I realize that a lot of great information has already been posted throughout the VMware community relating to upgrading to vSphere 5.1, but I expect that my students, customers, and colleagues may appreciate my advice on getting started. Here are some of the most important related items.
- What’s New: First get familiar with new features by examining the What’s New in ver 5.1 document. For vSphere 4.x users, here is the What’s New in ver 5.0 document.
- vCenter 5.1.0a: VMware already fixed some reported issues concerning vCenter 5.1 and has released vCenter 5.1.0a. So, when upgrading to vSphere 5.1, be sure to skip vCenter 5.1 and upgrade directly to vCenter 5.1.0a. Here is a list of Resolved Issues in vCenter 5.1.0a.
- Windows-based vCenter Upgrade: The Windows version of vCenter requires a 64 bit version of Windows. So, customers using vCenter 4.0 on a 32 bit Windows version should plan to use the Data Migration Tool to migrate vCenter to a 64 bit Windows server for upgrade.
- vSphere Web Client: VMware is motivating its customers to use the vSphere Web Client instead of the vSphere Client. Many new features in 5.1 require the Web Client. VMware announced that future releases will not include the vSphere Client. I recommend we begin to utilize the vSphere Web Client now, at least in some capacity, to be well prepared. Here is a link to begin learning about the vSphere Web Client, including an overview, architecture, and installation.
- Upgrade Process: Read the vSphere 5.1 Upgrade Guide closely, plan accordingly, and follow its steps. Like many technical people, it is against my nature to closely read and follow instructions, but I have great success in utilizing this Upgrade Guide to save me time and embarrassment. Of course, another great approach is to engage an expert, with a lot of vSphere upgrading experience.
- Gotchas: nothing is perfect, including vSphere 5.1. Be sure to review the list of known issues.
- Best Practices for Performance: To increase your chances of success, focus on ensuring that your virtual machines will run as well or better after the upgrade. To do so, review the Performance Best Practices for vSphere 5.1 Guide. If you have read the similar document for ver 5.0, then just focus on the areas that provides explanations and advice on new features, such as Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) and SplitRX Mode. Otherwise, take time to read this entire document and use it as a tool to ensure that your vSphere environment is optimized. It covers hosts, network, storage, vMotion, DRS, etc. A lot of items in this document are covered in-depth in the vSphere 5: Optimize and Scale class.
I hope you find this useful. Please feel free to provide comments.