Monthly Archives: September 2013

vCenter Server Appliance 5.0 to 5.5 upgrade

VMware has recently released their latest version of vSphere 5.5.  This includes a new version of the vCenter Server Appliance.  If you’re still running vCenter Appliance 5.0 now is a great time to upgrade to the recently released VSA 5.5.  With a switch from the embedded IBM DB2 to PostgresSQL the vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 now scales out far greater than before.

Earlier on in the year I wrote up a post on Why I don’t virtualize vCenter.   I still like my physical vCenter.  Slowly VMware are knocking down those barriers.  With the latest version of VSA 5.5 they’ve removed the scalability issue for all but the largest deployments.  Things like Update Manage and SRM are the few remaining obstacles to a VSA only environment.

Upgrading your VSA from a previous version is a simple and quick process.  There are only a couple things that you really need to take into account before starting the process.  Make sure you take a snapshot of your current VSA 5.x and a backup of any external DB you may be using.  Don’t attempt to change the hostname of the VSA during the installation.   Finally, and really less of a concern, if using custom SSL certificates make sure you met VSA requirements for signed certs.

Download the latest vCenter Service Appliance 5.5 OVF file from VMware.  In vCenter import the OVF into your datacenter and Power On the VM.

Using a web browser connect to the Admin Management Portal of both Appliances on Port 5480 in two separate windows.  e.g. https://vCenter_ip_address:5480

When you browse to the admin management portal on the new 5.5 appliance for the first you will be presented with a Setup wizard.  Accepted the end user license agreement and click Next.


Select the second option, ‘Upgrade from previous version‘, and click Next.


The Setup wizard will skip a bunch of steps and present you with a key.  Click click on it and select copy.


Now change browser tabs and navigate to the original 5.0 appliance.  Click the Appliance Upgrade tab.


Select Source as the appliance role and click Set Role.  You should receive the message, ‘Operation was successful’.


Click on Establish Trust and in the Remote appliance key field paste in the key you copied from the New (Remote) appliance and click Import remote key.


Copy the key from the old 5.0 appliance (Source).


Navigate back to the new (remote) application and paste in the key you just copied and click Next.

If you attempted to set or change the hostname of the new 5.5 appliance you will receive a warning prompt.  To save you a world of pain after the install it’s honestly best to cancel at this point and not set a hostname during the OVF import process.  Trust me!


If you are using self-signed certificated you will most likely receive a prompt with certificate issues.  Click Replace the SSL certificate and click Next.


The Setup wizard will now jump back up a few steps.  Set an SSO password for [email protected] and click Next.


Confirm and select your hosts.


The Pre-Upgrade Checker now runs, hopefully with no errors and you can click Next.


As a final precaution before the upgrade you are required to confirm that you have made a backup/snapshot of the source 5.5 vCenter Server Appliance --which of course you have and so you click Next.


The Upgrade process now begins.


The new 5.5 VSA will now reboot.


If you were running vCenter Appliance 5.0 you would have no doubt still been working with the C# client.  That’s still available and will need to be upgraded.  You will be prompted to perform this action if you connect with an old client.  After you upgrade and run the client a message states that all new features are only available via the vSphere Web Client.


You can access the new vSphere Web Client with a browser on port 9443.  e.g.  https://vCenter_ip_address:9443



Upgrading vCenter Server Appliance 5.0.x/5.1 to 5.5 (2058441)

The Virtual Storage Appliance experiment – Part 1

I have wanted to play around with Virtual Storage Appliances (VSA) for a while now.  I have never really had a need to use them though.  I have colleagues tell me about the VSAs they use in their home labs all the time.  I guess I have been fortunate enough to have had expose to enterprise SANs in test and lab environments for many years.

In the current role I’m in I don’t have that luxury.  I manage an overprovisioned vSphere and SAN environment that I just don’t want to mess with.  I guess we tend to take for granted the toys we have in some roles.

I’ve recently been considering pursuing my VCAP certification too.  Storage, iSCSI, multipathing is all a large part of the blueprint guide.  Having a VSA in my home lab where I can creating and test a storage network in vSphere will no doubt help in my study.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to spend the next few weeks researching what is out there in the VSA market.  I don’t have a budget behind me so really just from a free and open source point of view.  My goal is not to find an enterprise ready VSA but rather find a virtual SAN that I can have in my test lab.  An appliance that that is easy to install & setup and able to present data via protocols such as iSCSI and NFS, anything else is a bonus.

The products I have initially planned on testing are Openfiler, FreeNAS, and HP P4000.  The latter being a commercial product but with a trial period.   I’m certainly interested in testing more.  So feel free to comment and leave recommendations on other products worth looking into.

Exporting VMware Workstation VMDK to ESXi

In the quest to find the most difficult and convoluted way of doing things.  I feel I really outdid myself this week.  What should have been an easy task of creating an OVF on Vmware Workstation 8 and deploying it into a vSphere environment turned out to be much more.

The night before I created an OVF of a Workstation VM.  The next morning  I went to copy the files to a USB stick prior to work.  Still half asleep I only copied the compressed VMDK file and not the actual OVF or MF files.  Imagine my surprise when I got into work with only a single compressed VMDK file.

No worries, I’ll just upload it to a datastore and attach it.  Yeah no.  You need the VMDK descriptor file that points to the -flat.vmdk file.  vCenter won’t find any disks to attached to a VM.

So after some cursing, hopeful optimism, then some more cursing I found a workable solution.

Virtual Disk Development Kit 5.1 is a collect of tools to help you work with virtual disks.  Inside this kit is a util called vmware-vdiskmanager.exe.  The util actually comes with VMware Workstation but not having it with me required the download of this devel kit to acquire the util.  The util is similar to the ESXi shell command vmkfstools but can be run on a Windows box.  It has the ability to expand / convert a VMDK file out to an ESX-type virtual disk.

The command  I ran was

vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -r <original_source.vmdk> -t 4 <new_destination.vmdk>

Once complete two files are created.  A .vmdk descriptor file and a -flat.vmdk thick virtual disk.

I was now able to upload the two files to a datastore.  You have to upload both of them to the same location.  You won’t see the -flat.vmdk file once uploaded but it will be there.


Then I went into the Edit Settings of my pre-created vSphere VM.  I clicked on New Device and selected Existing Hard Disk and Add.


vmware-vdiskmanager.exe is quite a useful little util to help move Workstation VMDK files over to ESXi.  Prior to Workstation 8 this is probably your best way to get a VM’s virtual disk into ESXi.  With the introduction of Workstation 8 and above you can now Export to OVF.  This is no doubt the recommended way but if you just want an individual disk vmware-vdiskmanager is a decent option.


VDDK Documentation

Download VMware vSphere 5.1 Virtual Disk Development Kit (login required)