VMware vSphere 5 and Update Manager Bliss






This is a follow-up blog post to a write up I did last year on upgrading your virtual hardware.  The post I did was really trying to show people how easy the virtual hardware to version 7 was, and that despite it being a manual effort, it wasn’t all that painful.  There have been several other write-ups in the community that cover how to automate this task to save you time and effort.  In the end, there was no easy automated way to accomplish this task that was officially supported.

There are so many great new features that are being released with vSphere 5 that some of the small stuff might get missed.  As a former VI admin, this is one of the small ones that can’t be overlooked for those of you in the trenches.  There is another new feature that is introduced with vSphere 5 called “VMware Auto Deploy” that somewhat competes with VUM from a ESX deployment methodology.  If you would like to learn more about Auto Deploy, check out Gabe’s write-up here.


In a Nutshell

  • VUM can be used to upgrade your ESX 3.x hosts and vSphere 4 hosts to 5.0 (3.x makes a pit stop at 4)
  • VUM can be used to upgrade your vSphere “Classic” hosts to ESXi
  • VUM can now remediate multiple ESX hosts at the same time rather than queuing up (think multi-threaded)
  • VUM can automatically upgrade VMtools at a scheduled maintenance window
  • VUM can automatically upgrade Virtual Hardware at a scheduled maintenance window
  • VUM can no longer be used to patch guest operating systems
  • VUM requires a Windows Operating system and can not be installed on the VMware vCenter Server Appliance
  • VUM can automatically upgrade your Virtual Hardware from version 4 or 7 to version 8 (vSphere 5)


Update Manager to the rescue

You can now use vSphere Update Manager to perform orchestrated upgrades to upgrade the virtual hardware and VMware Tools of virtual machines in the inventory at the same time.  Not only can you use VMware update Manager (VUM) to upgrade your ESX hosts to version 5 you can also leverage it assist with the hundreds of VM’s you need to address as part of the upgrade process!  This is a huge time saver and will help eliminate configuration drift across your environment, as I am sure your virtual infrastructure has only grown bigger since the last time we went through this. 

Let’s walk through what this process looks like, and how you can now configure update manager to accomplish this.  I am going to assume you have already setup or upgraded your Virtual Center to version 5, and you have also updated or installed VUM 5.

Automate the VMware Tools upgrade

The first step in upgrading your virtual infrastructure is to crate a plan of attack.  Most of my customers group their virtual machines by applications or by lines of business.  This typical grouping won’t lend itself well to our virtual machine updating that we need to do.  I suggest creating a few folders in the “VM’s and Templates” view that you can use to help facilitate this upgrade.  As you can see below I created three different folders that you can use to temporarily move the vm’s into for their scheduled maintenance.   I suggest creating different upgrade windows that you will attach to these three folders (after getting change management approval of course!).  Yes there is downtime required for this process!



For each of these folders you are going to want to configure it to apply the VMware Tools upgrade first.  You can see below that this option is selected for my first patch management window.



After I have selected my VMware Tools upgrade, I can now scan the VM’s that I have moved into this folder to discover which ones need be upgraded.



Now you want to select “Remediate” on the new baseline that we have configured.  You will be prompted to create a schedule for the VMware Tools installation as shown in the capture below.  I have configured my first VMtools patching to occur at 2:20 a.m.



VMware Update Manager gives you the option of taking a snapshot prior to the tools upgrade in case something goes sideways during the upgrade procedure.  Here you can also select if you want to retain your snapshots or have VUM remove the snapshots after a configured period of time (hours):



Automate the Virtual Hardware upgrade

Now let’s run through the same process again, this time we are going to select the “VM Hardware Upgrade” which will then bring your VMware virtual machine hardware version up to version 8.  As I mentioned above, you can be running at either version 7 or even version 4 for VUM to update your virtual hardware.


Same as before, but this time make sure you stagger your virtual hardware upgrade for 30-40 minutes later:



Same options as before, feel free to take snapshots of the vm’s in case you need to revert for some reason.  Be aware, if you are doing snapshots across hundreds of virtual machines, you should consider the disk space that they will be consuming in both the short and long term.


Below you can see in the recent tasks that our upgrades are taking place automatically which should give you some of your personal time back to do other more important things in your environment.





Leverage VMware Update Manager as part of your upgrade path to vSphere 5.  Automation is critical as your virtual environment continues to grow exponentially.  I haven’t spoken with one customer that is hiring more VMware engineers to their team, so we need to leverage tools/technology to automate whenever possible.

Hope this helps!


The calm after the storm – My take on vRAM

** I have modified this post to include the updated licensing changes announced 8-3-2011, as well as the link to Alan’s updated PowerShell script.  The video clip has not been updated, the concept is the same only the number have changed.  Enjoy!


***Disclaimer – I am a VMware employee and receive paychecks that have the word VMware stamped on them.  My thoughts are my own but if you are afraid of an employee’s opinion, run away now!



A lot of big announcements have taken place over the past week from VMware.  We had our largest launch event in history and announced to the world that our flagship product “vSphere 5“ is being released.  We also announced many other product updates and releases like SRM 5, vShield 5,  vCD 1.5 and an updated release of heartbeat for Virtual Center.  Loads and loads of exciting new features and functionality to allow you to run your mission critical workloads on the worlds #1 hypervisor.

I wanted to do a factual write-up on what has changed, hopefully explain it better since there seems to be a lot of misconceptions, and also give you my take on what I am seeing from my customer base.  For those of you that don’t know my background, I came from a customer environment where I designed and implemented VMware in a large scale deployment.  I then decided to convert to the dark side and go work for a vendor (VMware) so I actually have some perspective to offer from both sides of the fence.  Now that we are one week out from the new licensing change, I thought I would share some thoughts.


What is vRAM?

One of the changes that came along with a lot of exciting new features was the new vRAM licensing model.  VMware has decided to move away form the core based model to a “consumed virtual ram” model across the entire environment.  For those of you that are unsure of how the current vSphere 4.x licensing model works today, I have embedded a chart here to help you understand the core limitations as well as the features and functionality between the versions.




Below is the new vSphere 5 pricing comparison which also includes a feature/functionality breakout.  As you can see it lists the new vRAM entitlements and how much pooled vRAM you are allotted  per socket.  Notice we have removed the core limitations around the physical processors, and lifted the memory limitation from a physical perspective.



Your current licenses will be converted to the correct vRAM allocation model depending on the version of vSphere that you are paying maintenance on.   VMware has provided a power shell script to assist you with determining the amount of vRAM you have available to you when you decide to upgrade your environment.  My suggestion is to download the power shell script from VMware’s Alan Renouf that will automatically calculate this information for you.

I decided to put together a quick video link that discusses vRAM in a little more detail, and gives you an example of what this pooled model looks like across a 3 node cluster.  Watch the video below:



My thoughts

There has been a lot of emotional responses around this topic over the past week, which is understandable.  VMware has the best user community of any software company I have ever seen.  There are several reasons for this in my opinion.  VMware has made great impacts on our customer environments from a datacenter consolidation perspective.  We have allowed our customers to run more efficiently, do more with less, and enabled them to become hero’s for their internal customers by offering them agility.  We have also given them a portion of their lives back from an administrative perspective. 

I was one of these end users that came in to fix systems at all hours of the night when the hardware went south.  I was responsible for deploying hundreds and hundreds of physical servers that eventually consumed all of my time from a maintenance perspective.  VMware technology gave me my personal life back, and allowed me to start doing mundane maintenance tasks during the day!  Storage vMotion allowed me to retire 3 older storage array’s (30+ TB) that were at the end of life, and move them to newer technology with no downtime,  during the middle of the day!  I believe there is a personal component to all of this, and part of this is what makes the community such a strong force.

The goal of this article is to educate people, and give you my perspective.  It is not intended to defend VMware’s position or try and convince you why vRAM should make you sleep easier at night.  VMware has spent the past two years working internally and externally with customers to try and determine a fair licensing model that works for everyone.  The current model will not scale with the quickly changing hardware landscape driving core counts exponentially.  A handful of my customers are already having to double up on licenses as they are at vSphere Enterprise and are being restricted on the number of core’s.  I think the model is a fair one and as you walk through it hopefully you will see the logic behind why VMware had to make this change, to better support our users and the community.

Tom’s Picks for VMWorld 2011 – Speaker Recommendations


Over the past few VMWorld events, I have sent a list of speaker recommendations to my customers outlining some of my personal picks for the sessions I think would be the best to attend based on either my direct experience with the speaker, through personal relationship, or presenting with them at another event. I have combed through all of the speaker sessions, and chosen only the ones that I know (IMHO) who are “golden” in technical knowledge or presentation skills! Try not to miss the ones marked “Highly Recommended” as they are sessions that have an extraordinary speaker or topic.

Remember, the standard disclaimer applies: These are my own picks (not those of VMware, and not meant to be exclusive of the many other talented presenters and contributors) so your mileage may vary! BTW, stop by the Hands-On Lab at both Vegas and Copenhagen this year to say hi, since that is where I will be living with my other Lab Captains!