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ESXi 3.5 free upgrade to ESXi 4.1 licensed

I recently purchased the VMWare Essential Plus package.  I already have one server running ESXi 4.1 with five VM's on it.  Another server (same hardware config as other server above) is still running ESXi 3.5 free.  I want to upgrade this one to ESXi 4.1.  I have read the documentation and know that there is no upgrade path from 3.5 free to 4.1 lic. so I was planning on re-installing using the 4.1 iso.  The part that is fuzzy for me is how my existing storage setup will fare.

On both servers I am using local storage (long term I am looking into a shared NFS, but this won't help me now).  On my 3.5 server I have the ESXi OS installed on a 80GB Raid 1 array and my VM's on a 400GB Raid 5 array; both Raid arrays are run from the same storage controller.  I know that upgrade will obviously reformat my Raid 1 array where the OS is installed, but my concern is will it effect my Raid 5 array where my VM's are saved on?

My next question is related to backups of the VM's on the Raid 5 array.  I have never been able to get backups of the actual VM's datastore (I know they used to make backup products for ESXi free, but these had disappeared by the time I started using ESXi).  I am doing backups at the application level of my VM's, but would feel much better going into this if I had a backup of each VM.  I know I can gain access to the console via SSH but don't know much linux (not to mention where everything is saved and how I would even begin getting it off).  What are my options for backing up these VM's before I start this upgrade?
1 Solution
Miguel Angel Perez MuñozCommented:
All local disks will be formmated when setup 4.1 EXSi version. Better is, connect a NFS resource and copy virtual machines to this share, or using vmware converter to export virtual machines to another external disk.

I´m using a script to made backup of my virtual machines: http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-9843 It run on 4.1 and 3.5 and copy using snapshots all virtual machine. Don´t need to stop virtual machines to do this backup.
nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
The product you purchased includes the APIs to backup using VCB or VDDK. All you now need to do is purchase a backup software such as Arcserve Backup or Symantec Backup Exec. Make sure you also get the VMWare client agent modules.

There would be nu further need for Ghetto VCB now that you have licensed products.
making a backup of the vm is easy if the esx 4.1 server can browse to the datastore as you can just browse to the datastore and copy the vdmk off to another share or local drive
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nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
Ianth, it is not a wise idea to copy the guest while it is running via the datastore's browser.

The guest should be stopped if you want to do that. then again, if you want up time a method as I have suggested works best.

Keep in mind, if you try to copy via the datastore's browser, the bigger the guest vmdk, the longer it takes, which in turn translates to the longer the guest will need to be powered off and no connectivity for production.
yes but its if he wanted to do 4.1 ontop and shutdown the 3.5 server its viable
That isn't necessarily correct "Drashiel". The datastore RAID that houses the VMFS volume will *not* be reformatted if during the (re)install the poster chooses to NOT OVERWRITE THE VMFS VOLUME. The installation will 'see' the datastore and give you the opportunity to overwrite/reformat it or not. So, since 4.x has the same file system (VMFS3) as 3.x, you should be fine. That being said, I always recommend moving your VMs off of datastores during installs just in case you forget and wipe out the datastore. So, my suggestion is to move the VMs. Now, you can't move/copy the VMs while powered on as "IanTh" mentions...the files are 'locked' and thus the VMs need to be powered off to move them. You can use the Datastore Browser, or my suggestion is to use Veeam FastSCP (it's free: http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esxi-fastscp.html). Using FastSCP is a bit faster than using the Datastore Browser or WinSCP. You can download/install it on your local workstation, then add all your hosts, browse to the VMFS of each host and do simple rt-click/copy and rt-click/paste. If you're really wanting to keep your VMs up as much as possible, you can do a 'conversion/move' using vCenter Converter Standalone (http://downloads.vmware.com/d/info/datacenter_downloads/vmware_vcenter_converter_standalone/4_0). Once your VM(s) are converted/moved, power down the source/orig VM and power up the new/converted one.

For b/u solution, you have APIs as "nappy-d" mentions, with the Essentials product. So, you can purchase any of a number of VM backup solutions. My suggestion is Veeam Backup & Replication (best there is). Other options are vRanger, VCB, as well as the ones "nappy-d" suggests.

Hope that helps.

I would highly recommend a fresh install of ESXi 4.1 to a USB key. Most servers these days have an internal USB port to accomodate such an installation. Make sure you get a good quality USB drive for this. This type of install will leave your datastore untouched.

In your case with two seperate arrays with one for the OS and the other for the VMs - so long as you select the correct OS array for a fresh install, even if you don't choose not to format your VMs should be fine.

If you don't want to reconfigure everything an alternative would be the actual upgrade path. Download the "ESXi 4.1 (upgrade ZIP from ESXi 3.5)" from https://www.vmware.com/tryvmware/p/activate.php?p=free-esxi&lp=1, you will have to sign on in order to get this. Follow the upgrade guide (https://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere4/r41/vsp_41_upgrade_guide.pdf) starting about page 57 to perform the upgrade. You will need the vSphere CLI installed, and will use the vihostupdate facility to perform the upgrade.

As has been previously noted, and explicitly stated in the upgrade guide - Make sure you have good backups!

As for backups - I would concur with coolsport00 that Veeam certainly seems to be the most popular product out there for vm backups. Once you get a backup product in place I believe you may be able to revert your ESXi 3.5 server to evaluation mode for 7 days, that will open up the APIs Veeam needs to back up your existing VMs.

Good Luck
Luciano PatrãoICT Senior Infraestructure  Engineer  Commented:

I recommend that you do a fresh install and choose not to override the VMFS volume.

But I recommend that you create a full backup before any attempt.

celloneAuthor Commented:
Thank you to everyone for their input.  I have decided to give the points to coolsport00.
nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.Commented:
No recognition for the b/u options coolsport concurred with?
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