgrade your environment before actually starting the upgrade process itself.
System requirements ^
Latest VCSA: To use the latest innovations from VMware, you must be running the latest vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) 6.7 U2.
This is not a problem because VMware has greatly simplified the upgrade for VCSA, and you can do it via the vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface (VAMI) without any Linux knowledge. You may want to check out our article Three ways to update VMware VCSA.
Steps to upgrade the ESXi host ^
First, we want to check the version number we're on. By selecting an individual host, you can see it on the Summary tab.
Connect to your environment via vSphere Web Client and select the host or cluster you wish to upgrade. VMware allows you to select the cluster entity to automate the upgrade process. If you select a cluster, VUM will evacuate the first host via vMotion and put this host into a maintenance mode prior to starting the upgrade process.
Once the upgrade succeeds and the host reboots, VUM will automatically take the host out of maintenance mode and vMotion the VMs back. This process continues automatically like this with all the hosts present in the cluster.
But let's assume you only want to upgrade a single host. In this case simply select only a single host, go to Updates, select Host Updates, and Attach Baseline or Baseline Group.
This will bring up a new window asking you which baselines you want to attach. By default, VMware has two baselines. Select the check box next to the Name column to select both predefined baselines.
You cannot edit or delete predefined baselines; you can only attach or detach them to the respective inventory objects.
With the two baselines selected, hit the Remediate button.
Once you hit the Remediate button, you'll see a window like the one below where a pre-check will inform you whether any major issues would prevent the successful upgrade.
It could be an unsupported NIC driver or storage RAID card that might lack support in the latest version.
You can also see that there will be 43 updates installed, and if you click the details, you can see whether a reboot will be required and for which patch. You will also be able to see whether it will install a patch, rollup, or upgrade.
Click the Remediate button again to start the process. You can check the tasks and monitor the progress. Once the host remediates, the process automatically reboots the host.
Once the upgrade and patches install, the host reboots. We can check the version and see we have upgraded our host with success.
Upgrade completed with success
Final words ^
The upgrade process via VUM is getting better in every release. VUM is now fully integrated into VCSA, and you can use the HTML5 web client as well. This wasn't always the case. Previous releases of vSphere had to use the Flash web client, which was slow and buggy. Users with vCenter Server on Windows had to install VUM as a separate component.
But now, most users have migrated or are still migrating the Windows-based vCenter to VCSA (VMware has developed a nice workflow for this).
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The advantage of using VUM is that you don't have to sit and monitor the update process for each host of the cluster. VUM will take care of moving VMs to another host in the cluster while updating or patching the host. There are some requirements such as the fact that your cluster has to have vMotion enabled and you, of course, have to have vSphere with a vMotion license. You can find the lowest version of vSphere with a vMotion license in vSphere Essentials Plus.