Upgrading vSphere 5.1 → 5.1U1a

BACKGROUND Upon arriving at my new organization the end of February of this year, a co-worker had already migrated most of our virtual infrastructure to vSphere 5.1, utilizing  SQL 2012 as the vCenter Server database. In doing so, they noticed some “bugginess” with the infrastructure – unable to log in using the ‘thick’ Client, the Performance tab → Overview button performance statistics wouldn’t display, as well as the Web Client not working in Internet Explorer (would work with Firefox). After a couple calls to VMware support, multiple Google queries, and a few twitter comments, I never did get a definite answer as to the cause of our issues. I assumed it was due to the fact we were using SQL 2012 for our DB as it was not listed in VMware’s Compatibility Matrix, but I couldn’t find/get a definite answer, not even from VMware’s support (I’d give my thoughts on my discussions with them, but don’t won’t to digress too much). 🙂 Anyway, I really wanted to get all these issues rectified. When VMware released U1 in April, I heard bits & pieces in the “community” on twitter that this Release would rectify the issues I was having. But, I began hearing grumblings about the stability of the U1 patch (vSphere login issues), which was confirmed by VMware as noted by this KB. Then last week. VMware released U1a, and after reading over the Release Notes, it looked like this patch was indeed the answer to my problems….err….well….my vSphere problems. 🙂 After upgrading my environment, to this point it seems all the issues we were experiencing are now rectified. As such, I’d like to provide the steps I took for a successful upgrade which, overall, was pretty seamless and painless……and surprisingly quick! PREREQUISITES Before proceeding with upgrading your infrastructure, I highly recommend reviewing VMware’s Upgrade Guidewhich provides greater detail of all upgrade procedures as your environment may not be the same as mine. In my envirnment, I have 13 Hosts separated into 4 Clusters & Datacenters but all within the same vCenter Server. We do not use a multi-site, Linked Clone environment, nor do we segregate vCenter Components on separate servers (i.e SSO, Inventory Service, etc. is all on the same server). Before upgrading, I recommend performing the following tasks:

  1. Open your DB managment tool (i.e. SQL Management Studio) and take a backup of the vCenter database
  2. Log onto your vCenter Server and take a backup of all your Component services SSL certs (look in the Upgrade Guide that’s linked above for the path location to each Component SSL folder)
  3. Attain the credentials used for the vCenter Server database
  4. Attain your SSO admin credentials (the username is admin@System-Domain; upon initial install of SSO you had to provide this account a password. Hopefully you securely documented it for retrieval)
  5. Take a snapshot of your vCenter Server, assuming it’s a VM


  1. If not already done so, download both vCenter Server and vSphere ESXi 5.1 U1a (I recommend the offline bundle for ESXi, but download the package that you’re familiar with in doing vSphere upgrades)
  2. Double-click the autorun.exe file from the vCenter Server download (if you downloaded the .iso, it will first need to be extracted)
  3. As noted in the Upgrade Guide, the following components need to be upgraded IN ORDER: a. Select vCenter Single Sign On (NOT the Simple Install), then click the Install button; follow the wizard then click Install (reference on pg. 64, Upgrade Guide). Provide the SSO account credentials when prompted. A reboot of vCenter may be needed upon completion of the SSO upgrade b. After completing the SSO upgrade, select VMware vSphere Web Client then click the Install button; again, follow the wizard then click Install (reference on pg. 78, Upgrade Guide) c. At this point, it is recommended to open a web browser & attempt to log into the Web Client. First, log in using the SSO account (admin@System-Domain) and verify domain connectivity; then attempt to login using a domain account. If all is successful, continue to ‘d.’; else, review troubleshooting steps in the Upgrade Guide d. Select VMware vCenter Inventory Service, then click the Install button (reference on pg. 80, Upgrade Guide) e. Select VMware vCenter Server, then click the Install button (reference on pg. 83, Upgrade Guide); provide the vCenter Server database credentials when prompted
  4. After upgrading all Components, log into vCenter and verify functionality; if all looks ok, I suggest backing up your SSO configuration as noted on pg. 100 of the Upgrade Guide

UPGRADE – ESXi HOSTSThere are several ways to upgrade your Hosts. Since I personally like doing so using the Offline Bundle with CLI, I will cover that procedure below. You can also upgrade via Update Manage or extracting the vSphere .iso file to a CD and using the Host CD Drive, or by using an installable USB.

  1. Upload the Offline Bundle zip file to a Datastore shared by all Hosts. If you have multiple Clusters and those Clusters utilize separate storage arrays (as I do), make sure to upload the .zip to each Cluster’s array
  2. Open a Putty (SSH) session to a Host (enable SSH in Configuration tab > Security Profile link if the SSH service is stopped)
  3. Within vSphere (thick or Web Client), place the Host in Maintenance Mode (migrate VMs to other Hosts if they don’t automatically do so)
  4. Once in Maintenance Mode, run the following esxcli command: esxcli software profile update -d /vmfs/volumes/datastore/vsphere-5.1_update1a.zip -p ESXi-5.1.0-20130402001-standard
  5. NOTE: to verify which bundle you want to install, you can run the following command: esxcli software sources profile list -d /vmfs/volumes/datastore/vsphere-5.1_update1a.zip ; I chose to run the “standard” bundle )
  6. When the install has successfully completed, you will need to reboot your Host

NOTE: I stole the above screenshot from Christian Mohn’s (@h0bbel) post on installing an Offline Bundle here. I referenced his post from Hersey Cartwright’s post here (@herseyc) Once the Host is rebooted, you then need to repeat the procedure for each Host. After all Hosts are upgraded, VMware Tools will need to be upgraded on all VMs. Oh, and don’t forget to remove the snapshot on your vCenter Server VM. You have now fully upgraded your vSphere environment! Happy virtualizing! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Upgrading vSphere 5.1 → 5.1U1a

  • Excellent post on the upgrade, I found waaaay to much (that said too little) on this upgrade but yours got to the basics. The big trouble I had was with the ESXi upgrade and finding the correct download. VMware has nothing when you search for ESXi 5.1 U1a . They had ESXi 5.1 Update 1 but no update 1a. UMDS gave me a folder called esxi-upgrade-pgclhuesqt! I think I have it now with build 1065491. It’s crazy, I have my own small infrastructure to look after and know that, but when I hit any VMware site they have so many products which sound almost like mine (but aren’t) and release types that I just don’t know. Cheers.

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