VMware vSphere 6 Migration and Upgrade Guidance

Expand or move your VMware cloud environments to any IBM Cloud data center quickly and easily with the VMware management control panel your team already uses. For recommendations and best practice guidance please see below for steps on migrating and upgrading vSphere workloads on SoftLayer. 


  1. Gather Data

  2. Review the existing architecture

    1. Resource utilization (CPU/Memory/Storage)

    2. Track and project growth rates

    3. Identify any upcoming future projects

    4. ID the SoftLayer assigned vlans/subnets/etc deployed (available in the softlayer control portal)

    5. ID the self-defined RFC1918 (private) subnets in use for the solution

  3. Review the VMWare 6 Documentation and Join the VMWare communities

    1. https://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-60/index.jsp

    2. https://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-6-pubs.html

    3. https://communities.vmware.com/welcome

  4. Update your admin team's training to support VMWare 6

  5. Plan and design a new architecture

  6. Select a location (http://www.softlayer.com/data-centers) based on location and compliance and work with SoftLayer Sales to refine your candidate location based on availability of desired products/services

  7. Define your required VLANs and subnets (portable public and private IPs)

  8. Design the vSphere Servers

    1. Review the current SoftLayer server catalog.  Intel Xeon v3 Servers are recommended along with redundant uplinks, redundant power supplies, and RAID-1 for local (boot) disks.

    2. Most customers with VMWare follow an N+1 hard capacity ceiling (all VMs can be comfortably allocated to servers with a single node removed (for maintenance/failure/etc)

    3. Many customers leverage SoftLayer to provide a higher "soft ceiling" of ~80% (80% capacity on the 'n' server configuration) compared to the more standard 60-75% due to the short turn around of compute at SoftLayer

    4. OS Licensing may be needed for vSphere guests from an external vendor (Microsoft, Red Hat, etc)

    5. Review VMware Best Practice documentation - https://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/techpaper/VMware-PerfBest-Practices-vSphere6-0.pdf

  9. Design the vCenter Server

    1. Typically a mid-size SoftLayer Virtual Server Instance (VSI) is the entry point for small environments (8 vCPU + 16GB RAM) with Bare Metal for larger environments.

    2. vCenter can be deployed on a stand-alone VSI Windows Virtual Machine as an OS add-on or as an appliance

      1. Reference Links:

  10. Non-VMWare servers

    1. Identify and plan for any non-VMWare servers (virtual or Bare Metal) that might be needed and plan accordingly.

  11. Storage

    1. Develop a storage plan for the environment.  Most customers utilize Endurance 2 IOPS/GB with snapshot space for virtualization, but if virtual databases or other high performance applications are in use then the 4 IOPS/GB tier may be a better fit for those workloads.  NFS storage is typically recommended.  

    2. Selection matrix can be found at http://knowledgelayer.softlayer.com/procedure/select-storage-option-use-vmware

    3. Snapshot space is typically used as a secondary measure for point-in-time restores. Typically 10% is a good starting place since the process is very efficient and can be sized up over time if needed.

  12. Backups

    1. Ensure the existing backup strategy is working.  If one does not exist, one should be created.

    2. Customers can utilize their own backup solution, the backup features included with vSphere Enterprise Plus licensing, optimized third party solutions like VEEAM, or traditional SoftLayer r1soft backups.

  13. Develop a migration strategy

    1. Review the best practices for migration and upgrading - https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2109712

    2. Review the existing DNS and/or IP Configurations and shorten the TTL as needed.

    3. Develop a plan for VMs to include Source host, destination host, source IPs, destination IPs, associated DNS entries

    4. In most scenarios, it is best to migrate VM-by-VM and then update the public and private network configurations.  When moving from older versions to newer versions, it is likely best to simply "rip and ship" the VM by shutting it down and performing an detach/attach between the environments.  If simply moving between locations, a long distance vMotion may be possible.

    5. Develop testing plans for verification of the environment

    6. Coordinate a change/maintenance window with end users.  Individual VM maintenance windows should account for transfer of data, configuration of the VM, changing and propagation of DNS, as well as time for troubleshooting.

  14. Deploy the new environment

    1. VMware vSphere 6 Getting Started

    2. Order the new vSphere and vCenter servers (as well as any other servers needed)
      • Ensure proper "unbonded" network uplinks are selected
    3. Order and configure the appropriate storage: https://knowledgelayer.softlayer.com/content/ordering-and-configuring-endurance-and-performance-block-storage-vmwaresoftlayer
    4. Order the new VLANs and portable subnets to be used (detailed architecture diagrams and justification may be required)

    5. Configure vCenter to communicate the with vSphere servers and perform the basic configuration of the environment

    6. Take backups in the live environment!

    7. Execute the migration plan and associated test plans

    8. Implement backups in the new environment

    9. Operate the new environment

    10. Decommission the legacy environment