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Upgrading vCenter 7 via the command line

I have vCenter 7.0.0.10700 installed and I want to update to 7.0.1.00200. When I run Update Planner > Interoperability it reports that all of my ESXi hosts are running ESXi 7.0.1. If I run the pre-update checks I get “No issues found”. When I go to the appliance to do the upgrade, both “Stage Only” and “Stage and Install” are greyed-out and unselectable.

vCenter 7 Appliance Available Updates screen

I tried a dozen different tricks, including ssh-ing into the appliance as root and editing the /etc/applmgmt/appliance/software_update_state.conf file, but nothing could enable the “Stage Only” and “Stage and Install” buttons.

Use the command line

I finally decided to try upgrading via the command line. I have backups going back 30 days. I even double-checked and yes, my NFS server has files in the backup directory for each of the past 30 days and they have data in them. There’s probably even a way to restore one of those backups if something goes horribly wrong. Onwards!

I was already logged into the vCenter appliance shell as root. The next thing I needed to do was to figure out where the command line tools were hidden. I found them in /usr/lib/applmgmt/support/scripts.

Disclaimer: I work at VMware, but I have no idea if the following is an “acceptable practice” or not. If your production vCenter is broken and you have a support contract, call support. If you’re messing around on a home or test system and you don’t care how badly you screw it up, feel free to try the command line tools.

root@vcenter [ ~ ]# cd /usr/lib/applmgmt/support/scripts
root@vcenter [ /usr/lib/applmgmt/support/scripts ]# ls -al
total 108
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root  4096 Aug 30 18:18 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root  4096 Aug 30 18:18 ..
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root   205 Aug 15 07:16 autogrow.sh
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root   633 Aug 15 07:16 manifest-verification
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root   286 Aug 15 07:16 mapping.sh
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  2056 Aug 15 07:16 pgtop.py
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  3396 Aug 15 07:16 port-accessible.py
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root  4096 Aug 30 18:18 postinstallscripts
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  5207 Aug 15 07:16 prestart-applmgmt.sh
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  4171 Aug 15 07:16 resize-root.py
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root   251 Aug 15 07:16 setup-env.sh
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  4001 Aug 15 07:16 showlog.py
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  3910 Aug 15 07:16 shutdown.py
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root 35773 Aug 15 07:16 software-packages.py
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root root  8085 Aug 15 07:16 support-bundle.py
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root  4096 Aug 30 18:18 tests

These are the Python scripts that are linked to the Command shell. I’m actually in the root shell. I can run these directly from the root shell, or exit back to the Command shell and use them in the “official” way. In case I need to pull in support let’s do this the official way.

The software-packages.py script is what does the upgrade. Let’s exit back to the Command shell and see what it says it supports.

root@vcenter [ /usr/lib/applmgmt/support/scripts ]# exit
Command> software-packages
usage: software-packages [-h] {stage,unstage,validate,install,list} ...

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit

sub-commands:
  {stage,unstage,validate,install,list}
    stage               Stage software update packages
    unstage             Purge staged software update packages
    validate            Validate software update packages
    install             Install software update packages
    list                List details of software update packages

Stage the packages for the update

Since the appliance wasn’t letting me upgrade, I thought I’d first check to see if I already have upgrades staged.

Command> software-packages list --staged
 [2021-01-22T21:45:41.022] : Packages not staged

OK. Nothing staged. How do I stage packages?

Command> software-packages stage --help
usage: software-packages stage [-h] [--url [URL]] [--iso] [--acceptEulas] [--thirdParty]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help     show this help message and exit
  --url [URL]    Download software update package from URL. If no url is specified, https://vapp-updates.vmware.com/vai-
                 catalog/valm/vmw/8dc0de9a-feedl-1337-be0a-6ddeadbeefa3/6.7.0.42000.latest/ is used.
  --iso          Load software update packages from CD/DVD drive attached to the appliance
  --acceptEulas  accept all Eulas
  --thirdParty   Stage third party packages.--thirdParty should only be usedwith --url.

Sounds clear enough. I’ll try that:

Command> software-packages stage --url --acceptEulas
 [2021-01-22T21:46:28.022] : Latest updates already installed on VCSA, Nothing to stage

Well that’s not correct. There’s definitely an update available. Re-reading help again I notice that the default URL looks something like:

https://vapp-updates.vmware.com/vai-catalog/valm/vmw/8dc0de9a-feedl-1337-be0a-6ddeadbeefa3/6.7.0.42000.latest/

I’ve obfuscated the actual URL, but that’s a vCenter 6.7.0 URL, I’m using 7.0.0, and I want 7.0.1.

I go back to the appliance web UI and click the Update > Settings button.

vCenter 7 Appliance Update screen

Settings shows a different URL for 7.0.1, so I copy and paste that into the command line:

Command> software-packages stage --acceptEulas --url https://vapp-updates.vmware.com/vai-catalog/valm/vmw/......
 [2021-01-22T21:48:28.022] : Target VCSA version = 7.0.1.00200
 [2021-01-22 21:48:28,781] : Running requirements script.....

Trust but verify

A little while later everything was staged. I decided to validate everything.

Command> software-packages validate
 [2021-01-22T21:50:11.022] : For the first instance of the identity domain, this is the password given to the Administrator account.  Otherwise, this is the password of the Administrator account of the replication partner.
Enter Single Sign-On administrator password:

 [2021-01-22T21:50:22.022] : Validating software update payload
 [2021-01-22 21:50:22,327] : Running validate script.....
 [2021-01-22T21:50:26.022] : Validation successful
 [2021-01-22T21:50:26.022] : Validation process completed successfully

Then I check to see what’s staged:

Command> software-packages list --staged
 [2021-01-22T21:50:45.022] :
        category: Bugfix
        kb: https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/rn/vsphere-vcenter-server-70u1c-release-notes.html
        leaf_services: ['vmware-pod', 'vsphere-ui', 'wcp']
        vendor: VMware, Inc.
        name: VC-7.0U1c
        size in MB: 5107
        tags: []
        version_supported: []
        productname: VMware vCenter Server
        releasedate: December 17, 2020
        executeurl: https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/get-download?downloadGroup=VC70U1C
        version: 7.0.1.00200
        updateversion: True
        allowedSourceVersions: [7.0.0.0,]
        buildnumber: 17327517
        rebootrequired: False
        summary: {'id': 'patch.summary', 'translatable': 'In-place upgrade for vCenter appliances.', 'localized': 'In-place upgrade for vCenter appliances.'}
        type: Update
        severity: Critical
        TPP_ISO: False
        url: https://vapp-updates.vmware.com/vai-catalog/valm/vmw/8dc0de9a-feedl-1337-be0a-6ddeadbeefa3/7.0.0.10700.latest/
        thirdPartyAvailable: False
        nonThirdPartyAvailable: True
        thirdPartyInstallation: False
        timeToInstall: 0
        requiredDiskSpace: {'/storage/core': 30.353511543273928, '/storage/seat': 32.21015625}
        eulaAcceptTime: 2021-01-22 21:48:37 UTC

Well, that shows:

version: 7.0.1.00200

Which is the version I’ve been trying to upgrade to, so that looks good.

Did I mention that I have backup copies of vCenter going back 30 days? Well I do. If this goes really sideways I’m going to have to restore one of them.

Let’s do the update!

Command> software-packages install --staged
 [2021-01-22T21:51:23.022] : For the first instance of the identity domain, this is the password given to the Administrator account.  Otherwise, this is the password of the Administrator account of the replication partner.
Enter Single Sign-On administrator password:

 [2021-01-22T21:51:43.022] : Validating software update payload
 [2021-01-22 21:51:43,716] : Running validate script.....
 [2021-01-22T21:51:47.022] : Validation successful
 [2021-01-22 21:51:47,730] : Copying software packages 251/251
 [2021-01-22 21:55:37,642] : Running system-prepare script.....
 [2021-01-22 21:55:42,661] : Running test transaction ....
 [2021-01-22 21:55:44,678] : Running prepatch script...
....
 [2021-01-22 21:58:27,896] : Upgrading software packages ....
 [2021-01-22T22:02:10.022] : Setting appliance version to 7.0.1.00200 build 17327517
 [2021-01-22 22:02:10,242] : Running patch script.....
 [2021-01-22 22:11:34,245] : Starting all services ....
 [2021-01-22T22:11:35.022] : Services started.
 [2021-01-22T22:11:35.022] : Installation process completed successfully

That was it. The actual update took about 20 minutes, and although the UI said no reboot was necessary vCenter did reboot during the update. When it was done vCenter was running version 7.0.1.00200.

The vCenter appliance Update “Stage Only” and “Stage and Install” buttons are still greyed-out and unselectable, but right now there are no updates available so that’s how they should be. I’ll have to wait for the next update to see if they’re working again. If the buttons are still broken, at least now I know how to use the command line to install an update.

Hope you find this useful.

Update as of 2021-06-30: I have successfully upgraded a couple of times since I wrote this article using the GUI and the “Stage Only” and “Stage and Install” buttons are no longer greyed out when an update is available.

I did run into an issue upgrading from 7.0.2.00000 to 7.0.2.00100 where I got the error “Package discrepency error, Cannot resume!” [sic] when I tried to stage the update. Also when upgrading from 7.0.2.00100 to 7.0.2.002.00. Both times I resolved the error and got the upgrades to install by following the steps in William Lam’s article Stage Only & Stage and Install buttons disabled when updating to vSphere 7.0 Update 2a. According to William these steps will need to be repeated until 7.0 u3 is released.

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4 thoughts on “Upgrading vCenter 7 via the command line

  1. Perfect! I ran into the same thing patching a 7.0u1 vcenter in the lab. Thanks for the tip Earl!

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