Upgrading to vSphere 5.1 has been a bit of a hot topic ever since it became a GA product in 2012. The problems some customers have experienced during the upgrade process to vSphere 5.1 have been well documented and VMware certainly received a lot of feedback which was taken on board. But many upgrades still went through without any major dramas at all. I completed a couple of small scale upgrades without any problem just after the GA. The real trouble was when you started to try and integrate into larger scale and more complex environments with more complex requirements. So is now the time to upgrade if you haven’t already?
The short answer is yes. VMware has released vSphere 5.1 Update 1 (and an additional patch) and vCenter 5.1 Update 1A. These updates provide fixes to the majority of problems that were experienced with the GA release. Now that this release is out I think it’s a good time to upgrade if you haven’t already. You can read the release notes here for a full list of what is included. If you need a reminder of what’s new and improved in vSphere 5.1 and why you should move to it you can check out the What’s New in vSphere 5.1 document.
If you do choose to upgrade I recommend that you consider the best options for deployment of Single Sign-on and keep your architecture as simple as possible. There are good reasons to split out Single Sign-on from the vCenter Server in some cases, such as if you have multiple vCenters. I would recommend keeping the other services such as Inventory Service on the vCenter Server itself. If you need high availability configurations in addition to what is provided by vSphere HA for vCenter and SSO you should choose to use vCenter Server Heartbeat. If you don’t already have vCenter as a virtual machine running out of a Management Cluster then now is the perfect time to introduce this best practice to your architecture. If you want to use Linked-mode then you will need to configure a multi-site SSO configuration and I would recommend that you test it in a test environment before implementing it in production.
Upgrading from a previous version of vSphere to 5.1 really isn’t a minor upgrade as it requires an architectural shift due to the introduction of SSO. This requires some planning and preparations in order to be successful. But this is the ideal opportunity to review your architecture and your designs and make sure they will support your requirements for the next 3 to 5 years. It’s also the ideal time to start designing an architecture that will support Monster VM’s. In the long run SSO improves security and integration for the vCloud Suite and will make it easier to administer. Future upgrades should also be much less onerous.
This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com, by Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2013 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.
Nice write-up, Michael. I especially like this "keep your architecture as simple as possible"
I completely agree with the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) approach with your 5.1 design. After having performed 5.1 upgrades and fresh installs, I highly recommend simplicity unless your environment absolutely dictates otherwise.
On a side note, 5.1 is a buggy (very buggy) product and we have yet to go to update 1a. We are considering waiting for a future update as 1a only addresses the authentication issue introduced in update 1. I'd rather not have to go through back-to-back updates if we can avoid it. Thoughts?
Update 1a fixes a lot more than just that authentication issue. That's why it took a little while to come out. Check out the release notes. There are quite a lot of fixes and improvement. So I would strongly recommend upgrading to update 1a.
The VMware doc I reviewed stated, "the main aim of the 5.1 U1a release is to only address the regression that was identified in 5.1 U1." (the authentication issue)
As soon as I consumed the above line I tuned out as it brought no real benefit to our 5.1 (no U1 update).
As for upgrading from 5.0 to 5.1 U1a – I completely agree with numerous bug fixes having been corrected (perhaps this is what you meant all along and I miss interpreted).
Yeah that is understandable. Many would have tuned out at that line. But there were a lot more bugs fixed in U1A than just standard U1.
You're right my point is also many bugs fixed since GA that make now the right time to upgrade. There are many enhancements in 5.1 that the bugs have prevented customers from benefitting from, as it made upgrade to error prone.
I was advising customers if they had complicated requirements to wait for U1/U1A. Simple upgrades have pretty much worked ok.
Nice article, Michael. I've done some upgrades from 4.X and to be honest I think with the great stuff in 5.X I can't see why people wouldn't upgrade. As you say though it does take some planning and usually allows some underlying infrastructure changes i.e. VMFS5 larger LUNs
[…] Webster tackles the question: is now the best time to upgrade to vSphere 5.1? Read the full post to see what Michael has to say about […]