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With vSphere 5.5 going end of life in September 2018, we have been traveling all over doing workshops for upgrading to vSphere 6.x. However, with each workshop we have at least one customer who is running Site Recovery Manager with their vCenter Server 5.5 and aren’t too sure what the upgrade path is. This blog will go over the steps I took to upgrade a vSphere 5.5 U3 environment which runs Site Recovery Manager 5.8.1 and vSphere Replication 5.8.1 to a vSphere 6.5 U1 environment which runs Site Recovery Manager 8.1 and vSphere Replication 8.1.

Preparing for your Upgrade

As we review the Interoperability Matrices for vCenter Server and Site Recovery Manager we can see there is no direct upgrade path from vCenter Server 5.5 U3 with Site Recovery Manager 5.8.1 to vCenter Server 6.5 or 6.7. Luckily Site Recovery Manager version 8.1 was released which helps alleviate some of the issues. Site Recovery Manager 8.1 introduced compatibility with vCenter Server 6.0 U3, 6.5, and 6.7. Along with the Interoperability Matrices we highly recommend reviewing the release notes, product documentation, and the update sequence guides for 6.0 and 6.5 as this will layout the recommended paths to upgrade the compatible VMware products.

Please make note as we review the interoperability matrices, that Site Recovery Manager 5.8 is only compatible with vSphere 5.5, and Site Recovery Manager 6.0 and 6.1 are only compatible with vSphere 6.0.

Site Recovery Manager Upgrade Paths

As I mentioned above, there is no direct upgrade from vCenter Server 5.5U3 and Site Recovery Manager 5.8.1 to vCenter Server 6.5 and Site Recovery Manager 5.8.1. We do have a few supported methods that we can use. These methods would depend on your own environment requirements. During your upgrade your environment may also include a hardware refresh, because of these you may have opted to deploy a new vCenter Server and Site Recovery Manager environment and opted to do a parallel migration.

Another possibility is that you may also have a simple or small Site Recovery Manager deployment, and you choose to do more of a forklift upgrade. With this method, you would uninstall Site Recovery Manager from your vSphere 5.5 environment, and then upgrade directly to vSphere 6.5. Once your environment is fully upgraded you can then deploy a fresh installation of Site Recovery Manager 8.1.

However, in most environments those paths may not work and our only method of upgrade is an in-place upgrade. To upgrade through the versions I mentioned above, we need to do what we consider a “stairstep” approach. What this means is that we need to follow the supported path of Site Recovery Manager upgrades. If we review the Upgrade Path interoperability matrix we can see what path we need to follow. If there was any confusion reviewing the documentation pages will also help clear it up.

 

image of interopability matrices

 

As we review the Site Recovery Manager  6.0 documentation we can see that we have the following upgrade note. This means if we are on a version previous to 5.8.x we must first update.

Upgrading from Site Recovery Manager 5.0.x and 5.1.x to Site Recovery Manager 6.0 is not supported. Upgrade Site Recovery Manager 5.0.x and 5.1.x to a Site Recovery Manager 5.5.x or 5.8.x release before you upgrade to Site Recovery Manager 6.0.

When we review the Site Recovery Manager  6.1 documentation we can see that we have a new warning.

Upgrading from Site Recovery Manager 5.x to Site Recovery Manager 6.1 is not supported. Upgrade Site Recovery Manager 5.x to a Site Recovery Manager 6.0.x release before you upgrade to Site Recovery Manager 6.1.

And then last but not least when we review the Site Recovery Manager  8.1 documentation we can see

Upgrading from Site Recovery Manager 6.0.x to Site Recovery Manager 8.1 is not supported. Upgrade Site Recovery Manager to a Site Recovery Manager 6.1.x release before you upgrade to Site Recovery Manager 8.1.

When we put this all together we can see our upgrade path, we will upgrade Site Recovery Manager in the following order. 5.8.1 -> 6.0, 6.0 -> 6.1.2.1 and then 6.1.2.1 -> 8.1.

 vSphere Replication Upgrade Paths

In my upgrade example, we happen to be using vSphere Replication. So along with upgrading Site Recovery Manager, we also need to upgrade vSphere Replication in a supported way.

image of interopability matrices

 

As with Site Recovery Manager I highly recommend reviewing the documentation as it will point out some key changes. Since vSphere replication is appliance based there are not only application level changes, but also appliance OS related changes along the way. The supported upgrade path for vSphere Replication happens to be 5.8 -> 6.0, 6.0 to 6.1.2, 6.1.2 ->6.1.2.1 and then 6.1.2.1 -> 8.1.

Overall Upgrade Procedure

Now that we have outlined our supported upgrade paths for Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication we can begin to put this all together.

You may see an extra step in here which includes upgrading to 6.1.2 and then to 6.1.2.1 and you may be asking yourself why? There was an issue with the upgrade from 6.1 to 6.1.2.1 which was addressed in the following kb article.

Two Site Upgrade

If we follow the vSphere Validated Designs and Site Recovery Manager documentation it mentions to fully upgrade one site at a time. To start our upgrade, we will begin on Site A. Our first step is to remove linked mode if configured on our vCenter Server 5.5 environment. We will start with upgrading our Windows vCenter Server from 5.5U3 to 6.0U3. Once our vCenter Server is updated, we can proceed to update our ESXi hosts from 5.5U3 to 6.0U3.

Once our vCenter Server and our ESXi hosts are up to 6.0U3 we can proceed with upgrading vSphere Replication to 6.0, and then Site Recovery Manager to 6.0. The recommended method to upgrade vSphere replication is to do in in-place upgrade by mounting the ISO and performing an update through the VMware Appliance Management Interface (VAMI).

Site Recovery Manager / vSphere Replication Upgrade Notes from 6.0 to 6.1.2.1:

Next we will upgrade Sphere replication from 6.0 to 6.1.2, and then from 6.1.2 to 6.1.2.1. As we mentioned above, we are unable to go from directory from 6.0 to 6.1.2.1. Again, as with the previous upgrade path, we can easily update by mounting the ISO and performing an update through the VAMI.

Once vSphere replication is upgraded we can proceed to upgrade Site Recovery Manager to 6.1.2.1.

Site Recovery Manager / vSphere Replication Upgrade Notes from 6.0 to 6.1.2.1:

Once we have both of our solutions up to 6.1.2.1 we can proceed on to vSphere Replication 8.1 and Site Recovery Manager 8.1. Unlike with 6.0 and 6.1 upgrades for vSphere Replication we do not have a method to upgrade through the VAMI. Starting with Site Recovery Manager8.1 the appliance operating system changed from SUSE Linux to VMware’s Photon OS. Because of this, the upgrade process changed a bit. Exactly how we do our vCenter migrations is how the vSphere replication upgrade works. You will deploy a new vSphere Replication appliance with a new IP, and on first boot it will recognize that there is already a previously deploy appliance and will ask you if you want to continue or upgrade. We will choose the upgrade option, which will import all the previous configuration and then shutdown the 6.1.2.1 appliance. Fortunately, with Site Recovery Manager 8.1 we still have an easy upgrade path, just launch the executable and Site Recovery Manager will be upgraded to 8.1

Site Recovery Manager / vSphere Replication Upgrade Notes from 6.1.2.1 to 8.1:

  • vSphere Replication appliance updated to use Photon OS
    • New appliance deployed and will import old appliance configuration
  • Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication UI separated from vCenter and is now HTML5 based.
image of site recovery manager summary in html5 client

 

Once Site A is fully upgraded to vCenter Server 6.0U3, vSphere Replication 8.1 and Site Recovery Manager 8.1 we can now proceed to upgrade Site B. For Site B we will follow all the steps we listed above.

At this point it will be a good time to stop and validate the vSphere Replication and Site Recovery Manager are functioning by performing a test failover, if it is successful we can move onto the next steps of getting vCenter Server upgraded to 6.5.

vSphere 6.5 Upgrade

Our next step will be to upgrade our vSphere 6.0 environment to 6.5. With this upgrade we will also plan to migrate from our Windows vCenter to the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). Emad Younis has a great 3 part blog series which covers vSphere 6.5 Upgrade Considerations which covers why this is recommended. There is also a great migration feature walkthrough that will provide step by step instructions on how to do this.

vCenter Server Upgrade Notes from 6.0 to 6.5

  • You may encounter a pre-migration check result stating your extensions may not be compatible, however in my case Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication functioned without any re-registration.
upgrade warning for 6.5 stating possible invalid extensions.

 

Conclusion

I know there have been quite a few questions regarding upgrading a vSphere Environment with Site Recovery Manager. Hopefully this series has cleared up some questions and helps clarify the supported upgrade paths to upgrade both your vSphere and Site Recovery Manager environments to the latest version.

 

About the Author

David Stamen is a Technical Marketing Engineer and VCIX6.5-DCV working for VMware in the Cloud Platform Business unit. In that role, he is in charge of delivering vSphere upgrade based workshops to customers, partners and vendors. David can be found on twitter via @davidstamen.