VMware vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2 Released

On March 9th, VMware released their latest version of vCenter Server: 7.0 Update 2 Build 17694817. This 7.0 U2 release comes with many new and updated features related to Lifecycle Management and Tanzu. In this post, I will not only provide details on all that is new in this release but also show you how I performed my own vCenter Server 7.0 U1 to 7.0 U2 update. It’s quite easy!

What’s New

The following is the complete listing of all new features:

    • In-product feedback: vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2 introduces an in-product feedback option in the vSphere Client to enable you provide real-time rating and comments on key VMware vSphere workflows and features.
    • New CLI deployment of vCenter Server: With vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2, by using the vCSA_with_cluster_on_ESXi.json template, you can bootstrap a single node vSAN cluster and enable vSphere Lifecycle Manager cluster image management when deploying vCenter Server on an ESXi host. For more information, see JSON Templates for CLI Deployment of the vCenter Server Appliance.
    • Parallel remediation on hosts in clusters that you manage with vSphere Lifecycle Manager baselines: With vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2, to reduce the time needed for patching or upgrading the ESXi hosts in your environment, you can enable vSphere Lifecycle Manager to remediate in parallel the hosts within a cluster by using baselines. You can remediate in parallel only ESXi hosts that are already in maintenance mode. You cannot remediate in parallel hosts in a vSAN cluster. For more information, see Remediating ESXi Hosts Against vSphere Lifecycle Manager Baselines and Baseline Groups.
    • Improved vSphere Lifecycle Manager error messages: vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2 introduces improved error messages that help you better understand the root cause for issues such as skipped nodes during upgrades and updates, or hardware compatibility, or ESXi installation and update as part of the Lifecycle Manager operations.
    • Scaled VMware vSphere vMotion operations: Starting with vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2, vSphere vMotion automatically adapts to make full use of high speed networks such as 25 GbE, 40 GbE and 100 GbE with a single vMotion VMkernel interface, up from maximum 10 GbE in previous releases. For more information, see Networking Best Practices for vSphere vMotion and the vMotion Improvements in vSphere 7 blog.
    • Increased scalability with vSphere Lifecycle Manager: With vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2, scalability for vSphere Lifecycle Manager operations with ESXi hosts and clusters is up to 400 supported ESXi hosts managed by a vSphere Lifecycle Manager Image from 280.
    • Upgrade and migration from NSX-T-managed Virtual Distributed Switches to vSphere Distributed Switches: By using vSphere Lifecycle Manager baselines, you can upgrade your system to vSphere 7.0 Update 2 and simultaneously migrate from NSX-T-managed Virtual Distributed Switches to vSphere Distributed Switches for clusters enabled with VMware NSX-T Data Center. For more information, see Using vSphere Lifecycle Manager to Migrate an NSX-T Virtual Distributed Switch to a vSphere Distributed Switch.
    • Create new clusters by importing the desired software specification from a single reference host: With vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2, you can save time and effort to ensure that you have all necessary components and images available in the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot before creating a new cluster by importing the desired software specification from a single reference host. You do not compose or validate a new image, because during image import, vSphere Lifecycle Manager extracts in the vCenter Server instance where you create the cluster the software specification from the reference host, as well as the software depot associated with the image. You can import an image from an ESXi host that is in the same or a different vCenter Server instance. You can also import an image from an ESXi host that is not managed by vCenter Server, move the reference host to the cluster or use the image on the host and seed it to the new cluster without moving the host. For more information, see Create a Cluster That Uses a Single Image by Importing an Image from a Host.
    • Enable vSphere with Tanzu on a cluster managed by the vSphere Lifecycle Manager: As a vSphere administrator, you can enable vSphere with Tanzu on vSphere clusters that you manage with a single VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager image. You can then use the Supervisor Cluster while it is managed by vSphere Lifecycle Manager. For more information, see Working with vSphere Lifecycle Manager.
    • vSphere Lifecycle Manager fast upgrades: Starting with vSphere 7.0 Update 2, you can configure vSphere Lifecycle Manager to suspend virtual machines to memory instead of migrating them, powering them off, or suspending them to disk. For more information, see Configuring vSphere Lifecycle Manager for Fast Upgrades.
    • Confidential vSphere Pods on a Supervisor Cluster in vSphere with Tanzu: Starting with vSphere 7.0 Update 2, you can run confidential vSphere Pods, keeping guest OS memory encrypted and protected against access from the hypervisor, on a Supervisor Cluster in vSphere with Tanzu. You can configure confidential vSphere Pods by adding Secure Encrypted Virtualization-Encrypted State (SEV-ES) as an extra security enhancement. For more information, see Deploy a Confidential vSphere Pod.
    • For VMware vSphere with Tanzu updates, see VMware vSphere with Tanzu Release Notes.

Checkout the VMware vCenter Server 7.0 Update 2 Release Notes in case you are interested in the Resolved Issues, Known Bugs or Product Notices.

Performing Update from vCenter Server 7.0 Update 1

Updating VMware vCenter Server from a previous version, such as 7.0 U1, is quite easy: whenever updates become available you will be prompted by a blue bar on top of the GUI of your vCenter Server Appliance. When clicking on “View Updates”, you will be redirected to the “Update Planner” section and presented with the available vCenter versions available for updating. In this case, the version concerns 7.0.2 Build 17694817 with release date 9th of March, 2021. It is quite convenient as the additionally provided information states what type is involved (“update” or “upgrade”) and whether a reboot is involved. A link to the release notes as provided by VMware is also available.

Do backup your VCSA before proceeding with the actual update steps because in IT world something could always go wrong forcing you to revert to a backup. For these types of updates, I always take a VM snapshot of VCSA that will be deleted afterwards when everything has tested successfully. 

When clicking on “Generate Report”, you will have the option to execute “Pre-Update Checks” ensuring your system is ready for this update.

The next step is to click on “Open Appliance Management”, which will open a new window towards your “VAMI” available on your VCSA with port number 5480. Once logged on, navigate to “Update” in the main menu to see you current version and again the newly available version 7.0 Update 2. Do note that the “estimated downtime” is always calculated as being quite high. On average, such updates do not take longer than 30 minutes in practice.

You have the option to “Stage Only” and “Stage and Install” where the latter will download and start the installation in one go. The first option only downloads the update for installation on another (perhaps outside business hours) installation time.

When clicking on “Stage and Install”, you will be presented by a simple update wizard asking you to accept the EULA, your SSO password, join the CEIP and confirm your VCSA backup. The latter is quite important as I mentioned before and the wizard will not let you continue without explicitly stating that you have taken care of this important step.

When you hit that “Finish” button, the update process start by downloading the required .rpm files from the VMware repository.

When downloaded, another pre-check and test is executed ensuring there are no blockers before actually moving forwards.

Next, the VCSA services are stopped allowing those to be updated accordingly. It goes without saying that your VCSA will become unavailable at this point for other administrators.

The scripts are being extracted from the downloaded .rpm files, subsequently installed followed by data conversions: this is the actual update process.

The last step is to restart the VCSA services allowing the newly updated system to become available again for usage.

That’s it. All done!

You can check the new version of your VCSA from within the VAMI and also get it confirmed by the Update Planner where this seamless update process began.

Do not forget to test correct workings of your updated vCenter. In case of issues that you are not able to resolve on your own; revert back to your VCSA backup (VM snapshot) and contact VMware Support to acquire assistance. However, chances of anything going sideways is quite slim. So, do not forget to delete your VM snapshot when all is ok. 😉

Conclusion

As you have seen, the update process is easy to use and quite fast (approx. 30 minutes). VMware has done a great job ensuring that any administrator can execute this process with just a few mouse clicks. I hope that this post is useful to those that are not yet familiar with this update process allowing you to have a detailed look into the process from start to finish before actually doing it on your own environment.

Good luck & have fun!

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