About a year ago I started my VMware ESXi Patch Tracker service. This is a set of automatically generated web pages that show informations about all available ESXi patches. Its primary purpose is to give you an easy way to track the patch history and get alerted about new patches once they are released. You can subscribe to it by RSS feed, E-mail and Twitter.
Recently I have added new functionality to the Patch Tracker that enables you to update your ESXi hosts in a very convenient way. Here is how:
The first thing that you need to do is enabling remote Tech Support Mode (better known as ssh shell access) for your ESXi host. KB1017910 explains various ways to do this. Beginners will likely just use the vSphere Client GUI. There is also a video on the VMwareKB Youtube channel available that explains it: In the Host Configuration tab click on the Security Profile link under Software on the left, then click on the Services / Properties link in the upper right corner. This will open a dialog where you can start and stop ESXi services. In the list find the service labeled SSH and click on the Options button. In the Options dialog press the Start button o start the service and close the dialog with OK.
Then close the Service Properties dialog by clicking on OK again. Now you are able to connect to your ESXi host with an ssh client, e.g. the Windows program putty.
Use it to log in to your host as the root user.
Next open the VMware ESXi Patch Tracker in a web browser. Navigate to the ESXi version that you want to upgrade to, e.g. 6.0. The page is sorted chronologically, and you will always find the latest patch at the top. At the time of this writing that is Update 1b. When you now click on the Imageprofile name (ESXi-6.0.0-20160104001-standard in this case) a window will pop up that includes some esxcli commands:
Now just do what's written there. Select all the displayed text (in Windows you can use the Ctrl-A keyboard shortcut for that) and copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl-C in Windows), Now select the putty window with your ESXi shell session and click on it with the right mouse button to paste and execute the commands:
The first command will open the ESXi firewall for outgoing http/https requests, the second command will pull the Imageprofile information and associated software packages (VIB files) from the VMware Online Depot and update your system with them. The third command will undo the first command (just to revert to the system defaults.
All you need to do now is to reboot your host by manually entering the reboot command. Before that make sure that there are no running VMs on the host, or they will be forcefully powered off.
Please note that this method will only work when your ESXi host has a direct outbound Internet connection to download packages from the VMware Online Depot. Otherwise you need to download the Offline bundle patch from MyVMware and use that to update your host. The ESXi Patch Tracker Help page has more information about that.
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.