How to update your standalone host to ESXi 5.5 - beware of missing drivers and do NOT upgrade virtual hardware!

After announcing it at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco VMware has released vSphere 5.5 (and other related product updates) yesterday - surprisingly on a Sunday, so the news is not yet out on *all* virtualization related blogs, but this will surely change during this day. Duncan Epping has posted a list of all download links on his blog.

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:
# open firewall for outgoing http requests:
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
# Install the ESXi 5.5 GA Imageprofile from the VMware Online depot
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!
  4. 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:

 [Exception]
 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:

"If you upgrade the virtual hardware to this level, use the vSphere Web Client for managing these VMs."
- Think twice here!
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:

"Use the vSphere Web Client to edit the settings of this virtual machine"
- Too bad if you do not have vCenter and the Web Client available ...
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 to downgrade 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 ...


This post first appeared on the VMware Front Experience Blog and was written by Andreas Peetz. Follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with what he posts.



39 comments:

  1. Cannot process argument
    No image profile has a name that matches
    :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a glitch on VMWARE
      Perfectly working now

      FYI
      Marvell chipset driver disappeared from ESXI

      Delete
  2. Thanks a lot for the warning about the virtual hardware 10 issue.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If you have a VMWare Workstation 10 license, it can be used to edit HW rev. 10 virtual machines on ESXi host.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is good to know, thanks! I will try this ...

      Delete
  4. When the white-box drivers are no longer delivered with VMware 5.5, can they still be downloaded separately? Or are they not supported at all? Is there a way to create an install medium with 5.5 and the drivers included?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These drivers have never been officially supported, but they work also with ESXi 5.5.
      And yes, there is a way to create an ESXi 5.5 installation ISO including these drivers. I will soon post about this ...

      Delete
    2. Jason, I documented how to do this for the Gigabyte Brix. It may provide useful hints for you: http://www.twistedethics.com/2013/09/23/installing-vmware-esxi-5-5-on-the-gigabyte-brix/

      Delete
    3. If someone is aware of Marvell 88SE9172 chipset driver for ESXI.
      Drop a line

      Delete
  5. How do I manage rev 10 VMs on the free ESXi 5.5?
    I don't have vCenter, can't I access ESXi 5.5 with browser then (Web Client)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can still manage them with the legacy client (e.g. power on/off, shutdown, console access), you just cannot edit the properties anymore ... The Web Client requires a vCenter server and does not work with a single ESXi host (currently).

      You can also use scripting (PoiwerCLI etc) to manage rev10 VMs, incl. editing, even with a standalone ESXi host.

      Delete
  6. But Web Client access to standalone ESXi will probably be introduced soon? any infos about this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is not sure, I do not have any information... Maybe there will be news on this at VMworld Barcelona.

      Delete
  7. Anyone find anything about adding support back for the ASM1062 Serial ATA Controller?
    I looked through the list of packages on the repo server but i couldnt find anything.

    ReplyDelete
  8. apologies, trying to run the offline scripts but for some reason the 2nd part of the script just hangs there,it doesn't seem to be doing anything is this normal? as i dont see a percentage for downloading or anything.

    please assist

    thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you mean the PowerCLI Export-EsxImage Profile command? This can take a while to complete depending on your download link speed. The command will download about 300MB from the VMware Online depot and will not show any progress bar.

      You can check progress or errors in the most recent log file %TEMP%\if-server.log.*

      Delete
  9. So i'm still running VMware ESXi 5.1 and it didn't like the arguments you gave in the command for the power cli...do I need to upgrade to power cli 5.5 to make this work?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I also used PowerCLI 5.1 and have not yet tested PowerCLI 5.5.
      What errors do you get?

      Delete
  10. It returns the command output as if used a bad argument or no argument.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beware of (no) line breaks in the code. There are only two lines of PowerCLI code.
      Also post the exact error message, please!

      Delete
  11. I was able to add support back for ASM1062 mass storage controller by updating the driver map in sata_ahc.v00

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could you please give me further details? (Same problem here ...)
      Thank You - Bertl

      Delete
    2. I also managed it to update the driver map in sata_ahc.v00 with the guide on this german webpage: http://www.marco-burmeister.de/helferlein/de_esxi5_auf_M2A-VM.html
      (... maybe there is an easier way to edit the file, but i'm quite new to linux & esxi ...)

      Delete
  12. What is worse is that the new features of ESXi 5.5 (such as > 2 TByte virtual disks) are supported only with virtual hardware version 10. But in order to manage VM with that version, you got to have a paid-for vCenter Server because vCenter Web Client relies on that.

    Thus, none of the new 5.5 features can be used for free.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Virtual disks >2 TB can also be used with VM hardware version <10.

      Delete
    2. I have not tried that, but I know that RDMs with more than 2 TByte do not work with hardware version 8:

      https://communities.vmware.com/message/2303854#2303854

      Delete
  13. I am actually using RDMs with more than 2TB within ESX 5.1 and hardware version 9...

    ReplyDelete
  14. see the following for >2TB support on VMX < 10:
    http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showpost.php?s=90a762b7b3786fcf0fb353c6b10a40ce&p=25084352&postcount=29

    ReplyDelete
  15. If anyone is wondering you can also use vmware converter to convert vm hardware version 10 to earlier hardware versions. I have tested this a couple of times with a file server (with pci passthrough) and a 2008 DC and there where no adverse effects I could see. YMMV so use at your own risk!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Just a FYI as this article was the first to come up in a search.

    I was using HP offline custom bundle VMware-ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-HP-5.71.3-Sep2013-depot.zip

    Ran the command

    esxcli software profile install -d /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/VMware-ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-HP-5.71.3-Sep2013-depot.zip -p HP-ESXi-5.5.0-5.71.3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly... you can query the profile of the zip file with:
      esxcli software sources profile list -d /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/vmwarepatches/VMware-ESXi-5.1.0-Update2-1483097-HP-5.62.23-Jan2014-depot.zip

      So you can find out the exact profile name.

      Delete
  17. for offline how do you get the .zip files as vmware downloads only have .iso file.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous

      You need to create the Offline bundle zip files on your own using PowerCLI.
      See instructions in my post starting at 2.

      Andreas

      Delete
  18. You can also downgrade your VMs from hardware version 10 to 9 with a simple vmx file edit. You can see my blog article here for instructions. It works!

    http://blog.waldrondigital.com/2014/01/21/how-to-downgrade-vmware-esxi-5-5-virtual-machine-hardware-version-to-9-from-10/

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have some old vm's that are version 4 and want to upgrade them to 8 or 9, but on 5.5 the upgrade option takes it right to 10. I've been using the above trick to go in and edit the vmx file to roll it back down to version 9 but this is really tedious. Has anyone discovered any advanced-settings to set the maximum hardware version to 9 or anything for upgrade purposes? PS Do Not Change the Misc.DefaultHardwareVersion in advanced settings .. I tried setting it to '8' and the kernel started crashing. Fortunately I was able to edit /etc/vmware/esx.conf via the console and undo my change! :-/

    ReplyDelete
  20. How do we update to 5.5u1 from the command line on a stand alone host?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,

      # open firewall for outgoing http requests:
      esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
      # Install the ESXi 5.5 U1 Imageprofile from the VMware Online depot
      esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-5.5.0-20140302001-standard
      reboot

      Andreas

      Delete

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