16 January 2020

Upgrade ESXi host using vCenter Update Manager

VMware Update Manager (VUM) is a component of vCenter has matured a lot as product since its introduction. One of my favorite parts about it is that it is now baked into the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). Using it makes the process of updating and patching your hosts a simple centralized task. Here we are going to use VUM to upgrade our ESXi host from v6.0 to v6.7.

1) The First thing we need to do is check the infamous “VMware Product Interoperability Matrices” to find our upgrade path. Looking at the matrix, we can see that we should be able to upgrade from any v6.0 release directly to v6.7u3.

Sometimes, depending on which version of ESXi you are running, you may not be able to jump straight to the latest release. You might need to do an incremental upgrade, stepping up through versions, until you finally land on your ‘final’ version. 

For example, in the picture above we can see that ESXi v5.5 does not have a direct upgrade path to v6.7. You would first have to upgrade the host to v6.0 or v6.5, before you make another jump to v6.7.

2) The next step is to download the bits of your ESXi iso. There are a couple places you can grab this iso from.

a) The first place you can get it from is directly from VMware.  Login into your VMware portal, in the right hand corner under “Quick Links” click on ‘Download Products’. In the search bar at the top of the page enter “ESXi” and you should see what we’re looking for in the auto-suggested dropdown, click on it.

Now look for the keyword “Product Binaries” in the search results, there’s a lot of other stuff like drivers listed, which we’re not looking for right now. Click the link, you’ll see another page with the actual download links.

b) For most folks, the above-mentioned way to find and download the ESXi iso will be fine. However, if you are running Dell hardware, then you have a second option; Download and use the Dell Customized ESXi image. It’s an ESXi iso that has all the Dell specific drivers pre-baked into it.

The Dell customization image includes: modifying files to identify Dell and Dell support, updating the ESXi image with the latest validated asynchronous drivers, and updating patches if it addresses a common issue for Dell systems.

To find this customized iso image, go to https://support.dell.com/ and enter your product serial number.

Click on the “Drivers & Downloads” tab.

Choose “Enterprise Solutions” in the Category field.

Expand the VMware ESXi link and click download on the desired version for your server.

3) Now we are finally ready to start using VUM, and we begin by importing our iso image we downloaded in the previous step. Login into your vCenter Server. From the menu, click on “Update Manager” -> “ESXi Images” -> “Import”.

Click the “Browse” button to navigate to and select the ESXi 6.7 iso image you downloaded previously. This will start uploading the file into VUM.

4) With our iso image now in vCenter, the next step is creating the baseline that vCenter will use to check if hosts are in compliance. Select the image you just imported, and click on “New Baseline”

Give your new baseline a name, such as “ESXi 6.7u3 Upgrade”, and click ‘NEXT’.

Make sure the image you imported is the one you have selected and click ‘NEXT’ again.

Verify all the summary details are correct and click ‘FINISH’.

Select “Baselines”, you will see the baseline that we just finished creating.

5) The next step is to attach the baseline we just created to an object. The two objects we can attach our baseline to is either our cluster or individual host. I’m going to show how to do it on a cluster object, but the process is the same for a host.

From the “Hosts and Clusters” view in vCenter, select either your cluster object. Go to the “Updates” -> “Host Updates” -> “Attached baselines” -> “Attach” -> “Attach Baseline or Baseline Group”

Select the baseline we created earlier and click ‘ATTACH’.

6) With our baseline attached to our cluster or host object, we are finally ready to upgrade the ESXi host itself. Or in VUM terms – “remediate the host”.

Go to the “Updates” -> “Host Updates” -> “Attached baselines”. Select the baseline you want to apply, in our case it’s the “ESXi 6.7u3 Upgrade”, and then click on “Remediate”.

Click on “Accept the license agreement” -> Click on “Next” to accept all the default options before upgrading ESXi 6.x to ESXi 6.7 -> Click on “Finish” to begin the upgrade. Your host should go into “Maintenance Mode” before it applies it’s remediation steps and completes the upgrade, click “OK”.

7) It’s time to sit back and watch the status bar do it’s thing.

8) Once the remediation has completed, you will be able to verify that your host has been upgraded and is now in compliance.