VMWare upgrade 5.1 -> 6.0 notes

In 2013, the fine folks at Interconnekt sold us a fine Dell PowerEdge T420 server to run VMWare and a bunch of virtual machines. VMWare came installed on a dual SD module, and this came in handy later. We quickly discovered that VMWare ESXi 5.1 has a RAM limit of 32GB, so we removed the other 32GB and sailed on.

Three years on, and we have bumped up against that limit, our VMs exhausting available supply. We could pare down our use on some machines, but knowing there is an upgrade available and some DIMMs in the cupboard, I’m upgrading.

Dell recommend their customised version of VMWare, so I downloaded that through the Drivers & Downloads part of their website. I was stumped finding the link for a while, but eventually found I had to ‘change OS’ from Windows to VMWare, and found it under Enterprise Solutions. There is nothing to suggest skipping 5.5 is a bad idea, so I grabbed 6.0 and burned it to CD.

Backup the VMs

I installed ghettoVCB and did a test backup run of all machines:

$ wget -O ghettoVCB.vib https://github.com/lamw/ghettoVCB/blob/master/vghetto-ghettoVCB.vib?raw=true
$ scp ghettoVCB.vib root@server:
esxi # esxcli software vib install -v /ghettoVCB.vib
 [DependencyError]
 VIB virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0 violates extensibility rule checks: [u'(line 23: col 0) Element vib failed to validate content']
 VIB virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0's acceptance level is community, which is not compliant with the ImageProfile acceptance level partner
 To change the host acceptance level, use the 'esxcli software acceptance set' command.
 Please refer to the log file for more details.
esxi # esxcli software vib install -v /ghettoVCB.vib -f
Installation Result
   Message: Operation finished successfully.
   Reboot Required: false
   VIBs Installed: virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0
   VIBs Removed: 
   VIBs Skipped: 

GhettoVCB creates a snapshot, does a backup of that snapshot, then deletes the snapshot. It fails if a snapshot already exists.

esxi # vim /etc/ghettovcb/ghettoVCB.conf
esxi # /opt/ghettovcb/bin/ghettoVCB.sh -a -c /etc/ghettovcb/ghettoVCB.conf -l /ghettoVCB-`date +%Y%m%d`.log

Some VMs had old unused snapshots, and some were in an old format, probably from when they were copied across from previous versions of ESXi. Therefore those backups failed. Right click, upgrade VM worked. Delete old snapshots. A successful test backup took 24 hours to our NAS – slow, but that’s okay in this case.

I didn’t want to manage changes in the event of failure, so I shutdown all VMs before running the actual backup. 24 hours later, I was ready to upgrade ESXi and install more RAM.

Upgrade ESXi to 6.0.0 Update 2

I put ESXi in maintenance mode so it wouldn’t automatically boot VMs on next boot. I first wanted to see that all is well. Shutdown ESXi, physically removed all HDDs and network cable from NAS – for paranoia’s sake, boot up with the CD I previously burned. Select upgrade and the dual SD module. Dammit, the upgrade failed because there’s a CommunitySupported VIB installed – ghettoVCB! Boot up, remove it:

esxi # esxcli software vib remove --vibname=ghettoVCB

Shutdown and boot the CD again. The upgrade was simple as can be, and for interest I timed it: 8 minutes of processing time. ESXi boots, complains about missing HDDs, and works just fine.

I’d heard of another benefit that I am now going to realise: I don’t have to boot my Windows VM to run vSphere Client any more! I might still for some things, because web clients sometimes suck, but not having to is great.

Install 4 x 8GB 2Rx4 1333MHz RAM DIMMs

Now, on to the RAM upgrade. The machine is nicely laid out, with easy access to the DIMMs. Naturally I want to put two of my DIMMs into each bank of slots, but where? There are two used in each out of six. The information panel on the case was helpful but not conclusive. Over to the Owner’s Manual.

“Populate all sockets with white release tabs first and then black.”
“Advanced ECC mode extends SDDC from x4 DRAM based DIMMs to both x4 and x8 DRAMs”
“Memory Optimized (Independent Channel) Mode … supports SDDC only for memory modules that use x4 device width and does not impose any specific slot population requirements”

A bit of discussion led me to believe that I should just place them closes to the CPU and with x4 DIMMs it didn’t make a lot of difference. It worked. Sadly I left out the big plastic baffle from the case when I reassembled – not a huge problem, but I need to schedule another outage to reinstall it.

Job done. I’m happy.

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