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!


  1. Automating virtual hardware updates?  …uh, yeah, you go ahead and do that.  AD, Exchange, SharePoint, etc all use GUIDs that are burried pretty deep in their installations, and when the NICs change, so do the GUIDs. 

    With that said, all of the other stuff looks great though.

    1. If your VMs are already at hardware version 7 (and your NICs are type VMXNET 3), the upgrade to hardware version 8 is a piece of cake.

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