My ramblings about all things technical

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vSphere 4.1 to vSphere 5.1 Upgrade Resources and Experience

In the coming months I am due to upgrade at least one client from vSphere 4.1 to 5.1 and so I have been collecting some great notes and articles around doing the upgrade to 5.1. This is a blog posting in progress and I am planning on updating it with how the upgrades went after I have done them.

For the 4.1 to 5.0 upgrade of the environments I am planning on following what has worked for me in the past which I listed and blogged about in my posting here. The links and blogs I have found for the upgrading to vSphere 5.1 are listed below and are the ones I will be reading and following for the upgrades:

If you know of more please do tell me so I can update the list for myself and the community at large


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VMware vSphere Data Protection

vSphere Data Protection (VDP) is a robust, simple-to-deploy, disk-based backup and recovery solution. VDP is fully integrated with VMware vCenter Server and enables centralized and efficient management of backup jobs while storing backups in de-duplicated destination storage.


•VDP leverages VMware vSphere API for Data Protection (VADP) which includes Changed Block Tracking (CBT) along with the EMC Avamar variable-length segment de-duplication engine to optimize backup and recovery times. Initial backups take a fair amount of time, but subsequent backups can be as little as a few minutes depending on the number of changes that have occurred since the last backup.

•Backup agents are not needed as VDP leverages VADP. VMs are backed up to disk-based storage (.vmdk files attached to the VDP virtual appliance).

•De-duplication occurs not only within each VM, but across all backups jobs and all VMs being backed up by the VDP appliance.

•A VM that utilizes an agent for backup and recovery require the VM to be in a powered on state. With VDP, that is not the case – backups and recoveries can be performed regardless of the VM’s power state.

•The is no need to install backup management software on an administrator’s workstation. Configuration and management of VDP is web browser based. Currently supported browsers: IE 7, 8 on Windows. Firefox 3.6 and higher on Windows or Linux. Adobe Flash is required.

•Restores can be entire VM or individual files and folders/directories. The file-level restore user interface (UI) is web based, simple, and intuitive meaning end-users can perform self-service file-level restores (administrator permissions required).

•Deployment, configuration and management of VDP is done via a web browser based graphical user interface (GUI). The majority of configuration tasks are completed using intuitive wizard-driven workflows.

vSphere Data Protection Key Components

VDP VM Appliance

•VDP is a virtual machine appliance deployed from a .ova (open virtual appliance or application) file.

vSphere Infrastructure

vSphere API for Data Protection (VADP) is utilized by VDP. This includes the Changed Block Tracking (CBT) mechanism. CBT tracks the changes made to a VM at the block level and provides this information to VDP so that only changed blocks are backed up. This significantly reduces storage consumption and speeds up backup and recovery times with VDP.

•VMware Tools on Windows contains Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) components to assist with guest OS and application quiescing when backing up Windows VMs. More details on VSS can be found here:

VDP Architecture

•The appliance is deployed by default with 4 vCPUs and 4 GB RAM.

•Available in three sizes: 5 TB, 1 TB, and 2 TB – these are usable destination datastore sizes. The actual amount of disk space (thick provisioned) consumed by the appliance is 850 GB (3 .vmdk files), 1600 GB (7 .vmdk files), and 3100 GB (13 .vmdk files) respectively. Thin provisioning can be used, but the administrator should closely monitor disk consumption. It is important to note that once the VDP appliance is deployed, the size cannot be changed.

•The VDP appliance guest OS is SuSE Linux 11.

•vCenter Server 5.1 is required to use VDP. VDP can backup VMs on hosts running vSphere 4.0 and higher.

•VDP management is done via the vSphere Web Client. There is no plug-in for the vCenter Server “thick” client.


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vSphere 5.1 Announced with Site Recovery Manager 5.1

With the announcement of vSphere 5.1 is also the announcement of Site Recovery Manager 5.1. Below are some of the new features and enhancements coming with SRM 5.1

Application Quiescence for vSphere Replication

The new VR has improved VSS integration and doesn’t merely request OS quiescence, but flushes app/db writers if present.

This is due to better handling of VSS through the VMware Tools present in vSphere 5.1 and requires no work to configure – merely select the quiescing method and VR will handle it.

If VR is asked to use VSS, it will synchronize its creation of the lightweight delta with the request to flush writers and quiesce the application and operating system. This ensures full app consistency for backups.

vSphere Replication is presented the quiescent and consistent volume produced by the OSS flushing the VSS writers, and that consistent volume is used to create the LWD for replication.

If for some reason the VSS can not quiesce correctly or flush the writers, VR will continue irrespective of the failure and create an OS consistent LWD bundle at the VM level, and generate a warning that VSS consistency was not able to be created.

All Paths Down Improvements

The way vSphere 5 handles hosts with devices in an “All Paths Down” state has been improved to ensure that the host does not get stuck in a loop attempting I/O on unavailable devices.

APD states often occur during disaster scenarios, and as such it becomes important for SRM that the platform not cause delay for recovery.

SRM now checks for a datastore’s accessibility flag before deciding whether or not to attempt to use that datastore. A datastore may become inaccessible because of various reasons, one of which is APD.

The changes in how vSphere handles these devices enables SRM to differentiate APD from other types of inaccessible states such as and Permanent Device Loss (PDL).

If SRM sees a datastore in an APD condition, it will stop immediately and try again later, since APD conditions are supposed to be transient, rather than time out trying to access a missing device.

SRM also has been improved to use a new unmount command to gracefully remove datastores from the primary protected site during the execution of a recovery plan. Since SRM needs to break replication and unmount the datastore from the protected environment the new method allows for a graceful dismount and generation of an APD situation rather than an abrupt removal of the datastore.

During a disaster recovery, however, in some cases hosts are inaccessible via network to gracefully unmount datastores, and in the past the isolated hosts could panic if their storage was removed abruptly by SRM.

With vSphere 5.1 there are new improvements to the hosts and storage stacks that allow them to remain operative even through an unplanned APD state.

Forced Failover

Forced failover was introduced in SRM 5.0.1 for recovery plans using array based replication protection groups. With SRM 5.1 forced failover is now fully supported for all protection group types.

In some cases SRM will be unable to handle storage failure scenarios at the protection site. Perhaps the devices have entered an APD or PDL state, or perhaps storage controllers are unavailable, or for many other reasons. Perhaps the original SAN is reduced to a puddle of molten slag.

In these cases, SRM can enter a state where it waits for responses from the storage for an untenable amount of time. For instance, timeouts have been seen to last as long as 8 hours while waiting for responses from ‘misbehaving’ storage at the protected site.

Forced failover handles these scenarios. If storage is in a known inconsistent state, a user may choose to run a recovery plan failover in “forced failover” mode. Alternately, if a recovery plan is failing and timing out due to unresponsive protected site storage, the administrator could cancel the running recovery plan and launch it again in forced failover mode.

Forced failover will run *only* recovery-side operations of the recovery plan. It will not attempt any protected site operations such as storage unmounts or VM shutdowns. During a forced failover execution of a recovery plan any responses generated by the protected site are completely ignored.

Array-based replication forced failover worked with SRM 5.0.1, and after extensive testing has now been introduced to work with vSphere Replication as well.

Failback supported with both Array and vSphere Replication

SRM 5.1 now includes vSphere Replication in the “automated failback” workflow!

With SRM 5 VMware introduced the “Reprotect” and failback workflows that allowed storage replication to be automatically reversed, protection of VMs to be automatically configured from the “failed over” site back to the “primary site” and thereby allowing a failover to be run that moved the environment back to the original site.

Taken together as “automated failback” this feature was well received by those using array-based replication, but was unavailable for use with vSphere Replication.

With SRM 5.1 users can now do automated reprotects and run failback workflows for recovery plans with any type of protection group, both VR and ABR inclusive.

After running a *planned failover only*, the SRM user can now reprotect back to the primary environment:

Planned failover shuts down production VMs at the protected site cleanly, and disables their use via GUI. This ensures the VM is a static object and not powered on or running, which is why we have the requirement for planned migration to fully automate the process.

The “Reprotect” button when used with VR will now issue a request to the VR Appliance (VRMS in SRM 5.0 terminology) to configure replication in opposite direction.

When this takes place, VR will reuse the same settings that were configured for initial replication from the primary site (RPO, which directory, quiescence values, etc.) and will use the old production VMDK as seed target automatically.

VR now begins to replicate replicate back to the primary disk file originally used as the production VM before failover.

If things have gone wrong at the primary site and an automatic reprotect is not possible due to missing or bad data at the original site, VR can be manually configured, and when the “Reprotect” is issued SRM will automatically use the manually configured VR settings to update the protection group.

Once the reprotect is complete a failback is simply the process of running the recovery plan that was used to failover initially.

vSphere Essentials Plus Support

SRM 5.1 is now supported with vSphere Essentials Plus, enabling smaller companies to move towards reliable disaster recovery protection for their sites.

•vCenter version 5.1 is the only version that will work with SRM 5.1. Lower versions of vSphere/VI are supported, but vCenter must be up to date.

•At time of shipping, only vSphere 4.x and 5.x are supported.

•ONLY ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 will work for vSphere Replication as the VR Agent is a component of the ESXi 5.x hypervisor.

•While both Storage DRS and sVmotion are not supported with SRM 5.1, they will work in some scenarios even though unsupported.

•While Storage vMotion with array-replicated protected VMs can be done by an administrator, they must then ensure that the target datastore is replicated and that the virtual machine is once again configured for protection. Because this is a very manual process it is not officially supported.

•Storage DRS compounds this problem by automating storage vmotion, and thereby will cause the VMDK of the protected virtual machines to migrate to potentially un-protected storage. Because of this it is unsupported with SRM 5

•Storage vMotion and Storage DRS are not supported at all with SRM 5 using vSphere Replication as migration of a VMDK will cause the migrated VM to reconfigure itself for protection, potentially putting it in violation of its recovery point objective.


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vSphere 5.1 Announced with Enhanced vSphere Web Client

Another of the new features of vSphere 5.1 is the Enhanced vSphere Web Client. The web Client was already part of vSphere 5 but now it is the Primary client for administrators in vSphere 5.1. Some facts

Enhanced vSphere Web Client:

The NEW virtual infrastructure client

  • Primary client for vSphere administrators in vSphere 5.1
  • Matched functionality to legacy vSphere Client
  • Additional vCenter 5.1 functionality, only available through the vSphere Web Client

Browser based

  • Internet Explorer / FireFox / Chrome fully supported (Rumours are Chrome is the fastest)
  • others (Safari, etc.) are possible (But without VM console access)

vSphere Web Client – Installation

Installer located on ISO image

Install on vCenter Server or separate server (recommended)

Login using

  • https://<FQDN or IP Address>:9443/vsphere-client/
  • Install Client Integration Plugin for console access


  • vSphere Web Client included with vCenter Server Appliance

vSphere Web Client – Object Navigator

Breaks the traditional hierarchy view of an object

  • Objects linked and displayed by relationships


Conventional top level hierarchy view maintained on HOME screen and links to object navigator

  • Allows an admin to view objects by solutions
  • But maintains global perspectives


  • Allows an admin to jump to the crucial element faster via object relationships and object search
  • Reduces client clutter and repetitive information by simplifying display of objects
  • Displayed objects are all that is communicated between server and browser


vSphere Web Client Interface

The new interface has the look and feel of vCloud Director but with loads of new features and goes to the same layout that vCenter Operations Manager for example has already.


vSphere Web Client – Plugin’s

Plugins are now server based

•Recreated in FLEX

•HTML Plugins (temporary work around)

VMware Plugins (90 Days post GA)

•vSphere Update Manager (VUM)

•vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM)

•vShield Manager

All VMware Solutions will integrate as they get updated

Third Party Plugins

•EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell etc

Centralised Log Browser

Proven framework to provide rich troubleshooting tools

vSphere Web Client plugin

Takes snapshot of specified host / vCenter logs

Provides rich user interface to review log data

  • search
  • filter by name / event / keyword
  • compare multiple logs
  • highlight key words


Simplifies Troubleshooting

The new vSphere Web Client looks to be a great replacement for the viclient and with SRM and other tools tipped to integrate it should provide every vSphere administrator an easier way to manage and administer their environments and give them all the stats and tools needed.

There are going to be a whole bunch of web based tutorial’s for people to learn how to use the new vSphere Web Client on

I’m really looking forward to learning how it all works and being able to integrate all the new and existing plugins into it.


Note: Screenshots thanks to VMware.