How to upgrade to vSphere 7/vCenter Server 7

In this post, we'll try to walk you through the upgrade process from vSphere 6.7 to vSphere 7. If you're running vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) 6.5 or 6.7, you should know that the upgrade is not an in-place upgrade. Rather, it is a new deployment of VCSA 7 with some copying of the old data to the new VCSA 7.

You should not upgrade if your hardware isn't certified compatible with vSphere 7 or if your backup software vendor hasn't released an upgrade for your backup software. Also, please consider all of your dependencies, such as monitoring or other data recovery (DR) or replication software you might be running, and which of these the upgrade to the latest vSphere 7 might affect.

SourceDestinationUpgrade path
vSphere 5.5 and 6.0vSphere 7Not supported
vSphere 6.5 and 6.7vSphere 7Supported

You should always check the VMware Product Interoperability Matrices and the VMware Compatibility Guide for the latest, most-detailed paths.

Note: If you are running vSphere 6.0, please note that end of general support (EOGS) for vSphere 6.0 has been effective since March 12, 2020.

vSphere 7 update sequence ^

If you want a more detailed overview on the sequence of how you need to upgrade, here's a quick list of the different software components and additions that might be present in your environment.

If you're running these solutions, you should upgrade them before you upgrade to vSphere 7:

  1. vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager
  2. vRealize Log Insight
  3. vRealize Network Insight
  4. vRealize Automation
  5. vStorage API for Data Protection (vADP) backup solution (or any backup program you're using to back up your VMs)
  6. vSphere Replication
  7. VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM)
  8. vCenter Server
  9. ESXi
  10. VMware Tools
  11. Virtual hardware
  12. Virtual Storage Area Network (VSAN)/Virtual Machine File System (VMFS)

Steps to do before the upgrade ^

  1. Create a backup of your VCSA 6.7 via your regular backup software.
  2. Create a snapshot of your VCSA 6.7 VM via vSphere Client.
  3. Create a file-level backup via the administration interface of your VCSA by connecting to the vCenter Appliance Management Infrastructure (VAMI) user interface at https://ip_of_VCSA:5480.
  4. Do the same for all of your vCenter Servers and Platform Services Controllers (PSCs) if any.

You might consider these steps a bit too cautious, but things can go wrong, and we all knows Murphy's law, don't we? If you have a large vSphere environment with multiple vCenter Servers linked with multiple sites, it might take a while, but it allows you to go back and restore if something goes wrong.

When upgrading your vCenter Server from version 6.5 or 6.7 to 7.0, the installer can detect external PSCs. This allows merging these two processes for a simple method of upgrading and consolidating deprecated single sign-on SSO topologies.

The vCenter Server 6.7 to 7.0 upgrade steps ^

I assume you have vCenter Server 6.5 or 6.7 up and running and that it is a vCenter Server on Linux (VCSA).

First, mount the ISO within Windows Explorer if you're running the upgrade from a Windows workstation or laptop. You can also use Linux or Mac as operating systems to launch the upgrade.

The VCSA 7.0 ISO has this subfolder:

d:\vcsa-ui-installer\win32

Here you can find the installer.exe you'll need to launch.

Click the big Upgrade button to start the assistant

Click the big Upgrade button to start the assistant

This will launch the assistant.

New vSphere 7 upgrade assistant

New vSphere 7 upgrade assistant

The process has two phases:

  • Phase 1 deploys a new vCenter Server (creates a new VM) to the target ESXi host or a compute resource on the target vCenter Server.
  • Phase 2 copies data from the source appliance to the newly deployed vCenter Server.

vSphere 7 upgrade: connect to the source VCSA 6.7

After accepting the VMware end-user license agreement (EULA), we can connect to the source appliance and the source vCenter Server or ESXi host.

vSphere 7 upgrade connection details

vSphere 7 upgrade connection details

In the next window, you'll see a pop-up window. This is the prompt to accept the certificate. Click OK to accept the certificate.

Note: During the upgrade process, you will be able to merge any external PSCs that might be present in your environment. The system will automatically merge these into vSphere 7 as embedded PSCs. This has been the case since the 6.7 recommended architecture and because vSphere 7 the only way of going forward. It is no longer possible to deploy external PSCs from within the VCSA ISO.

Select the deployment server target

Select the deployment server target

We need to specify a folder for the VM's location at the destination.

Select the destination folder

Select the destination folder

Also, as we do not have our Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) active, we need to select the host where the VM will be running.

Select the destination ESXi host

Select the destination ESXi host

The next step is to specify the name of the VCSA VM, which the vSphere Client UI will show.

Specify VM name

Specify VM name

The deployment size lets you define which size of your environment the vCenter Server will be responsible for. With this, the VM will have the correct number of virtual CPUs (vCPUs) and enough virtual RAM (vRAM) to function correctly.

Specify deployment size

Specify deployment size

One of the last steps is to specify the datastore for the VM disk files. Note the option for thin disks lets us save some datastore space.

Select the destination datastore

Select the destination datastore

The network settings for the temporary execution during the upgrade must be different from the original vCenter Server settings. The upgrade process will shut down the source vCenter, and the new vCenter Server will receive the network configuration of the old vCenter.

Configure temporary network settings

Configure temporary network settings

That's it. We can now see the recapitulation window with all the details.

Click the Finish button to start the assistant

We can now start the upgrade process.

Stage one finished

Stage one finished

After the first stage, the assistant will launch the second stage (configuration).

Stage two start

Stage two start

We can specify what we want to copy. In our case we don't need the Tasks, Events, or Performance Metrics.

Select the upgrade data

Select the upgrade data

We can join the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) for free, but it is not a mandatory step.

Join the CEIP if desired

Join the CEIP if desired

After clicking the Next button, we can see the assistant will shut down the source vCenter Server and apply the new configuration.

Note the checkbox to back up the vCenter Server. This one is mandatory.

Check the box to indicate you backed up the vCenter Server

Check the box to indicate you backed up the vCenter Server

We can follow the progress through the web-based window.

Copy data from the source to the target

Copy data from the source to the target

At the end, an information window tells us that vSphere 7.0 disables TLS 1.0 and 1.1; however, we have no errors.

Information messages at the end of the upgrade

Information messages at the end of the upgrade

Then we have the final screen.

Upgraded with success

Upgraded with success

We're done. Now we can connect to the same URL as usual, and we now have vSphere 7 as a view.

vSphere 7 lab

vSphere 7 lab

After we have upgraded our vCenter Server to version 7.0, we can now upgrade our hosts and clusters to ESXi 7.0, but this is outside of scope of this post. There are several ways to upgrade individual ESXi hosts, but the preferred way is via vSphere Update Manager (VUM). This is now called Lifecycle Manager and is responsible for installing and upgrading or patching hosts to the latest release.

Final words ^

VMware has greatly polished and simplified the migration process. While the upgrade to vSphere 6.7 still had some manual conversion steps for external PSCs, the vSphere 7 upgrade process has integrated this workflow to provide a seamless experience.

The upgrade process is quite simple, and preparing for the upgrade takes more time than the actual upgrade. You must make sure all of your installed solutions are compatible and upgrade them first.

The post-upgrade tasks consist of upgrading some of your VMs to virtual hardware 17 perhaps (not mandatory) and updating VMware Tools on all of your VMs.

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10 Comments
  1. Hi Vladan,

    that is a very comprehensive post right there, especially on the update sequence. 

    One question tho - I cant quickly find an answer on VMware site. Which ESXi host version is supported by vCenter 7? Is it only 7?

    Cheers

    Leos

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  2. Author

    Hi Leos, 

    Good question. According to VMware VMware Product Interoperability Matrices, ESXi 6.5 and later, are supported by vCenter server 7.0. 

    At the end of the day, anything earlier (6.0, 5.5) is out of general support. 

    Best,

    Vladan

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  3. Orangebuzz 6 months ago

    Should we upgrade the hardware (compatibility) of the vCenter appliance itself?

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    • I dont think it is really needed, because you will most probably never hit the limits of the current VM hardware or use the capabilities the higher level offers with vCenter appliance itself. On the other hand, to upgrade the VM hardware level is few clicks and nothing should block you to do it.

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  4. OSsama AbdelMaksoud 6 months ago

    Many thanks, I really understood the steps 

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  5. Grant 5 months ago

    Excellent post Vladan, thought I had found an answer to by issue.

    We recently upgrade a 6.7 Windows based VC to 7.0.0.0 which appeared to go well, eventually. What we noticed a few days latter was that we could not hit :5480 for management. Everything else in VC is perfect except cant get to 5480. Opened a support case with VMWare and have been working it for a month now. Making no progress. I thought to myself, I would just migrate 7.0 to a new 7.0 appliance. Imagine my surprise when I found that you are not allowed to migrate same versions. I have, under VMWare's instruction, done an inpalce upgrade to 7.0.0b but this did not help.

    Any thoughts on how I can perform a 7.0 to 7.0 migration. Upgrade dosnt work as it is already the current version and a migration does not work as it is an appliance not a Windows server.

    Kind regards

    Grant

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  6. Nate 2 months ago

    How to do this on Photon? 

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  7. Technig 2 months ago

    Any option for upgrading the vCenter appliance in VMware workstation? 

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  8. Author

    The same way as the "normal" upgrade when running on ESXi - "in guest" upgrade via VAMI and 5480 port.

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