Today's topic is another good one which covers VMware technology, and particularly the patching and upgrades. We'll learn What is VMware vSphere Update Manager and some basic principles to use this free tool, which is part of vCenter. As you know, patching and upgrades are not always the most favorite occupation of any VMware admin. Things can break, stops working or get you into an uncomfortable situation.
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Since several releases, VMware develops a unified solution which “sits” inside of VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) and which is called vSphere Update Manager (VUM). Update Manager enables centralized, automated patch and version management for VMware vSphere, ESXi hosts and Virtual machines (VMs).
This wasn't always the case. vSphere 6.0 and especially VCSA has had a “problem” not including VMware Update Manager (VUM) inside of the appliance. Problem solved with VCSA 6.5 where the VUM is “baked” in. So you no longer need Windows VM for your VUM and you don’t need to look after an additional DB, dependency or backup management of VUM as VUM is now part of VCSA 6.5.
You can use VUM to patch your environment and have the same level of patches (or upgrades) deployed to all hosts whether they are part of your VMware cluster or not. The process will usually be as follow:
- Import the patches from an online repository source or from a ZIP file
- Create a new baseline (name it ESXi 6.5 for example)
- Change to Compliance View and Attach this new baseline.
- Put the host into a maintenance mode.
- Then do a Scan > Remediate and the process will update the host and then reboots the server.
When you're running VMware cluster, the process uses a circular approach where each of the hosts within a cluster will be put into a maintenance mode, patched, rebooted until all the host within the cluster are updated. All this automatically. Very useful in a larger environment.
VMware vSphere Update Manager is a software for upgrading, migrating, updating, and patching clustered hosts, virtual machines, and guest operating systems. Update Manager orchestrates host and virtual machine upgrades. If your site uses vCenter Server, VMware recommends that you use Update Manager.
Using vSphere Update Manager, you can perform an orchestrated upgrade. Orchestrated upgrades allow you to upgrade the objects in your vSphere inventory in a two-step process: host upgrades, followed by virtual machine upgrades.
The process now works also with VMware vSAN which has been added to VUM, so it is possible to patch clusters running VMware vSAN.
To update the vSAN cluster you can use the remediate feature of Update Manager. The Remediate wizard offers several options to customize the upgrade:
- Select the desired hosts as the target of your remediation.
- Schedule the upgrade to run immediately or at a later date and time.
- Specify Maintenance Mode options (i.e. VM power state, removable media handling and ESXi patch settings).
- Specify cluster remediation options. When remediating a cluster, you should temporarily disable certain cluster features. Update Manager will automatically re-enable the features after remediation.
Update Manager will then do what's called a rolling upgrade of each host. It will migrate your VMs to other hosts during the upgrade.
Some folks might simply be asking what is this term called baseline?
What is a baseline?
In order to upgrade a host(s) in your vSphere environment, you must create a host upgrade baseline. For the sake of simplicity, we'll talk here only about host upgrade baselines (there are also virtual machine baselines and virtual appliance baselines). vSphere Update Manager (VUM) has also custom baselines and those are the baselines you create.
Before creating new upgrade baseline, you need to import an ESXi image first. You can do so by going and to Connect to your vCenter server (VCSA) > Select Host and clusters > Update Manager > Click the Go to Admin View button > Import ESXi Image.
To create a new upgrade baseline. Select Host and clusters > Update Manager > Click the Go to Admin View button to see this screen…
What is VMware vSphere Update Manager – 3 Types of Host Baselines
- Host Patch – contains patches which will be applied to host(s)
- Host Extension – contains additional software (not core ESXi patches)
- Host Upgrade – contains ESXi image which will upgrade the host.
Screenshot from the lab…
Then select the ESXi image you imported in the first step.
Baselines contain a collection of one or more patches, extensions, or upgrades. Think of host upgrade baseline as about a level of patches for a host, as a point in time where those patches are up-to-date, with the latest security and features enhancements. When the host gets patched with this baseline (they call it remediate process), it means that all patches present within the baseline are applied to the host.
You have some more baselines which are already predefined in the system when you first start to work with VUM.
- Critical Host Patches (Predefined) – Checks ESXi hosts for compliance with all critical patches.
- Non-Critical Host Patches (Predefined) – Checks ESXi hosts for compliance with all optional patches.
By importing new patches from the Online repo or from a ZIP file, you basically creating a Custom baseline which will then be applied to the host.
And as being said above it is you who creates the custom baselines.
More from ESX Virtualization:
- How to Install latest ESXi VMware Patch – [Guide]
- VMware vSphere 6.5 U1 Released
- Free Tools
- What is VMware vMotion?
- What is VMware Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC)
- How VMware HA Works?