Updating Your vSphere Host is Simple, What About The Underlying Foundation First

31 03 2014

So you see the post from VMware (or insert any other OS you want here) and you say man I have to have that and I need it now! So you go out download it upgrade your host to the latest and greatest you are the cool kid on the block right? Wrong what you have just done is what every other Joe Blow on the planet would do, haphazardly go into something without regards to whether the foundation is ready for the new OS. Have you considered the implications of all the associated applications you are running? Like SRM, RecoverPoint, Avamar, Networker, Backup Exec, Trend Micro Deep Security, Symantec heck even Microsoft you just do not know what the upgrade is going to break. So this post is not going to be about all the associated applications you could break by doing a code upgrade haphazardly, no it starts back at the most basic thing Firmware.

Firmware you say… Jason you have lost your ever loving mind haven’t you? Everyone knows you do not mess with firmware once it’s running don’t go poking the bear are you crazy? Well I will have to say that I am slightly off kilter I mean heck I work in the technology field you have to be a little off kilter to push the envelope and try new and different ways to do things. Over the past few weeks I have seen this scenario play out at a number of customer’s sites we deal with and also those out of the blue customers that are like oh snap this is messed up who do I call? I am going to keep this post as neutral as possible but I will disclose that I work with UCS a good amount and I have worked with Dell, HP, IBM chassis systems too.

So let’s say you want to embrace going to ESXi 5.5 what in the world do you need to consider before you even get to installing or upgrading the first host?

1.) Does your SAN need to be upgraded to support the Operating System ( I put this first because this is probably going to take the most coordination)

2.) Are there any caveats for the Routing and Switching involved between your host and or SAN Fabric

· For instance are you using Cisco Nexus 1KV chances are you’re probably going to need to upgrade it

· How about those SAN Fiber Channel Switches bet it has probably been forever since you have upgraded it

· Core Switching involved I am sure it’s on the latest stable code release that the manufacture recommends right

3.) Moving up the stack into the Chassis does the Chassis firmware need to be upgraded?

· So if you have UCS what version of USCM are you running?

· Dell what version of CMC are you running?

· HP Onboard Administrator

· IBM Chassis Management Module

4.) Are there any update to the inner components to the chassis like maybe the firmware between the chassis and the slots for instance in a Dell Chassis. How about after you upgrade UCSM upgrading the IOMS? You get the idea…

5.) Now here is where it really starts getting squirrelly let’s say you are not using something like UCS where they have IOMS that connect the chassis to the Fabric Interconnects. Let’s say you are using a full fledge switch in your chassis then you are really going to want to look at upgrading the code that is running in that switch because you are upgrading all the components around it and lord only knows what effect it can have on things. This is where redundancy comes into play big time! Hopefully, you did not skimp on switches and NICS in your servers and you have true redundancy otherwise you’re going to be scheduling some down time for this upgrade.

6.) Just to clarify, step 5 addresses Route Switch inside the chassis. This step addresses if you have Fiber Switching built into your chassis then the same is going to be said for the code that is running on your FC Switches. Hopefully, your are not ISL’d between fabrics because otherwise then you have to take the code of the switches you are ISL’d with into account as they may need to be upgraded as well.

ALL THIS FOR JUST UPGRADING YOUR HOST TO A DIFFERENT OS!! Yep and wait there is more….

7.) Depending on the Manufacture you might be able to schedule updates for each Host inside the chassis for all the firmware that needs to be updated on the host in that chassis. I can remember back in the early M1000E days when it came out I had a bunch of M600’s and when the M620’s came out it was like ohh yay new stuff then I plugged it into the Chassis then I found out oh I need to do all the above steps before I can even get this to work. Mannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…… So the firmware updates for the host might include Remote Access Controller, BIOS, NIC Firmware, Controller Firmware, HD firmware updates if you have HD’s in your server. Check out your manufactures site they all are really good about showing you what exactly need to be upgraded to what levels to support a specific OS.

8.) Does my Multi-pathing software work with the newer version of the OS? IE: PowerPath (EMC), Dynamic Multipathing (Symantec)..fill in your favorite here

9.) Do you use a Hypervisor Antivirus product like Trend Micro for instance does it work with the newer version of the OS

10.) How about your backup software if you are doing guest level backups does the agent work with the OS version, if your are doing Image level backups does it work with your backup software

This list is no means all-encompassing it is merely just a shell to get you thinking about some things that really need to be considered and planned out prior to just loading up something new and throwing it into production. I have always been cool with testing stuff in a lab if it is available and I have the time, but I am realist some people do not have the time or the equipment to lab things out. So in that case I always go with if I set this up it could be production tomorrow so might as well do it right the first time. So really what we are talking about here is the foundation that runs your environment making sure you lay a solid foundation so everything else can excel!

As one of my co-workers (Alex Medina) so eloquently pointed out in a workshop we were doing one day…. “He asked everyone to close their eyes and picture your dream house. He then said open up your eyes, and asked everyone who imagined their foundation being built? Most of you envisioned the details and the wish lists but I am sure no one pictured the foundation being built the right way and without a good foundation, nothing you envisioned would be possible.” This is so true with a poor foundation no matter what you do after a poor foundation everything else is going to suffer. Take into account that you need to check your Foundation (Infrastructure) to make sure it supports the rest of the house (OS, Applications ).

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