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Upgrade VMWare Hosts from 5.1 to 5.5 when using High Availabilty

Posted on 2014-10-17
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Last Modified: 2014-10-17
We have a VM 5.1 environment with 2 hosts configured with HA.  We need to upgrade to 5.5 to address some PSOD issues that are known by VM and supposedly resolved with 5.5.  VM Tech Support has advised it as better to upgrade than to workaround.  We have successfully upgraded vCenter to version 5.5 but are hard pressed to find any upgrade guidelines pertaining to HA and how to upgrade with HA in mind.  Since this is a small 2 host environment we would like to do an Interactive Upgrade with CD/USB iso instead of using Update Manager.

Is there guidelines/best practices documentation out there or can anyone give guidance who has done an upgrade when HA is active?  Is it as simple as one of these procedures?

1. Do we just shutdown VM Guests, putting both servers into Maintenance mode and upgrade them?
2. Do we remove HA then upgrade as if a normal 2 host environment?
3. Does the upgrade utility recognize HA and deal with it automatically?
4. Do both VM Hosts have to be upgraded before they are both brought back online or can we all HA to fail all Guests over to one, upgrade the other and then failover to upgrade the 2nd?

As you can see there are many things that come into play with HA, which is why it surprises me that there is no reference to it in the upgrade docs.
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Question by:Beratung
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Accepted Solution

by:
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 500 total points
ID: 40387138
VMware HA *ONLY* comes into play on an un-controlled shutdown.

When you turn off/restart a Host with HA Active, that's controlled!

Enter Maintenance Mode on the Host to be Upgraded, and that's not an un-controlled shutdown, or failure, so HA will do nothing.

1. Do we just shutdown VM Guests, putting both servers into Maintenance mode and upgrade them?

No, I would not do it like, that - Select a Host put it into Maintenance Mode, and Upgrade, I'll show you how quickly later.

2. Do we remove HA then upgrade as if a normal 2 host environment?

I'm afraid, also no, I would leave HA in place, the Agent will be upgraded, when it's connected back to vCenter Server, on restart of Host, e.g. you have to do nothing!

3. Does the upgrade utility recognize HA and deal with it automatically?

Yes, see 2 (infact vCenter deploys the Agent, based on version of Host!)

4. Do both VM Hosts have to be upgraded before they are both brought back online or can we all HA to fail all Guests over to one, upgrade the other and then failover to upgrade the 2nd?

No, both will work together with different host versions, in vCenter 5.5. Yes that's how you simply do it!

As you can see there are many things that come into play with HA, which is why it surprises me that there is no reference to it in the upgrade docs.

It's so simply.....

A. Pick A Host
B. Enter Maintenance Mode
C. Oh, Read My (Andy's) EE Article....
(don't both with USB/ISO CDROM!)

HOW TO: Upgrade from VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.1 to VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.5 for FREE

I estimate you'll be done in less than 60 minutes!
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Author Comment

by:Beratung
ID: 40387165
Andy,

So if I understand you correctly I can or should:

1. Focus on one host at a time
2. Go to Host 1 and shutdown all VM's under that host
3. Put Host 1 into Maintenance mode
4. Restart and boot from 5.5 ISO
5. Run migration/upgrade
6. Bring Host 1 back up and out of Maintenance Mode
7. Start up VM's under Host 1
2. Go to Host 2 and shutdown all VM's under that host
3. Put Host 2 into Maintenance mode
4. Restart and boot from 5.5 ISO
5. Run migration/upgrade
6. Bring Host 2 back up and out of Maintenance Mode
7. Start up VM's under Host 2
8. Verify HA is healthy

That cover it from a high level?  Do you suggest backing anything up on the host itself prior to the upgrade?
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LVL 119
ID: 40387223
2. Go to Host 1 and shutdown all VM's under that host

Shutdown or Move to other hosts (vMotion), but you cannot update with live VMs!

4. Restart and boot from 5.5 ISO

Did you not see my EE Article ?

No need for CDROM, Booting Server, just apply the update to the host.

That cover it from a high level?  Do you suggest backing anything up on the host itself prior to the upgrade?

If you organisation or you have Good IT Practices, you should ensure *YOU ALWAYS* have backups before doing any work on Production Systems!
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Author Comment

by:Beratung
ID: 40387235
Thanks.  Final questions:

1. Why are you against the ISO approach to upgrade?  With Dell iDrac you can mount network shares as media to the hardware and boot from it.  Very easy and the process in the past on single host upgrades ran very fast.  It is what I am use to and I kind of error on doing what I know if it is not objectionable.
2. Yes I agree with your Good IT Practices and we have backups of all of the VM Guests, but my question was specific to the Host OS/Configuration.  Should we back up anything up specific to that or is that not necessary considering this is HA?  Or should we back up something to preserve the HA setup?  In my experience HA is removable and restorable on its own fairly easily.  If we should back up the Host config what is the best way to do that in this case?  I saw your "easy backup" of VM Guests, which we don't need since we are doing full backups of the VM Guests.  Anything specific to the Host itself?
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LVL 119
ID: 40387274
1. Slow, and on occasions users make mistakes and WIPE their OS, and re-install a new version! Upgrades can fail using ISO. Also get into the habit of applying patches/updates/upgrades this way, because NOT all patches ship on a CDROM.

2. You don't backup your host config, at least on a weekly basis!

see here

VMware KB: Backing up and restoring ESXi configuration ...
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Author Comment

by:Beratung
ID: 40387309
1. Makes sense.  Will pursue that approach.
2. I wasn't 100% clear.  I meant specific to HA.  

I just got off the phone with VMware TS and they confirm that although HA resides and lives on the host, vCenter handles all of the upgrading and backups of vCenter would handle the HA restoration if there was a problem.  That is what I suspected since vCenter handles configuration and initialization of HA but none of that seems to be documented anywhere.

Thanks for you help.
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