The Upgrade Process From vCenter 5.1 to 5.5

After a long period of slacking off and avoiding upgrading my lab to vCenter 5.5 – mainly so I can wait for a few more bug fixes to slip into the GA release – I finally took the plunge to vCenter 5.5.0b (build 1476387) . You can view a sped up version of the upgrade in the video above, which goes through the process to update the SSO, Web Client, Inventory Service, and vCenter components. I’ll provide some additional details here around my environment and the upgrade process.

vCenter 5.1 Configuration

Happy times are here again
Happy times are here again

I’m a rather huge proponent of creating realistic environments, even in a lab, but resource constraints don’t always allow for this with everyone’s environment. My lab’s vCenter environment mainly consists of these three servers:

  1. vCenter Server 5.1 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 (fully patched)
    • This server also runs VMware Update Manager (VUM) and all vCenter roles (SSO, Inventory, and Web Client)
  2. SQL 2008 R2 Enterprise running on Windows Server 2008 R2 (also fully patched)
  3. A Domain Controller running on Windows Server 2008 R2 (as you may have guessed – fully patched)

This is about as real world as I can make it within the confines of a single HP N40L G7 Microserver (which I use for vSphere management). If I had an unlimited budget and space, I’d step up to a pair of the new HP Gen8 Microservers to allow for N+1, but it just isn’t in the cards at the moment. All of my vCenter related services run on their own service account that has the required level of privileges.

My 5.1 environment used a single “standalone” installation of SSO 5.1. I didn’t see any reason to mess around with Linked Mode (I never liked it even at work) or the really wonky caveats that came with HA and Multisite in SSO 5.1.

Post-Installation Considerations

Welcome to 5.5 :)
Welcome to 5.5 🙂

I had a bit of a brain lapse on what to use as the new SSO password, since my previous one no longer seems to fulfill the complexity requirements. I ended up using KeePass to generate a new one using a new key generation profile – mainly one that forces an upper, lower, number, and special character – and typing it in. But I also felt that including this in the video might help others cross that hump. 🙂

For the vCenter Server service installation, I end up using my generic “Chris” account and then flip over to my service account afterwards – if I had thought about it, I should have just “run as” the entire installer as my service account. To remedy, I stopped the vCenter Server service and swapped out my Chris account for the service account. No big deal, really, but something that you should be mindful about.

One other thing I did was upgrade VUM to 5.5. It was basically a next-next-finish sort of thing, and I didn’t feel it was worth including in the video. I always make sure to upgrade VUM to match vCenter.

By your powers combined, I am vCenter Server!
By your powers combined, I am vCenter Server!

Thoughts

The 5.5.0b installation is impressively simple. Realistically, the only thing I found to be new compared to the older 5.5 beta installation was the GUI sleekness to the installer. The entire process took about 45 minutes, mainly due to the processor limitations on my management vSphere host. I think it would be more like 20 minutes on a solid vSphere host with more CPU horsepower. Kudos to VMware on a fantastically simple and smooth installer (although I still refuse to ever use the “simpler installer” ever again after 5.1).

Make sure to complete your backups prior to doing an upgrade. Seriously. Backups are not an optional step – there is no other rollback. Snap or backup your vCenter Server and related role servers, including their databases, and read the product installation and upgrade guides before you do anything in production.