Monday, June 4, 2018

VMware ESXi 5.5 End of Support: What Does That Mean for You?

On September 19th, 2018, VMware vSphere ESXi 5.5 reaches End of General Support. But what exactly does that mean? Well, after the 19th, VMware will no longer provide new security patches, bug fixes, maintenance updates, upgrades, or new hardware support. Also, you may no longer open phone support tickets with Global Support Services (GSS) for severity 1 outage issues.

That's not to say all is lost, but your environment is in a precarious state. VMware will maintain Technical Guidance for vSphere 5.5 until September 19th, 2020. Support requests can only be opened via the self service portal for severity 2 and lower issues, so if you experience an outage, you are on your own. These tickets only apply to supported configurations as well.

As a VMware Support and Subscription (SnS) customer, you need to upgrade before September 19th to avoid losing the full protection of a supported vSphere platform.


"You're right, we need to upgrade... But what does that all entail?". The vSphere platform has a very specific upgrade path you need to follow to ensure no service interruptions during the process. Before we dive into the VMware aspects, there are other variables to consider. Let's start with the host servers; the hardware ESXi calls home. Validate that the hardware is compatible with the version of ESXi you are upgrading to via the VMware Compatibility Guide. Take a look at host BIOS and firmware as well. The host hardware vendor may also provided information about compatible versions of ESXi on their website.

Even in the event that the existing BIOS and firmware is compatible with ESXi 6.0 or higher, now is a great time to upgrade. This helps to keep your hardware secure and up to the manufacturers recommended levels. One of the first things the vendor's tech support engineer is going to tell you to do is to upgrade the BIOS to troubleshoot any problems you may call in with. I know this from many calls to *insert hardware vendor here*.

So the host hardware is taken care of, what's next? Think about other systems that interact with vSphere. Is your storage platform compatible? What about your backup solution?  Are there any vCenter plugins in use? Potentially many systems could be impacted by a VMware upgrade that's not properly planned.

"Alright, the hardware and peripheral systems are ready to go, time to move on to VMware!". Well, almost. Before diving into upgrading vSphere, take inventory of what vSphere editions and VMware programs you have deployed in your environment. Certain versions of vSphere and vCenter Server cannot be upgraded directly to 6.5+, so be sure to check the VMware Product Interoperability Upgrade Matrix first.

vCenter Upgrade Path taken from
Calling back a few paragraphs, I pointed out that vSphere has a very specific order of operations for upgrades. Now that you have the full list of VMware products in play in your environment ready to go, you can map out your next steps. A quick search of VMware KBs will provide the upgrade sequence for the specific version of ESXi to which you have chosen to upgrade. Here is the KB for ESXi 6.5. You'll notice that services such as vRealize Operations, NSX, and the Platforms Services Controller (PSC) must be upgraded before vCenter.

It's worth noting that hosts are upgraded AFTER vCenter. Older versions of ESXi can connect to newer vCenters, but it does not work the other way around. I have encountered many people in my days attending VMUG meetings where they were unaware of this requirement and upgraded the hosts first.

One more thought on vSphere upgrades: in-place versus a clean install. I'm not going to tell you which way is best. Everyone has their own options and experiences. What I will say is that, from my experiences, in place upgrades to vSphere 6.5 have been successful. I've encountered some issues going from 5.5 to 6.0, mainly around Site Recovery Manager, but 6.0 to 6.5 appears to be more stable than in place upgrades past. (Again, this is my experience, your may vary.)

Finally, be sure to have backups before upgrading your environment and read the release notes for each product before proceeding. Watch out for any known issues that may trip you up during your upgrade or daily operations.

The key to a successful vSphere upgrade is planning. With the clock ticking on ESXi 5.5, you need to start planning as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition and to stay protected.

Further Reading:
End of General Support for vSphere 5.5 (51491)
VMware Lifecycle Policies
VMware Extened Support

If you'd like to continue the conversation about vSphere upgrades, do not hesitate to contact me via any of the channels provided below. Do you have an idea or a topic for the blog? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ExploreVM Podcast - Nutanix .Next 2018 Review

On this episode of the ExploreVM podcast, we take a look back at the Nutanix .Next conference. New Orleans played host to the 2018 Nutanix .Next conference. This year marked my 3rd consecutive year attending, and 2nd as a Nutanix technology champion. Communities manager Angelo Luchiani had plenty of surprises lined up for us, including having myself and other NTCs arrive at the Opening Keynote in a Mardi Gras float. He's also done an excellent job expanding a communities area, creating lightning tech talks, and providing an area for podcasters. I made sure to take full advantage of the space and pin down a few interviews for a short wrap up podcast.

In the first two segments, I chat with Angelo and Mike Gelhar about what's going on in the world of Nutanix followed by a discussion on Nutanix certification. The final segment is a bit of a one off, but it's relevant to those of us who do a lot of travel for work. There were several major product announcements made at the conference. My personal favorite is Beam. I've linked a few blog posts from fellow NTCs about these announcements in the show notes, and I will have my own post up in the near future. I hope you enjoy.

Listen to "2018 Nutanix .Next Wrap Up" on Spreaker.

Here I am giving my Lightning Tech Talk. 
My Guests:
Angelo Luciani
Mike Gelhar
René van den Bedem
Ken Nalbone
Brandon Graves

NTC Nutanix .Next Announcement Posts


Do you have an idea or a topic for the show? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ExploreVM Podcast Short - Camp Rubrik: Insiders Edition

This special episode of the ExploreVM Podcast was recorded live at Camp Rubrik - Insiders Edition at the Rubrik Headquarters in Palo Alto, California. I was one of 15 influencer "Campers" to participate in this day long event featuring unprecedented access to the Rubrik Staff. In this round table discussion, I am joined by Byron Schaller, Brett Guarino, and Matt Crape as we chat about the day's events. Watch for a full blog post about the event to follow soon!

Listen to "Camp Rubrik: Insiders Edition" on Spreaker.

Photo Courtesy of Sean Massey

My Guests:
Twitter: Matt Crape
Twitter: Brett Guarino
Twitter: Byron Schaller


Do you have an idea or a topic for the show? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Monday, April 30, 2018

ExploreVM Podcast - Introducing Skylines Academy

Continuing to educate yourself in new technologies has been a recurring topic on this show. Today we're going to chat with a group that went a step further and started their own academy.

Use coupon code ExploreVM for half off your Skylines membership during the month of May.

Listen to "Introducing Skylines Academy" on Spreaker.

I strongly suggest taking a look at skylines academy to begin your Azure journey.
And hey, half off with code ExploreVM isn't too shabby either.
Also, what do you think of the new theme music? A long time friend of mine, Matt Carlson, sent over a song he felt was techy and nerdy, so a perfect fit for the show.

Show Links:
Skylines Academy
kylines Academy on YouTube
Nick Colyer on Twitter
Amy Manley on Twitter
Brette Bossick on Twitter
2 Ninjas 1 Blog

Do you have an idea or a topic for the show? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top 3 Features of Nutanix AOS 5.6

On April 16th, Nutanix released it's newest version of AOS (Acropolis Operating System). The 5.6 release has 9+ new features. But rather than cover them all, I wanted to call out what I consider the top 3 features of this release.

One or Two Node Deployment for Remote / Branch Office

Many businesses face the challenge of maintaining IT resources in remote locations. Whether it be a branch office or retail outlet, choosing the right solution to provide infrastructure which is easy to deploy and manage can prove difficult. Enter AOS 5.6. With this release, Nutanix now offers a single or dual node solution for ROBO deployment. The single node deployment can support up to 5 VMs, with disk level resiliency. The two node option supports up to 10 VMs and offers node level resiliency. Both options are managed centrally via Prism Central, allowing admins to administer the nodes alongside their on-premises data center. ROBO sites can also utilize cross hypervisor DR between the remote site and the DR location. And with all other Nutanix, the ROBO sites can be remotely upgraded using the same 1 click upgrades as the local site, saving the complexity of keeping a remote office up to date.

Microsegmentation hits GA

AHV users can now benefit from the GA release of Microsegmentation. Built into 5.6 and managed via Prism, application centric policy models can be deployed using a stateful distributed firewall. Single virtual machines or groups of VMs can all be protected, including blocking east/west traffic between them. Microsegmentation offers granular application isolation and zoning without configuring VLANs.

Volume Group Load Balancing of vDisks 

For users with high IO VMs, AOS 5.6 includes the ability for AHV to load balance vDisks in a volume group. CPU and memory resources are pulled from multiple CVMs (Controller VMs). This distribution across CVMs helps to improve the performance of the virtual machine and reduce bottlenecks.

Related links

What's New | AOS 5.6 - Nutanix - Nutanix AOS 5.6 Released - Nutanix AOS & Prism Central Version 5.6 & Much More Released

Do you have an idea or a topic for the blog? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ExploreVM Podcast - Wisconsin VMUG UserCon Wrap Up

I was at the Wisconsin VMUG UserCon for the first time in a long time as an attendee, not a speaker. So I took the opportunity to have conversations with vCommunity members and take in more sessions than usual.

I had a different interview approach in the first group of clips as I was "Ambush Interviewing" people. I walked up with a hot mic and just started the interview!

Listen to "Wisconsin VMUG UserCon Wrap Up" on Spreaker.

I crashed Sean Massey & Nigel Hickey's chat
Ariel & Tony talking about the benefits of the vCommunity
WI VMUG Leader Brian Kirsch talking about the War Dogs Charity

Post VMUG shenanigans at the Brewers vs Cubs game
More post Brewers Game shenanigans, vBrisket Wisconsin Style
More post Brewers Game shenanigans, vBrisket Wisconsin Style

Show Links:

War Dogs
WIVMUG on Twitter
Aaron Bolthouse on Twitter
Tim Davis on Twitter
Ariel Sanchez on Twitter
Josh Fidel on Twitter
Brian Kirsch on Twitter
Sean Massey on Twitter
Nigel Hickey on Twitter
Jon Hildebrand on Twitter
vBrownBag on Twitter

Do you have an idea or a topic for the show? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, Email, or Facebook.

Monday, April 2, 2018

ExploreVM Podcast - Maintaining Work Life Balance w/ Heather & Nigel Hickey

On this episode of the ExploreVM Podcast, we take a look at keeping the band, or in a more realistic setting, the family together when you and your partner are both working professionals.

Listen to "Maintaining a Work Life Balance w/ Heather & Nigel Hickey" on Spreaker.

As we all strive to succeed in business, its important to keep your family in mind as well
I know i could not have achieved half of what ive accomplished in my career if it wasnt for buy in and support from my family.

Be sure to take some time away from your job, studies, or projects and keep those loved ones close.

Nigel on Twitter
Heather on Twitter
Heather & Nigel's Spiceworld Presentation
Heather & Nigel on The Geek Whisperers

Do you have some tips on work life balance? Do you have an idea or a topic for the show? Would you like to be a guest on the ExploreVM podcast? If so, please contact me on Twitter, email, or Facebook.