vSphere Upgrade process – Introduction

Disclaimer: I’m working for VMware’s Professional Service Organization (PSO) as Technical Account Manager. I’m planning already on or have finished upgrading my customers to vSphere 6.5/6.7. Before VMware I worked as Consultant for different VMware partners in Austria. I have done a lot of upgrades in the past (4.x/5.x/6.x) and I could say I have some experience with it. This is my personal view on the topic “vSphere Upgrade”.
In my professional life I meet a variety of IT people. Not all of them were as professional or good as they should be and some of them were really a risk to the business. During my time as a consultant I discovered that there are 4 categories of IT admins/professionals/peers you name it who are responsible for infrastructure and therefor for upgrades.

  1. Day 0 upgrader
  2. Superficial knowledge admin
  3. vSphere only upgrader
  4. Allround planner
  5. (special) Beta production runners
Day 0 upgrader

Everybody knows this type of admin. They are waiting eagerly for the next software release and scratching their nails into the table the closer the date of GA comes. This category is one of the riskier one to your business. The reason for that is that they will install the newest piece of software into your production environment without checking all the dependencies and risks that is accompanied with such big release change. Also this type of people don’t care about processes, the only thing that counts is to be the first on the newest version.

Superficial knowledge admin

Just like the “Day 0 upgrade” the “superficial knowledge admin” is a risk to the environment and therefor for the business. The reason is obvious. Such person don’t understand or know the whole picture of a product. Or much worse they think they know everything about a product which is in most of the cases not true. If you have to deal with such person you need always concrete evidence in form of KB, guides or documentation to debunk a false statement he/she made. As you can image, working with such people is very time consuming and costs you a lot of mental energy. Normally they believe that everything they say is correct and without the right evidence it’s hard to prove them wrong.

vSphere only upgrade

I’m in the virtualization space since 2007 and over time I learned that not only virtualization knowledge is important but also knowledge about surrounding systems (e.g. storage, network, backup etc.) and stuff you’re running in your environment (e.g. operating system, applications etc.). Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who are just looking at their part of the environment without having knowledge about the rest. They are really good when it comes to planning their upgrade for their own part of the infrastructure but they forget about the rest of the infrastructure which can also lead to some serious desaster if they are not interacting with the other departments.

Allround planner

This category of people I love to work with because they have a general overview over the whole environment and know how certain pieces are working together. They are also good in engaging other departments, so that everybody knows which are the dependencies are in their infrastructure. During planning and implementation they follow the company processes (Change Management etc.) so that it is easy comprehensible after the upgrade is done.

Beta production runners

This type of professionals are running beta software in their production environment. The reason for doing this is always different. Some want to test the beta software with real workload, some don’t even know they are running beta code. The just took an ISO of the software laying around and installed it. Thankfully I encountered this type only once in the wild and this is already more than 10 years ago.
In the next blog posts I will cover the following areas you need to consider when planning for an upgrade.

  1. What is the reason for an upgrade
  2. What do I need to know from a hardware perspective
  3. What do I need to know from a software perspective
  4. General architecture changes (e.g. vCenter)

I won’t cover an actual scenario e.g. how to upgrade from  one version to another. It’s more like what do I need to know beforehand so my upgrade went as smooth as possible.

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