vSphere 4.1 to 5.1 – Part 1 (vCenter)

Although I won’t be going into nitty-gritty detail, I am going to share with you my general experience and process for moving one of my clients from vSphere 4.1to vSphere 5.1.

The client in question has six vSphere 4.1 hosts all being managed by a vCenter 4.1 instance. My original engagement with the client was to do a System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Operations Manager deployment for them, but their existing vSphere environment has been in place for quite some time and could not support everything needed for SCCM and SCOM. In addition, the client had ordered a couple of high end servers – 256 GB RAM, 12 core, etc. – to use for SCCM and SCOM. Their existing vSphere 4.1 servers each old 96 GB of RAM.

Rather than use the two new servers just for System Center, I recommended that the client replace two existing vSphere 4.1 hosts with two vSphere 5.1 hosts and I prepared for them a formal recommendation with my reasoning and estimated costs. The client agreed with my reasoning and we expanded the scope of work to include a migration to vCenter 5.1 and the replacement of two existing vSphere 4.1 hosts.

Fortunately for me, the client was running vCenter 4.1 with a version of SQL Server still supported by vCenter 5.1 and they were using a 64-bit DSN. So, my initial preparation consisted of:

  • Backing up the SSL certificates on the vCenter server (C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\SSL)
  • A copy backup of the current vCenter database
  • A snapshot of the virtual machine running vCenter 4.1

Taking these three steps means that I can relatively easily recover should my vCenter 5.1 installation go poorly.

From there, I carefully followed VMware’s documentation to perform a simple install, which installs the three components that make vCenter 5.1 work:

  • Single sign on (SSO)
  • Inventory service
  • vCenter Server

During the process, I had to connect to the SQL Server hosting the vCenter database and run a provided script that created the database tables necessary for the new SSO component to operate. I used the same account for this database that was already configured for connecting to the vCenter database and assigned to this account ownership permissions for the new RSA database.

The end result was successful and the client is now running vCenter 5.1 and can use vSphere 5.1 servers in the environment. All in all, it was a pretty easy process.

Some notes:

  • Make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. Make sure you know the password for the user account running the vCenter database on the SQL server, for example.
  • Make sure your database is supported by vCenter 5.1. VMware has made a lot of changes with regard to database compatibility.
  • Have the ability to manually run scripts against databases on your SQL Server.
  • Document everything you do.
  • Make sure you take good backups before you get started.

My next step for the client will be to install the new web-based client.

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