vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) is a powerful framework based on a desired-state model to deliver simple, reliable, and consistent lifecycle operations for vSphere and HCI clusters. Simplified operations mean predictable outcomes, and this is why VMware continues to make significant investments in improving the resilience and flexibility of operations with vSAN. vSAN 7 Update 3 introduces a series of enhancements that was a direct result of feedback from our customers. Beyond enhancements that improve the robustness of vSAN, the improved operational handling includes support for vSAN topologies using dedicated witness host appliances. This post focuses specifically on the enhancements to vSphere Lifecycle Manager in vSAN 7 Update 3
HCL validation and firmware updates for NVMe storage devices
Maintaining compatible hardware on servers supporting production workloads is critically important. vSphere/vSAN 7 introduced a few enhancements to hardware compatibility, verifying whether the physical I/O device controllers are compatible with the ESXi version specified in the vLCM image. Now in vSphere/vSAN 7 Update 3, vLCM has been enhanced to support the validation and update of firmware for storage devices as well. The integrated hardware compatibility checks will scan the desired-state image and notify you of any incompatibilities in your environment before every remediation. Compatibility is checked for vSAN storage controllers and storage devices. If a device is incompatible with the ESXi version in the desired image, an error will appear in the Hardware Compatibility tab of Updates.
Witness Host Appliance support for Stretched and 2-Node clusters
vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) has proven to be a major step forward in providing a framework for desired state lifecycle management of vSphere hosts in a cluster. While vLCM works with both vSAN stretched cluster and vSAN 2-node topologies, it was unable to manage the lifecycle of the witness host appliance – a key component of these topologies. This was in part because vLCM could only manage hosts within a cluster, and witness host appliances had a strict requirement to reside outside of a vSphere cluster. vSAN 7 U3 now provides support for managing the lifecycle of the vSAN witness host appliance for vSAN stretched cluster and 2-node topologies. Once a stretched cluster or 2-node cluster that meets the criteria is managed by vLCM, the witness host appliance will also be managed by vLCM. Hosts and witness appliances will be updated in the recommended order to maintain availability.
A few considerations:
The witness host must be a virtual appliance.
The witness host appliance must be managed by the same vCenter Server as the cluster being upgraded.
A shared witness cannot be part of a vLCM cluster image since they can potentially manage hosts in multiple clusters.
This feature is applicable to versions equal or newer than vSAN 7 U3
Lifecycle management has historically been a time-consuming and complex process. Administrators need to find the right balance between software, firmware and drivers that are current but also supported on the VCG. This can involve several tools and considerable time and effort. vSphere Lifecycle Manager in vSphere 7 reduced the complexity of monitoring and maintaining hyper-converged infrastructure by consolidating software, driver, and firmware update tools and introducing a desired-state model of implementing a desired image. vSphere 7 U3 extends these capabilities with support for storage device validation via HCL and witness host appliance for Stretched Clusters and 2-Node clusters. vSphere Lifecycle Manager delivers simple, reliable, and consistent lifecycle operations for vSphere and HCI clusters and ESXi hosts.