VxRail – Code Upgrade Details

One of the most compelling reasons we see success with VxRail is around the life-cycle management (LCM) of the system.  From the VxRail side of the house, we provide our customers with a “composite package”.  Inside the composite package are various files that are used to update the cluster.  The entire update process is automated (vSphere Enterprise Plus) or guided (vSphere Standard).  Regardless of the vSphere version, the package is the same.

The upgrades are based upon the composite package.  The package can be downloaded from the support site or from VxRail Manager itself (via the “Internet Upgrade” button inside VxRail Manager).  The composite package contains updates to most of the VxRail stack itself.

Files

As you can see, if you browse into a package (you don’t need to extract for an update, leave the file in the .zip format), there are quite a few files included.  This allows us to provide our customers with a single package for their cluster, regardless of the hardware version they’ve purchased.  Looking at the files, you can see an ESXi update, network firmware, BIOS, iDRAC, network drivers and a few other files.  Not all releases will have the same number of updates, and if a component has been updated in a previous update, it will be skipped.

First, before doing an upgrade, you should always reference SolVe Online to generate the procedure for the version you’re upgrading to!  This is critical to success.  As I mentioned previously, you have the option of doing an internet upgrade or local file upgrade.  Quick side note, if your VxRail system is connected to the outside world, you’ll also notice the “1” inside the red circle as an alert that an upgrade is available.  I usually recommend to download the upgrade package from the support site if you have more than 1 VxRail cluster (it’s just easier).  If there’s only 1, doing the internet upgrade is quite simple (you’ll need to make sure you have support credentials ready).  If you do the local upgrade, a dialog box will pop up and you’ll need to select the composite package (remember, leave in the .zip format).

After you supply the file for a local upgrade, the system will upload the file and then extract it and prep the cluster for the upgrade.  During the upload process, you can click on the “Details” link to provide more information on what’s occurring during the upload/unpacking of the files.  When that’s complete, the system will show you which components will be upgraded during the update.  Please remember that the vCenter components will only be updated if VxRail was deployed with the internal vCenter.  This item will show up regardless, but during the upgrade, if the system is deployed to an external vCenter, then that step will be skipped during the upgrade.

6

After the file has been uploaded and unpacked, you can click on “continue” and the system will prompt you for some usernames and passwords.  I’ve seen this screen cause some confusion during the VxRail sessions the VxSEALs team has led.  While it seems like many entries, it’s quite simple to navigate.  If the pop-up is asking for “administrator” account, then the username is the vCenter administrator (like adaministrator@vsphere.local).  If it’s prompting for “* Root Account”, then the username will be “root” for that entry.  Have no fear, the first step of th upgrade is to check the username and password entries – if they’re wrong, you can fix them at that point.

The very first thing that is updated is the VxRail Manager VM.  The system will apply the updates and then reboot the VM. If you look, there is a warning that the connection to the VxRail Manager will be lost.  You’ll also see a pop-up stating that you need to log back in.  During that time, your internet browser of choice will show that it can’t reach the VxRail Manger.  When this happens, do not panic, this is expected.  Once the VM is back up and running, the upgrade will continue on to the next component in the list.

During the upgrade, you’ll see which component the upgrade is on as well as what’s been completed.  As you can see here, my cluster has the internal vCenter, so after that upgrade (which does include the non-embedded PSC), the system moves onto the VxRail nodes.  Since my cluster has an Enterprise Plus license for vSphere, VxRail will automatically move the VMs and put the node into maintenance mode.  Don’t forget, regardless of your license, ALL VxRail upgrades are non-disruptive.

After the upgrade is completed, all components will have that nice green check next to them and a “refresh” button will appear.  After clicking that refresh button, the system will update the view and clicking on the “Installed Components” link will show the underlying components running on the VxRail cluster.  All in all, a very simple process.  I won’t say “single click” because it’s not literally a “single click”, but it’s definitely “minimal clicks”.

A few things about the upgrade:
-Always generate a new SolVe procedure for your upgrade
-Make sure your cluster is “healthy” and clean before an upgade
-Make sure you have enough resources (CPU and Memory) to run the VMs on the nodes during the cluster.  VxRail will only update 1 node at a time
-Monitor the upgrades (while you don’t have to watch it the entire time, it’s good to log in and check status every once in a while)
-VxRail will automatically “mute” the cluster monitoring during the upgrade (that’s the yellow banner in the screenshots)
-During the upgrade, the VxRail nodes are put into maintenance mode with “ensure accessibility” as the option

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