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I’ve already wrote about the different reasons on Why upgrade to VMware vSphere 6.7 (or why not), but I’ve not yet provide tips and hints on how perform the upgrade process.

If you are lucky enough to have a full VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) stack, then you don’t have much problem… the VCF Lifecycle Manager that can make your life easier (see also Simplify VMware’s products update/upgrade).

Otherwise you need to plan this activity carefully and perform different tasks, some manual, some automatic.

VMware provides a free eBook to learn how to easily plan for and execute the vSphere 6.7 upgrade process, including reference scenarios to help you more efficiently and successfully upgrade.

Hardware compatibility

First to all, you need to check the hardware compatibility for all this parts:

  • Physical server used by ESXi – Remember that vSphere 6.7 remove the support for some old CPU, but also be sure to check the BIOS and firmware level
  • I/O card on the physical server used by ESXi – In this case you need also to check the right match between firmware and drivers (note that you may need drivers

Software compatibility

Second you need to check the entire software stack compatibility… not only on the final state, but during the whole upgrade path, in each single step.

This can be tricky and also if you don’t have additional software components, can be challening also for vSphere only, because it requires a careful planning and attention on the different compatibility and interoperability matrix.

An important note is about the different build versions (or the Update releases) of the different components. For more information see: VMware vSphere upgrade note about the build versions

If you have more VMware products, then the vSphere upgrade part could be really later in the whole workflow. VMware has realized a great KB article that document the different steps: see KB 53710 (Update sequence for vSphere 6.7 and its compatible VMware products).

Remember also to check all third-party products, like backup software!

Learn about the new version

This sounds more about something trivial… but there are some changes that you need to know.

Expecially in the UI: you may come from the legacy vSphere Client for Windows (in C#) that was removed with vSphere 6.5 and now you have to use only web clients both for ESXi and vCenter management. But also if you came from the vSphere Web Client, you can now start learning on how use the new vSphere Client.

VMware plans to deprecate the Flash-based vSphere Web Client with the next numbered release (not update release) of vSphere. For more information see also Goodbye, vSphere Web Client!

Also there are a lot of new features that you may be interesting to know.

PSC and vCenter deployments

During the PSC and/or vCenter deployment phase you can choose to use the Windows based version (that require a Windows Server) or the appliance based version (vCSA) that have more features (starting with vSphere 6.5)

VMware has deprecated vCenter Server (and the PSC) for Windows with the release of vSphere 6.7. The next version of vSphere (not update release) will not include vCenter Server for Windows. For more information see also Farewell, vCenter Server for Windows.

For this reason this could be a perfect time to migrate your existing Windows based vCenter (and PSC) to the vCSA version.

Fortunately you can performa the platform migration and upgrade in a single step, thanks to the specific migrate function in the vCSA 6.7 ISO.

PSC and vCenter topologies

Starting with the release of vSphere 6.0, vCenter Server deployment has changed and it’s now possible to deploy two different components that together provide all services for the vCenter management platform.

  • The Platform Services Controller (PSC) that provides common infrastructure services for the datacenter.
  • The vCenter Server that provides the remainder of the vCenter Server functionality.

PSC  deployments options where internal (with the vCenter) or external and the main (initial) reason for external PSC deployment what to “share” it across multiple vCenter Server nodes, using the Enhanced Linked Mode capability.

If you have an external PSC topology, than remember that it will become an unsupported topology. For more information see External Platform Services Controller, A Thing of the Past.

Again the vCSA 6.7U1 ISO contains a useful tool to converge an external PSC to an embedded topology. But you need first to upgrade your PSC and vCenter first to version 6.7 Update 1.

Remember that the external PSC must all be upgraded before the vCenter.

ESXi hosts

To upgrade ESXi hosts there are different options, each with its own set of requirements or considerations.

You can use:

  • Interactive process with the installation ISO on a CD/DVD or USB drive (or on a ILO/iDRAC remote management card)
  • Unattended with vSphere Update Manager (VUM) – usually the simplest choice
  • Other way, like using esxcli command

Note that the upgrade process is totally different if you have an existing vSphere Auto Deploy environment.

Distribuited virtual switches

Before upgrading to vSphere 6.7, ensure that the Distributed Virtual Switches (DVS) have been upgraded to at least a 6.x version. Otherwise the upgrade will fail!

Take a backup of your DVS configuration before make any changes.

Also, if the vCenter in on the same cluster managed with DVS, consider to implement (if possible) and hybrid switches configuration with the ESXi management and vCenter portgroup on a standard virtual switch. This to improve the resiliency and reduce the dependencies. Of course if your ESXi have only two physical NIC, than this option is not possible

In-place upgrade or rebuild?

You can perform some kind of in-place upgrade of vSphere components, or think about a full rebuild of them. There are diffent pro and cons in both cases.

For ESXi you may need a full rebuild in those cases:

  • Hardware is not supported or you are changing the ESXi servers
  • VUM is not able to upgrade your ESXi host… for example for wrong unsupported VIB… in this case the rebuild could be se simplest option
  • You want to use the new ESXi features, like the secure boot, that require an EFI boot. And your server was configured with a standard BIOS boot.
  • Your ESXi cames from very old version and maybe they are no more upgradeble.

For vCenter and PSC remember that there isn’t a real in-place upgrade: both in the Windows migrate or in the vCSA upgrade cases, a new vCSA is build and the configuration in copied from the original (and old) system to the new one. But you still have the old system… that a perfec plan-B!

For DVS that in-place upgrade is the best option, but just keep a backup of your switches configuration, before and after the upgrade.

For VMFS there is no way to perform an in-place upgrade… you always need to build a new VMFS6 datastore and then move the VMs.