ESXi upgrade preparation

With Cisco UCS you really need to make sure that your ESXi hosts are running the correct driver version. If you’re running NFS or FCoE storage into your ESXi hosts as either datastores or RDM disks then it’s critical that you have the right fnic and enic drivers. Even if you use the Cisco Custom image for ESXi upgrades the enic and fnic drivers may not be correct according to the compatibility matrix. I’ve had this issue in the past and I saw intermittent NFS datastores going offline for a Dev ESXi host and the resolution was to upgrade the enic driver which handles ethernet storage connectivity.

The best place to go is to VMware’s compatibility site for IO drivers which comes under the System/Servers. To find out which drivers you currently have you will need to check on the driver versions on the ESXi hosts. This can be done by following KB1027206. Using the values for the Vendor ID, Device ID, Sub-Vendor ID and Sub-Device ID it’s possible to pinpoint the interoperability with your respective hardware. In my case I have both VIC1340 and VIC1240 in the mix so I had to go through the process twice. Primarily you’ll be using the ‘ethtool -i’ command to find the driver version.

e.g. You can check the UCS VIC 1240 for FCoE CNAs on ESXi 5.5 Update 3 here

In this image you can see the version of enic drivers I’m running, doesn’t match the firmware version that will be installed as part of the Cisco Custom ISO image. This shows that the enic driver version will need to be upgraded as part of the process.


Once you know the versions you’re next step is to go to the Cisco Interoperability matrix. You can check the required versions of drivers required for the software version you wish to update to based on your hardware. The first thing I noticed is that the versions of the enic and fnic drivers were not compatible and the firmware versions were different to what I currently see in Cisco UCSM.

enic and fnic compatibility matrix

Before any upgrades I’d also recommend validating the sequence that you’ll be upgrading either vCenter or ESXi. This makes sure that you’re not upgrading components out of sequence and causing yourself a world of unnecessary pain. You can check the Upgrade Sequence over on VMware’s site.

Add Patches to Update Manager

Import patches into Update Manager. Go to Admin view and select Baselines, select Import patches

Step 1: Open Admin View of Update Manager


Step 2: Select Import ESXi image


Step 3: Browse for the downloaded ISO image and click Next.


Step 4: Select Install the certificate and click Ignore


Step 5: Click Yes to confirm the certificate


Step 6: Verify the upload and click Next


Step 7: Enter the name of the baseline and click Finish


Step 8: Verify the baseline has been created in Update Manager


Step 9: Attach the new baselines to the ESXi hosts


Step 10: Select the new baseline from the list and click Attach


Step 11: Scan for the new baseline, select both Upgrades and Patches & Extensions


Step 12: Import patches for the enic and fnic drivers can also be done from the Admin View in Update Manager


Upgrade Process

Step 13: Prior to upgrading I’d advise turning off DRS by setting the cluster to Manual DRS. This can be done by select the cluster name, right-click and select Edit Settings. Select vSphere DRS and choose Manual. Click Ok to confirm.


Step 14: In the Update Manager tab for the ESXi host select Remediate


Step 15: Select the ESXi 5.5 Update 3b baseline created earlier and click Next


Step 16: Accept the EULA and click Next


Step 17: Click Next on the Upgrade screen


Step 18: Select immediately for the remediation time and click Next


Step 19: Click Next on Maintenance Mode Options


Step 20: Verify all the settings and click Finish


Step 21: The upgrade of the ESXi host will automatically be handled by Update Manager. If you open a KVM session to the server or blade you can see what is happening with the upgrade process. You can see that the version before the upgrade is different to the version after the upgrade


Step 22: Following the upgrade the host will appear as being Up To Date


Step 23: Once the host has been upgraded to the new version you can update any outstanding enic and fnic drivers. Be aware that these patches do require a reboot of the host.

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