vCenter 5.1 Upgrade Procedures – This is NOT your Grandpappy’s vCenter…

vSphere 5.1 was released yesterday, so after cutting through the daily grind of setting up customers in a managed hosting datacenter I was finally able to get my grubby hands on vCenter 5.1 today.  Luckily a project of mine had a freshly installed vCenter 5.0 Update 1b on it and since it makes no sense to start out without the latest version available I decided to plunge forth into a vCenter 5.1 upgrade.

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One observation I noticed with vCenter 5.1 is that it seems quite a bit different from other vCenter installs you may have done in the past. I highly recommend reading (or at least skimming) the vSphere 5.1 Upgrade Guide before diving in.

There are two new items (technically one, but I’ll get to that later) – the vCenter Single Sign On Server & vCenter Inventory Service.  VMware’s documentation gives us a few options to upgrade our existing vCenter:

1. We can perform the upgrade using something called the vCenter Simple Install.  VMware’s documentation states to use this option if your vCenter is a “small installation”, but its not exactly clear what that means.  The simple option installs the vCenter Single Sign on & vCenter Inventory Service on the same server as vCenter.  In the following examples I used this method because it seemed easier to do as an upgrade to an existing vCenter.

2.  Our second option is to install Single Sign On & vCenter Inventory on servers separate from vCenter.  This sounds like the option to use if you are going to be using multiple vCenter’s across geographically dispersed sites that can be clustered.  I can’t tell if this is Linked Mode’s big brother or something new entirely, but I guess the purpose is to allow vCenter to rise above the barriers that disparate Active Directory domains impose on users ability to sign in with the same set of credentials across all vCenters.

Whichever install you choose, this is not going to be the same install you are typically used to with vCenter.  VMware seems to be adding a significant level of complexity to vCenter with 5.1, which may or may not be a good thing.  Its too early for me to decide whether I like this new added feature or not.  For now it seems like an unecessary set of added steps to the install, but who knows what advantages vCenter SSO Server and vCenter Inventory Service might give us in the future.

I chose the simple install, which was probably against my better judgement as a Managed Hosting provider for my customers, but I was most interested in upgrading to 5.1 to test other features (such as vSphere replication) so I took the path of least resistance.  Since its basically a fresh install, I still have the opportunity to reverse this later after i’ve done more research on SSO and Inventory.

In my next post, I’m going to walk you through my experience with the upgrade with some screenshots and advice – however I can’t guarantee that you’ll see these same exact steps.  I’ve also eliminated some of the more innocuous screens such as license agreements, etc… to make it quicker to view through.  So to reiterate, what you see here might not be an exact step for step replica of an upgrade within your environment. 

In other words, your mileage may vary.

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