How to update your standalone ESXi Host

After announcing it at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco VMware has released vSphere 5.5 (and other related product updates) – surprisingly on a Sunday.  Here are links to the downloads: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2013/09/22/start-engines-time-download-vsphere-5-5/

 

In this post I will provide a quick way to update your standalone ESXi host to ESXi 5.5 and an important heads-up for the early adopters.


How to update to ESXi 5.5

If your host is connected to the Internet then you just need to run the following commands in an ESXi shell:

 

1. Open firewall for outgoing http requests:
2. esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
3. Install the ESXi 5.5 GA Imageprofile from the VMware Online depot
4. esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard

It might be very important to use update and not install here! More on this later. Reboot the host to complete the update.

If your host is not connected to the Internet then you can still update using the ESXi 5.5 Offline bundle. Unfortunately VMware does not provide this to free license users, so we need some additional steps to create it on our own:

1. Find a Windows machine that is connected to the Internet and install PowerCLI on it.
2. Open a PowerCLI session using the installed desktop shortcut and run the following commands:

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard -ExportToBundle -FilePath .ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard.zip

These commands will create the ESXi 5.5 Offline Bundle in the current directory.
3. Upload the file to a datastore of your host using the Datastore browser of the vSphere Client. In this example we will use the datastore named ds1. Change that to match your own datastore’s name!
Open an ESXi shell on the host and run the following command there to update your host:

esxcli software profile update -d /vmfs/volumes/ds1/ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard.zip -p ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard

and reboot the host to complete the upgrade.

Watch out! Some drivers for unsupported NICs are missing in ESXi 5.5!

If you use install instead of update in the above commands then the following error message will be displayed:

You attempted to install an image profile which would have resulted in the removal of VIBs ‘VMware_bootbank_net-sky2_1.20-2vmw.510.0.0.799733’, ‘VMware_bootbank_net-r8168_8.013.00-3vmw.510.0.0.799733’, ‘VMware_bootbank_net-r8169_6.011.00-2vmw.510.0.0.799733’, ‘VMware_bootbank_net-s2io_2.1.4.13427-3vmw.510.0.0.799733’. If this is not what you intended, you may use the esxcli software profile update command to preserve the VIBs above. If this is what you intended, please use the –ok-to-remove option to explicitly allow the removal.
Please refer to the log file for more details.

ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 included drivers for network adapters that are not officially supported by VMware, but were very useful for installing ESXi on whitebox hardware, e.g. net-r8168 and net-r8169 for certain Realtek adapters and net-sky2 for Marvell adapters. If you do not use any of the above listed drivers then it is safe to use the install command and add the –ok-to-remove option like stated in the error message. If you do use any of these drivers then you must use the update command to preserve them.

Do not upgrade the virtual hardware of your VMs!

If you try to upgrade the virtual hardware of your VMs to the new revision 10 after you have updated the host to ESXi 5.5 then the following warning will be displayed by the vSphere Client:

 

Do not do this if you are using the free license with this host or cannot manage it through vCenter for some other reason! If you do this you will no longer be able to edit the VM’s properties with the (legacy) vSphere Client. Whenever you try this the following message will be displayed:

 

On the one hand this is somewhat disappointing for users of standalone ESXi hosts, on the other hand in most cases you do not really need to upgrade the virtual hardware of your VMs … unless you really need some of the new features of hardware version 10, e.g. the possibility to add a virtual SATA AHCI controller.

But keep in mind that this issue might also affect you if you are managing your hosts with vCenter and your vCenter server is a virtual machine! I would not upgrade the hardware version of the vCenter server then, because this might limit your options for troubleshooting when the vCenter server should become unavailable …

What if it is too late? You have ignored the warning in the vSphere Client and have upgraded the virtual hardware and can now no longer edit its hardware? There is no menu item available todowngrade the virtual hardware of a VM, so we need to use some workaround. I’m sure that there are several ways to fix that, but what will definitely work is the following: Create a new VM with the same hardware specifications (no. of vCPUs, RAM size, disk and network controller type) than the original upgraded one. Then attach the hard disk(s) of the original VM to the new VM. The new VM will have a different MAC address (which can be manually set to the original value) and BIOS UUID, but this is better than nothing …

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