Using VMware Update Manager to upgrade ESX/ESXi 4 to ESXi 5

Today I spent some time configuring and testing upgrading some ESX and ESXi 4 hosts using VUM. We’ve got a project coming up that will involve upgrading about ten remote hosts. Being connected via relatively low WAN links I was unsure how well this would work, hence my testing in the office :-). Luckily our office has the same speed link as most of our remote sites so it provided a good test scenario.

We had a few dev/test hosts not doing much so I chose one ESX and one ESXi install, both on HP DL385 G6 hardware. Both had different patch revisions and had old HP offline bundle extensions installed, further making them a good cross section of variables.

The first thing that was required was to upload the ESXi 5 image into VUM via the Admin View. The ESXi Images tab contains a link that you click to import an ESXi Image. This allows you to select an ESXi ISO image and import it into the VUM patch database. Once this has been uploaded you can now create an upgrade baseline using this image.

Remember that this type of baseline must be set as a Host Upgrade before you can select the ESXi image.

Now that you have a baseline you can apply this to a baseline group or host directly. From the Update Manager tab within the host view you can attach this baseline or baseline group and scan the host to check for compliance against this baseline.

All going well you should have a Non-compliant baseline meaning that the host upgrade is compatible but not currently applied to the host.

Clicking remediate will initialise the remediation wizard as shown below.

Working through the wizard you need to accept the EULA before you come to the next important step. Here you can select whether any incompatible third-party extensions are removed before remediation. Select this if you have extensions such as the HP offline bundles that I have on my HP hosts. Bear in mind that the upgrade procedure is not reversible!

Any host extensions that you require after the upgrade can either be integrated into the ESXi image using the custom image builder or applied as a separate remediation task using VUM. I chose the latter because I didn’t have time to create a custom image 😛

Continuing through the remaining options you can finally chose to remediate the host. For me this process took about 20 minutes over a 10mb WAN link.

When the host remediation has completed you should be presented with an upgraded 5.0 host! Yay! One thing to note is that the host will require re-licensing which is simply done via the Licenses option within the vSphere client.

A few things I did encounter were not major but things to keep in mind. My ESX host upgrade at first appeared to fail but was actually the result of the temporary host license having expired. I was able to apply a new license and reconnect the host. The next thing I noticed was a host alarm saying that system logging was not enabled on my host.

After a bit of reading I found that under the Advanced host settings the syslog default datastore location for logs ( was blank! Setting this to []/scratch/log fixed the issue. If a different datastore location for your logs is desired this can be changed, for example: [mydatastore]/logs.

After all this I had two fully functional ESXi 5 hosts that were both previously ESX and ESXi 4!

One last thing to remember is to upgrade any VMFS volumes to v5. This can be done online and takes a matter of seconds from the datastore view or host storage view. Take note that any existing block size will be retained, whereas a new VMFS datastore will be created with a 1MB block size always.

The next step as I mentioned earlier is to apply any host extensions. In my case I applied my HP offline bundles (make sure you select the baseline as a host extension) and now I can see all my hardware on the Hardware Status tab 🙂

You can normally tell when the HP bundles aren’t applied as you only see a basic list of hardware and does not show components such as the Storage and iLo devices.

Anyway, hope this helps! Thanks for reading.

About Ben Loveday
My name is Ben Loveday and I am working as a Systems Architect in New Zealand. I have a keen interest in VMware products and are VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA and Microsoft MCITP certified. I am studying towards VCDX5 certification…I hope! My areas of focus are the virtualisation of manufacturing automation systems with the aim to improve traditional automation/SCADA system design and improve their availability and reliability. I am married with three kids and my hobbies include playing the guitar (less often than I’d like) and listening to music, mostly 80′s Metal and Rock/Blues :-) Oh..and I'm a PC gamer!

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