Upgrade vSphere 7 ESXi hosts

In our previous post, we upgraded our VMware vCenter server to version 7. Now we can proceed with the upgrade of our ESXi hosts. VMware renamed vSphere Update Manager (VUM) to vSphere Lifecycle Manager (VLCM) in vSphere 7.

The VLCM allows simplified and consistent lifecycle management for your ESXi hosts. Instead of just applying baselines, it introduces a desired-state model that provides lifecycle management for the hypervisor.

The desired-state model is super exciting, as it is able to handle the full stack of drivers and firmware and manage their versions. This is very important, especially in a VMware vSAN environment where combinations of unsupported versions of drivers and firmware can return unwanted or unexpected performance results or even the Purple Screen of Death (PSOD). For now, with vSAN 7.0, the VLCM supports only some hardware via the VMware ReadyNodes program (Dell and HPE).

You'll see some screenshots below that use the new dark mode, which made its appearance in vSphere 6.7 U3. Note also that in this version, the UI includes an indication of whether there are new updates for VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). Previously, you could only see updates if you were logged into the VCSA VAMI via port 5480.

Manage all hosts with a single image

Manage all hosts with a single image

However, concerning single-image management, there is another catch—the hosts must be all running ESXi 7.0 or higher, which the current environment is not.

The lab with ESXi 6.7 does not meet the requirement

The lab with ESXi 6.7 does not meet the requirement

While we cannot use the single image for hosts management, we'll go and update the environment via baseline.

Upgrade the VMware cluster of ESXi 6.7 to 7.0 ^

The high-level steps:

  • Import the ESXi 7.0 ISO image.
  • Create and attach the upgrade baseline.
  • Scan and remediate the cluster.

Let's look at the whole process in detail. First, we need to download and import the latest VMware ESXi ISO image. Go to your profile at the VMware site and download the full installation image.

First import the ESXi 7.0 ISO image

First import the ESXi 7.0 ISO image

Next, let's check the newly imported ISO. Click the Imported ISOs link and verify that the ISO is there.

Click the Imported ISOs link and ensure the ESXi 7.0 ISO is there

Click the Imported ISOs link and ensure the ESXi 7.0 ISO is there

Then create a new upgrade baseline for the operation.

Create a new upgrade baseline

Create a new upgrade baseline

After that, simply follow the assistant. In the next step, select the ISO we just uploaded to our VCSA.

Follow the assistant and select the ESXi 7.0 ISO

Follow the assistant and select the ESXi 7.0 ISO

Then attach this baseline to the cluster.

Attach the baseline to the cluster

Attach the baseline to the cluster

Note: We could also have used the Create and Attach Baseline button, which would use a single wizard to complete these steps. I didn't do that here because I wanted to show you the separate steps.

So now we have an Assistant for attaching the baseline to the cluster. Here is the shot:

Assistant for attaching the baseline to the cluster

Assistant for attaching the baseline to the cluster

Select the upgrade baseline and click Remediate. Another assistant is displayed.

Select the upgrade baseline and click Remediate

Select the upgrade baseline and click Remediate

We see an informative message about DRS, which is currently disabled.

DRS should be enabled if available. To remediate hosts from this cluster, place the host in maintenance mode and manually migrate virtual machines prior to remediation.

DRS should be enabled

DRS should be enabled

What is VMware DRS? ^

VMware DRS stands for Distributed Resource Scheduler. It allows VMware vSphere to evenly distribute workloads across hosts via vMotion.

Where to enable DRS? ^

Just select your cluster. Then click Configure > Edit > vSphere DRS.

Edit cluster settings

Edit cluster settings

Let's go back and hit the Remediate button. A new assistant will start. We'll need to accept the license agreement.

The next screen shows a nice option, Schedule Cluster Update, which allows you to schedule the upgrade for a different time rather than run it immediately. You could schedule it to occur outside business hours or on weekends.

Schedule cluster update option

Schedule cluster update option

If you scroll further down, there are other options concerning remediation settings. We have Quick boot, which we can enable if the hardware supports it.

There is also an option to ignore warnings about unsupported hardware devices. This might be good if we know that certain hardware drivers work for vSphere 7.0 but are not supported (or not supported yet) by VMware. You can test on one of the hosts before launching a mass upgrade of the whole cluster.

We can also close this dialog box and go to Settings. The settings that do not have check boxes can only be changed on the global vSphere Lifecycle Manager settings page.

Remediation settings for the cluster

Remediation settings for the cluster

Going one at a time, the upgrade process will start to vMotion VMs out of the host > put the hosts into maintenance mode > upgrade > exit maintenance mode > vMotion the VMs back. It is a fully automated process.

The upgrade process starts to automate hosts maintenance mode and reboots

The upgrade process starts to automate hosts maintenance mode and reboots

At the end, you should see all your hosts upgraded to ESXi 7.0. The process isn't really different from the upgrades we used to do from 6.5 to 6.7 or 6.0 to 6.5; however, there were some changes to the workflows and assistants.

Additionally, there is the new image management across clusters, which should ease some pain concerning the management of drivers, their versions, the versions of firmware for storage controllers, and NICs across clusters. This should be in place for ESXi 7.0 U1, I'd imagine, as you need your infrastructure to be on ESXi 7.0 first.

If you see that some of your hosts after upgrade are not compliant, simply select the baseline whose status is "non-compliant" and click Remediate again.

Select non compliant baselines and click the Remediate button

Select non compliant baselines and click the Remediate button

Final words ^

VMware has again improved the user interface and the user experience. The dark mode is very pleasant to work with as well.

The next post will show us the upgrade of virtual machine (VM) virtual hardware, if necessary, and some automation and scheduling of the VMware Tools upgrade via the vSphere Lifecycle Manager.

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5 Comments
  1. Etienne 1 month ago

    Hi,
    I have a single host on which runs my VCSA, can I use it to update/upgrade my esxi host, or my vcenter is useless since it is running on my only host?

    I run vcenter 7.01 and esxi 7.

    Thanks,

    0

  2. Etienne 4 weeks ago

    Thank you for the answer, but that means then that my vcenter is a bit useless.

    Is it possible to have it on a standalone VM like on my computer?

     

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    • vCenters primary purpose is not ESXi hosts update. Without vCenter, you cant clone machines, create a cluster, use templates and basically every advanced feature of VMware vSphere...

      Of course, if you have a single host with few VMs, you probably do not need vCenter. You can run vCenter on any ESXi host, or even in VMware Workstation/Player. However, the second option is most likely only for labs..

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  3. Author

    Yes, as Leos pointed out, vCenter can do what ESXi and host client management cannot. If your organization grows and need more VMs, it's fairly simple to add additional hosts when you already have vCenter installed. 

     

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