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VMware vSphere Host upgrade – the easy way!

VMware vSphere Host upgrade process to latest releases is a simple task when accomplished with VMware Updated Manager (VUM). Surely it is possible to upgrade the vSphere Hosts using the ISO image and select the upgrade option from the installer menu. Since VUM component is now integrated in the latest releases of VMware VCSA as well it is a lot easier to run the VMware vSphere  Host upgrade using this component.

All is required really is to create a “Baseline” and import the latest ISO. A Baseline is essentially a group of definitions which includes the options to scan and install (read remediate) the upgrades, patches and extensions. This is a great tool also to verify the compliance against specific baselines. For example making sure all VMware vSphere Hosts are running with the same updates and patch levels. It is also possible to create Groups of Baselines as well. Baselines can be created for both Hosts and virtual machines. We’ll review the Update Manager options in more details in a dedicated article.

How many types of Baselines can we use to remediate our VMware vSphere Hosts and virtual machines? There are 3 Baseline types:

System Managed Baselines: these ones are automatically downloaded and updated from VMware repositories on the internet when the vSphere Hosts are configured to work with vSAN. It is necessary to provide internet access to the vSphere Hosts as they are constantly updated.

Predefined Baselines: these cannot be edited or deleted but can only be applied to the respective object for scanning and remediation. There are two of them and cover both Critical and Non-Critical patches for Hosts, VMware Tools and VM Hardware upgrades.

Custom Baselines: As the name is suggesting these are custom definitions based on other criterias like Baseline type, version and age.

Now using a VMware terminology it would be just a matter of remediating a particular VMware vSphere Host with the chosen Baseline. In this case the Baseline we’are going to create (custom) includes the vSphere installation ISO based on 6.7.0 release.

At the time of writing I’m excited to share the latest patch for 6.7.0 has been released just a few days ago on the 26th of July. This article will focus on the first step:

  • direct upgrade from vSphere 6.5u1 to version 6.7.0 with Update Manager (step 1)
  • 6.7.0 latest patch install with Update Manager (step 2)

The patch install (step 2) will be detailed on a separate article.

Before proceeding with an upgrade to VMware vSphere 6.7 it is strongly recommended to read the release notes and check for unsupported hardware. In my case for this homelab I’m using the Intel NUC 6i5SYH. Officially not supported in the VMware Hardware Compatibility List. So far it’s working great. In my experience there are only a couple of things I would like to highlight.

1. make sure the new vmkusb driver is disabled to let additional custom network drivers (the those using the USB Network adapters) to load properly. This command will disable the vmkusb driver module:

esxcli system module set -m=vmkusb -e=FALSE

2. I still find the legacy driver for the mass storage controller has by far better performances than the new one. For this reason on my Intel NUC using an M2 SSD I disabled the new driver with the following command:

esxcli system module set -m=vmk_ahci -e=FALSE

Both commands require a full reboot. More info on this article.

Great, we are now ready to upgrade our VMware vSphere Hosts from 6.5u1 to 6.7.0!


VMware vSphere Host upgrade with VMware Update Manager

From the vSphere Client in the main Menu let’s navigate to the Update Manager link. This will bring us to the VUM Admin console.

domalab.com VMware vSphere Host upgrade

First thing we need to do is to provide a path to the ISO image we want to run upgrade for and assign this to a custom Baseline for Hosts. Let’s do this by ESXi images > Import

domalab.com VMware vSphere Host ESXi images

We can now browse to the ISO file and “download” this one to a convenient location. Ideally importing the image to a Datastore that multiple Hosts can see. This way we it would be easier to upgrade the remaining vSphere Hosts.

domalab.com VMware vSphere Host ESXi image import

At this point we are ready to create our Custom Baseline. Let’s move to the Baselines view and hit on New.

domalab.com VMware vSphere Host baselines

A new wizard pops up. Very easy to complete. I would suggest to provide a nice description as well. In case of lots of custom baselines that can make the difference.

domalab.com VMware vSphere create custom baseline

From the same screen we need to specify the context of the custom Baseline: Upgrade, Patch or Extension.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline type

Since we have imported just one ISO file this one will appear in the selection.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline image

And we are now ready to review and complete to create a custom Baseline for the vsphere Host upgrade.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline summary

The VUM Admin console now shows the newly created custom Baseline. Edit and Delete options are available only for Custom Baselines.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline

Next step is to point to the desired vSphere Host to upgrade. Nuc-04 in this case. From the Updates tab we can see the actual status of installed version and patches. Together with Compliance and Remediation status. All we need to do is to attach the custom Baseline to this Host.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host updates

Let’s select the custom Baseline.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline attach

At this point we can either run a pre-check remediation or hit on “Remediate” directly. I went for the latter! Reason is I dont have any FT / DRS configuration on this Host. Plus virtual machines are not running. It’s a very good idea to run the pre-check remediation to understand the affected components.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline list

Let’s accept the EULA terms and continue.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host EULA

The wizard now shows the steps of the Remediation content.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host custom baseline remediate

During the Remediation process we can also see what’s happening from the Recent Tasks list at the bottom. In a nutshell the Host will go in to Maintenance mode, the upgrade staged and then installed.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host remediation

The entire porcess took only a few minutes and completed successfully.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host remediation completed

When running a refresh, the new release is showing on the VMware vSphere Host. Plus the Compliance status is green. Everything is a good shape. Time to upgrade the other 3 vSphere Hosts.

domalab.com VMware vSphere host remediation successful

As a next step we can still use the same approach also to update vSphere Hosts with the latest patches.


About the author

Michele Domanico

Passionate about Virtualization, Storage, Data Availability and Software Defined Data Center technologies. The aim of Domalab.com is sharing with the Community the knowledge and experience gained with customers, industry leaders and like minded peers. Always open to constructive feedback and new challenges.

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