vSphere 7

Use vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a Upgrade

VMware vSphere 7 Update 2 contains many great enhancements that I have written about here. Since Update 2 was pulled initially due to an error with the upgrade, VMware has released vSphere 7.0 Update 2a that resolves the upgrade error. One of the great new tools in VMware vSphere since vSphere 7 is the new vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM). The new tool provides a great new set of upgrade and lifecycle features that allow moving to a declarative model for lifecycle management for VMware vSphere. This post will take a look at how to use vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a upgrade.

What is vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM)?

The new vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) is a new service that runs on the vCenter Server itself. With vLCM it uses the embedded vCenter Server PostgreSQL database. It makes lifecycle management easy as there is no additional need for administrators to setup a separate solution for handling updates and upgrades. This is a feature that is automatically available in the vSphere Client.

You may ask about vSphere Update Manager (VUM). What is happening with this tool? The vSphere Update Manager (VUM) is still available in vSphere 7 and higher. Customers still have the choice to use VUM for lifecycle management of vSphere clusters. There is an important understanding to make as well with vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM). It is a one-way switch to start using vSphere Lifecycle Manager, meaning once you flip the “switch” to start using vLCM, you cannot go back from a vSphere cluster perspective. So you can have different clusters in the same Center Server environment that use different configurations for updates (VUM or vLCM).

The new image-based approach is a new way starting in vSphere 7.0 that organizations can manage clusters with a single image. The image is a new capability that provides a simplified and unified workflow for both patches and upgrades to be applied to your vSphere clusters. However, a tremendously powerful feature of vLCM is the ability to apply firmware updates and OEM vendor-specific patches to your host hardware. The new image-based approach with the new vLCM tool is declarative in nature and allows vSphere administrators to maintain the desired state of the vSphere cluster in line with the image applied at that level.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) prerequisites and workflow

What are the prerequisites and workflow for using vSphere Lifecycle Manager for upgrading your vSphere environment to vSphere 7.0 Update 2a?

  • Make sure your vCenter Server is upgraded to vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2
  • The ESXi 7.0 Update 2a upgrade must be available in the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot
  • You must choose to start managing your vSphere cluster using the vLCM image feature. This has its own requirements, including:
    • AllΒ ESXiΒ hosts in the cluster must be of version 7.0 and later.
    • AllΒ ESXiΒ hosts in the cluster must be stateful. A stateful install is one in which the host boots from a disk.
    • No host in the cluster can contain any unknown components.
  • You apply the vSphere 7.0 Update 2a update, including any firmware updates and other packages, to the vSphere cluster
  • You run a compliance check against your vSphere Cluster hosts to determine if they need to be remediated
  • You remediate non-compliance ESXi hosts in the cluster

Details about switching to image-based management with vLCM

Note the following about switching to image-based cluster management:

  • This is a one-way operation. You cannot revert to using baselines for that specific cluster
  • A host can be moved out of a cluster that is configured with images to one with baselines, but the cluster itself cannot be changed
  • Changing the management of the vSphere cluster does not automatically remediate hosts in the cluster. The vSphere admin must choose to remediate the host or cluster
  • Any remediate of the hosts using the image deletes standalone VIBs from the host
  • Any non-integrated solution agents are deleted from the hosts

Use vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a Upgrade

Let’s look at the process to use vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a Upgrade. First, as a sanity check, make sure you have the requirements in place. Below, as you can see, we have upgraded vCenter Server to vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2a.

Vcenter server is successfully updated to vcenter server 7.0 update 2a
Vcenter server is successfully updated to vcenter server 7.0 update 2a

We can see the Lifecycle Manager Image Depot has the ESXi 7.0 U2a image downloaded and available.

Verifying the image depot has downloaded the esxi 7.0 update 2a image
Verifying the image depot has downloaded the esxi 7.0 update 2a image

Under the Updates tab of your vSphere cluster, choose Image > Setup Image.

Managing the vsphere cluster with a single image
Managing the vsphere cluster with a single image

The first step of using vSphere Lifecycle Manager for upgrading to 7.0 U2a is to define the image. This is what sets vLCM apart from VUM among other things. You can not only choose the base image of vSphere, you can add vendor addons, firmware, and drivers as part of the image. I am remediating a nested cluster, so I am simply adding the vSphere image for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a. After defining your image, choose to Validate.

Define the vlcm image and validate it
Define the vlcm image and validate it

As you see below, there is a note about standalone VIBs and a check on the image shows it is valid.

Image validated for vsphere lifecycle manager
Image validated for vsphere lifecycle manager

The vSphere cluster compliance with the vLCM image is checked. Click the Finish image setup.

Finish image setup in vlcm
Finish image setup in vlcm

Verify the image setup.

Verify vlcm image setup
Verify vlcm image setup

The cluster compliance is checked against the image.

Image compliance check kicks off automatically in vlcm
Image compliance check kicks off automatically in vlcm

As you can see below, there is a noted incompatibility with the PVSCI controller that is being used in the nested lab. I wanted to see if this would go on through even with the incompability.

Incompatible hardware listed in the compliance check
Incompatible hardware listed in the compliance check

As you can see below, you can remediate all or you can choose to remediate on a single host at a time.

You can remediate the entire cluster or a single host at a time with vlcm
You can remediate the entire cluster or a single host at a time with vlcm

When you choose to remediate either the cluster or a single host, you will see the Review Remediation Impact dialog to review the details. Click Start Remediation.

Review remediation impact of applying the vlcm image
Review remediation impact of applying the vlcm image

The host begins the remediation process.

Kicking off remediation of a single host in vlcm
Kicking off remediation of a single host in vlcm

Failure resulting from an ESXi Nested Lab environment

As “sort of” expected, the remediation fails due to the unsupported storage controller. As the remediation failure details, the failure is as a result of the vSAN health test “SCSI controller is VMware certified reported an issue. Check the vSAN health.” This is due to the build of the nested environment running the ESXi hosts as VMs.

Remediation failed due to incompatible hardware
Remediation failed due to incompatible hardware

Thankfully, there is a simple workaround for nested environments. Navigate to Monitor > vSAN > Skyline Health > SCSI Controller is VMware certified. Click this test and then click the Silence Alert button.

Silencing the storage controller check in skyline health for the vsan cluster
Silencing the storage controller check in skyline health for the vsan cluster

The Silence Alert dialog box pops up. Select Yes to silence the alert for this Skyline Health check.

Confirm siliencing the skyline health vsan alert for a nested cluster
Confirm siliencing the skyline health vsan alert for a nested cluster

After kicking off the remediation again, the process kicks off.

Retrying the esxi host remediation using vlcm after silencing the storage controller alert
Retrying the esxi host remediation using vlcm after silencing the storage controller alert

The process is no longer failing as a result of the storage controller check. The host goes through the normal cycle and begins the reboot process after the image is applied.

The vlcm image remediation kicks off the reboot of the host
The vlcm image remediation kicks off the reboot of the host

The ESXi host successfully remediates using the vLCM ESXi 7.0 Update 2 image.

The host remediation using the vlcm image completes successfully
The host remediation using the vlcm image completes successfully

After rolling through all the hosts in the vSphere Cluster, all are showing as compliance with the vLCM image for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a.

After remediating all hosts in the cluster using vlcm to esxi 7.0 update 2
After remediating all hosts in the cluster using vlcm to esxi 7.0 update 2

Concluding

The process to Use vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) for ESXi 7.0 Update 2a Upgrade is straightforward. There is the little trick you need for using vLCM on a nested ESXi environment, but this change is an easy change in Skyline Health for the vSAN cluster. As shown silencing the storage controller check in Skyline Health allows vLCM to successfully apply the image to nested ESXi hosts.

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Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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