VMware, keep your environment up-to-date

VMware offers several tools to maintain your virtual environment. Sometimes it is hard to determine which tool is the best choice to do the job. In this post an overview of available tools and other useful information about updating and upgrading. So if you want to know the difference between the updatemanager, vihostupdate, esxupdate or esxupgrade? Please read on.


VMware has a policy on Updating and Upgrading and my definitions on Updating and Upgrading.

Update: Applying patches, updates etc. to the current version. The ESX 4.1 Patch Management Guide, provides background information on processing patches for ESX 4.1 hosts and describes how to use the esxupdate utility to apply software updates and to track software installed on ESX 4.1 hosts.
For information on how to patch versions of ESX released prior to version 4.1, see the Patch Management for ESX Servers tech note and the ESX Server 3 Patch Management Guide.

Upgrade: Going from the current version of software to a newer version. The most important document on this subject is the vSphere Upgrade Guide.  This book describes how to upgrade from earlier versions of VMware ESX, ESXi, and VMware vCenter Server to ESX 4.1/ESXi 4.1 and vCenter Server 4.1. VMware’s KB 1022140, Upgrading ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1 also presentssome comprhensive information about upgrading ESX4.0 to 4.1


In this part an overview of available tools per December 2010. If you don’t want to read the whole story, here is the summary: Considering the future of VMware ESX, where there will be only an ESXi version and the impressive number of tools at this moment. I think the two most versatile tools for updating and upgrading your environment are VMware vCenter Update Manager which fully integrates in vCenter and the vihostupdate CLI utility.

VMware vCenter Update Manager 4.1

VMware vCenter Update Manager (VUM) is an optional module for vCenter Server that periodically downloads patch information from the Internet. Update Manager performs user‐defined scan operations on ESX 4.1 and ESXi 4.0 hosts for patch compliance. If it determines a patch is required, VUM downloads the patch and installs it based on user‐defined configurations. VUM can perform scan and installation operations with latest patches in an air gap or semi‐air gap environment that has no Internet access, by using a shared repository.
VUM is a robust software for upgrading, updating, and patching clustered hosts, virtual machines, and guest operating systems. Orchestrates host and virtual machine upgrades. If your site uses vCenter Server, VMware highly recommends using VMware Update Manager. vCenter Update Manager is available with vCenter Server 4.0, vCenter Server 4.0 Update 1, vCenter Server 4.0 Update 2, and vCenter Server 4.1.


–          Graphical utility

–          Can upgrade ESX 3.x and ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1

–          Can upgrade ESXi 3.5 and ESXi 4.0 to ESX 4.1

–          Can update ESX 3.x, 4.x and ESXi 3.5, 4.x

–          Can Update Guest OS and Applications

–          Updating Windows and Linux guest VMs

–          Updating applications on Windows guest VMs

–          Integrates with DRS and automates the entire process

–          Patches are automatically downloaded


–          vCenter server is required

–          Carefully plan the installation of VUM

–          Not every Windows administrator wants VUM to substitute Windows Server Update Services. On the other hand VUM crosses network boundaries, something WSUS can’t do.

Official documentation can be found here. Most important document is the vCenter Update Manger Installation and Administration Guide,


The vihostupdate utility is a versatile utility that allows you to upgrade ESX and ESXi. The vihostupdate utility is part of the VMware vSphere Command-Line Interface (vSphere CLI). You can install the vSphere CLI on a Microsoft Windows or Linux system or import the VMware vSphere Management Assistant (vMA) virtual appliance onto your ESX host. For information about importing or installing the vSphere CLI, see the VMware vSphere Command-Line Interface Installation and Reference Guide.

The vihostupdate command can scan ESX/ESXi hosts for installed patches, enforce software

update policies, and install software patches. It can perform software updates to ESX/ESXi images and install and update ESX/ESXi extensions such as VMkernel modules, drivers, and CIM providers. For ESX/ESXi 4.0 hosts, run vihostupdate. For ESX/ESXi 3.5 hosts, run vihostupdate35.


–          CLI utility

–          Can upgrade ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1

–          Can upgrade ESXi 4.0 to ESXi 4.1

–          Can update ESX 3.5, ESXi 3.5, ESX 4.x and ESXi 4.x


–          vSphere CLI is required

Documentation can be found in vSphere Upgrade Guide. See the latest versionof the vSphere CLI Installation and Reference Guide and the vSphere Upgrade Guide.


The patch maintenance utility, esxupdate, can be used to retrieve information about updates and extensions from VMware and third parties, to track installed software, and to apply software packages to ESX 4.1 hosts. Esxupdate runs from the service console while logged on to an ESX 4.1 host as user root. Only one instance of esxupdate can run at a time on the same ESX 4.1 host. The esxupdate utility can also be used to upgrade ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1.


–          Out-of-the-box available on ESX hosts

–          CLI utility

–          Can upgrade ESX 4.0 to ESX 4.1

–          Can update ESX 4.x


–          Only available on ESX

–          Can’t perform remote execution on another ESX host

Documentation can be found in the  vSphere Upgrade Guide. And more info on the update feature  in the ESX 4 Patch Management Guide,


The esxupgrade.sh script is an experimental way to upgrade an ESX 3.x host without network access to ESX 4.x . Knowledge base article KB 1009440 Performing an offline upgrade from ESX 3.x to ESX 4.x provides information about the esxupgrade.sh script and instructions on how to use the script to upgrade from ESX 3.x to ESX 4.x . See this for more information on experimental features.


–          Can perform an offline upgrade from ESX 3.x to ESX 4.1


–          Not available for ESXi.

–          Experimental

vSphere Host Update Utility

The vSphere Host Update Utility (VMware Infrastructure Update in the ESX3.x days) can be installed during the installation of the vSphere 4.0 client. This also seems to be the last version, the vSphere 4.1 client came without this nice utility. So when you plan to upgrade to vSphere 4.1 or to patch your vSphere 4.1 environment, you have to choose one of the other tools. I would suggest use VUM or vihostupdate. This graphical utility for standalone hosts allows you to perform remote upgrades of ESX 3.x/ESXi 3.5 hosts to ESX 4.0/ESXi 4.0. The vSphere Host Update Utility upgrades the virtual machine kernel (vmkernel) and the service console, where present. vSphere Host Update Utility does not upgrade VMFS datastores or virtual machine guest operating systems.


–          Graphical utility

–          Can upgrade ESX 3.x/ESXi 3.5 hosts to ESX 4.0/ESXi 4.0

–          Can update ESXi hosts


–          Last version came with vSphere Client 4.0 Read this post if you want to know what happens when you try to upgrade yout ESXi 4.0 host to version 4.1.


If you think Updating your environment needs some preparation, then consider Upgrading as an project. If you plan to upgrade your environment, you should carefully prepare your project. A good starting point is the vSphere Upgrade Guide.

Not only ESX and ESXi

Sometimes one tends to forget that there are more components that need your attention and care besides the ESX and ESXi hosts. Probably you use vCenter for daily management, VMware Data Recovery, a Command Line Interface or the vSphere management Assistant Appliance.

Patches for ESX, ESXi and VEM (the Cisco Nexus Virtual Ethernet Module)  can be found on: http://www.vmware.com/patch/download/

Another way that leads to patches and upgrades is The VMware Download center at: http://downloads.vmware.com/d/

Choose your product, for example “VMware vSphere 4”,
choose your licensed edition, for example “Enterprise”
and choose your product, for example “VMware vCenter 4.1 and modules”
under Version History is an overview.

A few links:

3.5 downloads: http://downloads.vmware.com/d/info/datacenter_downloads/vmware_infrastructure_3/3_5

4.x downloads: http://downloads.vmware.com/d/info/datacenter_downloads/vmware_vsphere_4/4

Free VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi): http://downloads.vmware.com/d/info/datacenter_downloads/vmware_vsphere_hypervisor_esxi/4

Every VMware product has an Build numbers, but articles etc. usually refers to Product and Update levels. The Build number can usually be found in the Details of the Product.

The other way around is more difficult. To determine the patchlevel of an ESX or ESXI host, see this nice post: http://www.techhead.co.uk/how-to-determine-the-vmware-esx-or-esxi-build-version

VMware also published KB’s on this subject, see: Determining detailed build number information for VMware ESX 3.0.x and 3.5.x hosts

Happy reading and I welcome comments on this article.

One Response to VMware, keep your environment up-to-date

  1. […] Installation and Scripting Guide and general information about updating and upgrading in this post. Enjoy […]

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