vSphere 7 introduces an entirely new solution for unified software and firmware lifecycle management that is native to vSphere. vSphere Lifecycle Manager, or vLCM, is a powerful new framework based on a desired state model to deliver simple, reliable and consistent lifecycle operations for vSphere and HCI clusters.
Simplify Cluster Updates with vSphere Lifecycle Manager
Lifecycle management is a time-consuming task. Admins maintain their infrastructure with many tools that require specialized skills. VMware customers easily use two or more separate interfaces for day two operations: vSphere Update Manager (VUM) for software and drivers and one or more server vendor-provided utilities for firmware updates. Moreover, vSAN admins must ensure that driver and firmware versions are on the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) rather than simply applying the latest and greatest versions supplied by the server vendor.
vLCM is built off a desired-state model that provides lifecycle management for the hypervisor and the full stack of drivers and firmware for your hyperconverged infrastructure. vLCM can be used to apply a desired image at the cluster level, monitor compliance, and remediate the cluster if there is a drift. This eliminates the need to monitor compliance for individual components and helps maintain a consistent state for the entire cluster in adherence to the VCG. Lets take a closer look.
vLCM Desired Image
vLCM is based on a desired-state or declarative model which allows the user to define a desired image (ESXi version, drivers, firmware) and apply to an entire vSphere or HCI cluster. Once defined and applied, all hosts in the cluster will be imaged with the desired state. This model is superior to managing individual hosts because the image is applied at the cluster level which provides consistency and simplicity.
A vLCM Desired Image consists of a base ESXi image (required), vendor addons, and firmware and driver addons.
- Base Image: The desired ESXi version that can be pulled from vSphere depot or manually uploaded.
- Vendor Addons: Packages of vendor specified components such as firmware and drivers.
While vendor addons are not required for an image, they are required for users wanting to take advantage of the overall full server-stack firmware management available with vLCM.
Monitoring for Compliance
A key benefit of using desired-state is host drift detection and seamless remediation. The user will be notified if any hosts drift from the applied image and can easily remediate back to the desired state. This also provides simple scale-out since new hosts can be added and have the cluster image applied in a seamless fashion. Once the image has been defined with the desired ESXi version, firmware and drivers users can then check compliance. vLCM will compare the predefined components to the version on the associated hosts and provide a full report.
Hardware Compatibility Checks
HCI administrators understand using compatible hardware components, drivers, and firmware is critically important to the operation and performance of the cluster and the virtual machines running on it. Using the Hardware Capability tab in vLCM, administrators can validate that the desired ESXi version is compatible with the server hardware and that the storage IO controller firmware and drivers are compatible with the VCG. It is a recommended best practice to validate a configured desired image against the VCG before the user remediates the cluster.
Remediating a Cluster
When checking compliance, if drift is detected users can choose to remediate individual hosts or all simultaneously. vLCM handles upgrades in a nondisruptive rolling upgrade fashion similar to vSphere Update manager (VUM).
VMware Cloud Foundation and vLCM
Previous versions of Cloud Foundation have simplified lifecycle management operations by enabling patching and updating of the core components of the VMware software stack at the Workload Domain level. In the VMware Cloud Foundation 4 release, we’re introducing the integration of vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM), a component of vSphere 7. vLCM complements the capabilities already found in Cloud Foundation’s SDDC Manager by offering integration deeper into the stack with firmware management for qualified vSAN ReadyNodes. vLCM will automatically validate the HBA firmware is on the hardware compatibility list, giving admins confidence that their updates will be successful before applying updates to match the defined desired state. Integration with vLCM will further simplify lifecycle management of the full stack, including vSAN ReadyNode hardware, through Cloud Foundation. At launch, Dell PowerEdge 14G and HPE Proliant Gen10 hardware are supported for vLCM-based updating.
Lifecycle management can be a time-consuming and tedious process. Administrators need to find the right balance between software, firmware and drivers that are current but also supported on the VCG. This can involve several tools and considerable time and effort. vSphere Lifecycle Manager reduces the complexity of monitoring and maintaining your hyper converged infrastructure by consolidating software, driver and firmware update tools and introducing a desired-state model of implementing a desired image. This is an exciting step in the direction of delivering simple, reliable and consistent lifecycle operations for vSphere and HCI clusters and ESXi hosts.
vLCM is the first feature covered in this Top-3 series. Be on the lookout for the next article where we dig into vSAN 7 File Services.