vSphere upgrade saga: vCenter 5.1

Credit: flickr/adactio

The next step of any vSphere upgrade is to upgrade vCenter. However, if you are using vCloud Director the next step would be to upgrade vCloud Director before vCenter. It is crucial at this time to "Read The Fine Manual”. There are quite a few caveats and requirements for moving to vCenter 5.1, and if you make even one mistake you need to start over.

The manual will explain two new services and their impact to your vSphere/vCloud environment:

  • Single Sign On (SSO) that allows VMware’s components to talk to each other in a more secure way and must be installed before vCenter is installed

  • Inventory Service has changed to be its own daemon and as such must also be installed before vCenter is installed

There are two ways to install vCenter: Simple where everything is on one host and multi-host installs where SSO is installed on its own server with redundancy, etc. For large environments the multi-host install is recommended. But for my environment, Simple mode works. There are caveats and requirements for each installation method.

So the steps are:

1. Read the Fine upgrade Manual First; understand the changes before proceeding

2. Before beginning answer the following question: Do you feel comfortable with your current vCenter backup?

3. Make a backup of your VMware vCenter and VMware Update Manager databases

4. Make a vSphere Snapshot of your VMware vCenter virtual machine and other virtual machines used for update management, auto-deploy, etc. I use one so it is just one virtual machine.

5. Start the upgrade by opening the ISO. Be sure to use v5.1.1 not the v5.1 media as it is the latest from VMware and has some better upgrade dialogs

6. Create the SSO databases using the scripts provided when requested by the installer, remember to change all the ‘CHANGE ME’ values to your real values for your database locations and desired passwords

7. The Simple Install will install SSO, Inventory Service, and vCenter

  • At the vCenter stage my install failed many times before I found the cause.

  • Restore Databases, Delete SSO Databases, and revert snapshot on failure

8. Commit the Snapshot on success

9. Reboot and you are done

However, I got bit by the ‘expired certificate’ issue, which only showed up as a warning when upgrading using the v5.1.1 media (otherwise you have to look through the upgrade log files for the error). Follow the steps in VMware KB 2035413 if you receive this error or find it in your log files. The key to success on finding this error or any error is twofold:

  • Make a vSphere Snapshot of the vCenter virtual machine and revert on any error

  • Make a database backup of your vCenter database and restore on any error

VMware upgrades if they go wrong can and will mess with your databases and systems such that another attempt to upgrade will fail spectacularly. So snapshots and backups are the order of the day.

Once SSO, Inventory Service, and vCenter are installed, the other vCenter tools install fairly cleanly, I install them in the order on the install autorun for the ISO:

  • vSphere Client

  • vSphere Web Client

  • vSphere Update Manager

  • vSphere ESXi Dump Collector

  • vSphere Syslog Collector

  • vSphere Auto Deploy

I do not install the vSphere Authentication Proxy, as it would require another host to run upon. Even though I install the collector’s and auto deploy I have yet to configure them as I do not use them at this time. That is a change for the future.

Now, if you want to use the vCenter Appliance, this is not the post for you, I have yet to switch over as I have an existing environment that I just wished to upgrade not change yet. That is for the future.

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