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VMware vSphere upgrade method, 4.1 to 5.5

I'm looking for a basic outline of steps to take in my VMware environment upgrade.

I have three licensed ESXi 4.1 hosts in a vCenter, they are in a single cluster. The vCenter server is a VM running Windows 2008 R2, vCenter Server 4.1 with the database in SQL 2008 Express. The vCenter is part of our Microsoft Active Directory domain and we are using AD based authentication. I only have 31 VM's spread across these three hosts, all of which are on a iSCSI SAN.

Then we have five more unlicensed hosts (one if which is on our LAN, rest are on our WAN at other sites with only a 6 Mbit link), three are running ESXi 4.1 and two running 5.5. The local host is connected to our SAN and all of its VM's are on the SAN. The other four hosts on the WAN are of course not connected to our SAN.

We just bought new licensing for all eight hosts to move up to ESXi 5.x and one license for vCenter Server 5.x. I'm trying to decide the easiest way to get our vCenter to 5.5 and getting our hosts onto it.

I want to use the pre-built vCenter Server 5.5 appliance running in Linux. I'm not sure if I want to just create a new vCenter and bring all the hosts in, or try to move the vCenter server 4.1 database over to the new vCenter server 5.5 virtual appliance. I'm thinking just starting fresh might be easier, but that won't allow me to maintain uptime for our VM's because I won't be able to vMotion them from one vCenter to the other.

I've been going through VMware documentation but I'd really appreciate some advice from VMware users who may have already done this type of upgrade. I have so many projects on my plate and users to support, I just don't have time to go through all these articles and decide a way to go.
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LittleJohn101
Asked:
LittleJohn101
1 Solution
 
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
The easiest and most straightforward method, is to deploy a new vCenter Server 5.5 based on the Linux Appliance.

That's job one done.

You can then remove and disconnect all your hosts from the current vCenter Server, and then add them to the new vCenter 5.5 Server, so they can all be managed by a single vCenter 5.5 server.

NO harm will come to any of the VMs, and the VMs will continue running.

Then, what to do next, check your hardware is supported to upgrade to ESXi 5.5.

Move all the VMs off the ESXi host to be upgrade.

You then have two choices

1. Use VMware Update Manager (which you would have to install on a seperate Windows Server, because it's not inlcuded with Linux Appliance!), and update 4.1 to 5.5.

OR

2.  Use the CDROM Installer, in each server, to perform an upgrade.

OR

3. Use the CDROM installer, in each server, to perform a NEW INSTALL.

I would recommend and opt for 3. Fresh ESXi install.

Make sure if you are using HP, Dell, IBM, or Fujitsu servers, you use the OEM versions of ESXi available from the vendors websites.

ALSO, make sure you perform firmware upgrades on all servers before upgrading or install ESXi 5.5.

Lastly check...

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists HCL here

The VMware Hardware Compatibility List is the detailed lists showing actual vendor devices that are either physically tested or are similar to the devices tested by VMware or VMware partners. Items on the list are tested with VMware products and are known to operate correctly.Devices which are not on the list may function, but will not be supported by VMware.

http://www.vmware.com/go/hcl

This is how we complete it, every day of the week!
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LittleJohn101Author Commented:
Excellent response, thank you for the information.
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