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Before you start:

I have fixed PVSCSI few issues in my another post. Please check out if you do encounter problems.

I really hope you guys like my last series ESXi era: Using ESXi to replace ESX. I will start a new series which is upgrading ESX 3.5 to vSphere. I believe lots of companies are facing with this issue while ESX 3.5 support reaches it’s own lifetime and vSphere become more matured. This series is not only talking about how to upgrade, it also discuss how to optimize your performance and new technology used in vSphere.

Since this is a large projects if you have big environment, I would like to break them down and bring them to you with not exactly project wise order. I will make a list of ordered posts at the very end of this series.

All right, let’s hit the ground and roll out!

One of issues for upgrading ESX3.5 to vSphere is to upgrade your VMs. Your VMs are using Vmware hardware version 4 which doesn’t give you too much performance boosts. I’m going to guide you through how to upgrade a VM (I’m using Windows 2008 R2) to new version and optimize more. There are lots of detail information will be blended in this process.

Test Environment

In my test environment, I have a vCenter 4 U2(build 258672) and 1 ESX 3.5 U5 (build 226117) and ESXi 4.0.1 U2(Build 261974, You have to redownloaded this version of ESX 4 update 2 since latest update has issues with View).

I added those 2 hosts into vCenter at same time which will be exactly similar situation you will encounter in the future. So I created a VM(Windows 2008 R2) from ESX3.5 and ready to be moved to vSphere. This VM has 3 hard disks. 1 OS and 2 data disk. As you can see from this picture.

be noticed that the nic card the vm current has is E1000. Also the SCSI controller is LSI Logic Parallel.

As you can see from above picture, the OS is win2k8r2 and it’s running on hardware version 4.

That’s the vmtools version running on that VM.

Step 1: vMotion and Upgrade VMtools

First step is to vMotion to your ESXi server. I’m not going to solve the issues you may encounter on the vMotion, but I can recommend you to shutdown VM if you have to. That will help you a lot in many cases. You are going to have outage for the following procedures anyway. the next one is to upgrade VMtools. You must upgrade VMtools before you upgrade VM hardware. Otherwise, you may encounter missing and hidden drives issue I will mention later. So you  can either upgrade manually in VM console or just right click VM and choose guest->Upgrade vmtools.

Be noticed Upgrading VMtools will cause restart your VMs. Make sure you have turned off your monitoring services.

After upgrade VMtools, you should able to see new VMtools version.

Step 2: Upgrade VM hardware

VM hardware upgrade option will only appear when the VM is off. Hence, you need to power off your VM and right click Upgrade Virtual Hardware.

Notice: Once  you upgrade your VM HW to v7. You can’t vMotion VM back to ESX 3.5 server.

This is result of upgrading VM hardware. The Hardware version is 7. Nic is still using same nic which is E1000 in this case. Be noticed there is a new VMCI device added into your hardware list. VMCI in default is disabled. so What is VMCI?

The Virtual Machine Communication Interface (VMCI) is an infrastructure that provides fast and efficient communication between a virtual machine and the host operating system and between two or more virtual machines on the same host. The VMCI SDK facilitates development of applications that use the VMCI infrastructure.

First of all, VMCI is fast. Instead of going through 1Gb/s virtual nic to communicate  other VMs, it directly use memory to exchange data with other VMs on the same host. It can reach 24 times as fast as 1Gbps network connection in some case depends on your physical memory structure.

then, why not uses it? VMCI basically requires not only OS to support it, it also requires application to use VMCI stack instead of traditional TCP/IP stack. At this day, not many applications can do that. That’s why it’s disabled in default.

Step 3: Optimize your VMs with new technology

All right, let’s move on. so Hardware upgrade finished here? No. If you stopped here, you will lost a huge chunk of performance boost. There are at least 2 technologies you can apply to your VM so you can gain performance up and utilization of CPU down.

First technology, PVSCSI.

They were able to achieve 350,000 I/O operations per second on a single vSphere host (ESX 4.0) and with just 3 virtual machines. Their testing utilized the EMC Enterprise Flash Drives, which have an incredibly high throughput. They talked about how the VMware Paravirtual SCSI (PVSCSI) adapter was able to achieve 12% more throughput with 18% less CPU cost compared to the LSI virtual adapter.

There are also downsides with PVSCSI. First of all, it does  support bootable disk officially after U1.I have tested building new windows 2003 and windows 2008 with PVSCSI as boot disk successfully. All what you need to do is to connect floppy disk image when you install windows. Then, you need to hook up with PVSCSI floppy image which you can get them into 2 ways. Please follow this link to get more information.  From my tests, it failed when I tried to use it on existing boot disk on windows 2003 server and windows 2008. It also doesn’t support FT as well. But It’s worthy to use it.

The other technology is new VMnic card.

The paravirtualized network adapters in the VMXNET family implement an idealized network interface that
passes network traffic between the virtual machine and the physical network interface cards with minimal
overhead. Drivers for VMXNET-family adapters are available for most guest operating systems supported by
The VMXNET family contains VMXNET, Enhanced VMXNET (available since ESX 3.5), and VMXNET
Generation 3 (VMXNET3; newly-added in ESX 4.0).

The paravirtualized network adapters in the VMXNET family implement an idealized network interface thatpasses network traffic between the virtual machine and the physical network interface cards with minimaloverhead. Drivers for VMXNET-family adapters are available for most guest operating systems supported byESX.The VMXNET family contains VMXNET, Enhanced VMXNET (available since ESX 3.5), and VMXNETGeneration 3 (VMXNET3; newly-added in ESX 4.0).

There are some tricky way to implement those hardwares. Let me demonstrate you as follow.

First of all, you need to know what’s your current IP configuration of E1000 card. Then, you can deleted the E1000 card when VM is power off. Now, switch to one of non-boot disk and notice that disk is connecting to SCSI(0:1) which means it connects the our first SCSIcontroller.

Now, you need to remove (disconnect) your 2 non-boot disks.

Make sure you are using “Remove from virtual Machin”. You don’t want to delete vmdk file from disk.

then, you press ok to apply these operation.

Your VM settings should like this picture. Notice VMCI device is not enabled.

We have already removed all old hardware now we need to reinstall them. Click Add to add new Ethernet Adapter.

Select VMXNET 3 card. Finish the wizard.

Now, let’s add (connect) removed hard disks. Be aware you will gain second SCSI controller during the procedure as well.


You have to choose SCSI (1:0). It will start install additional SCSI controller. At this stage,  you don’t have choice to choose type of SCSI card, but you can do it later.


Be aware new SCSI controller is there. Also new hard disk. Now, you can modify the type of that new SCSI controller. With vSphere, you can let multiple VMs to access same VMDK as well.

It’s time to add another removed disk.

That’s what it look like after finishing configuration.

After finishing configuration, it’s still few steps from making it work. You added and removed hardware for that VM, but VMWARE didn’t actually removed the hardware from OS level. What it did was to hide removed devices instead of actually removing it. so you have to do it by yourself.

Now, let’s start VM and restart it with it’s request since we added new hardware.

Just be aware the IP address has lost since we are using new nic. We have to get into system to remove old hidden nic card so we can add ip to new card. As what I mentioned above, the old card is still hidden and with IP configuration. Since Windows doesn’t allow same  IP to apply to nics in the same box, so you have to removed the old card.

After you finish restart, you log into vm via console and open command window and do following step.

There is also another trick. You must start device manager not computer manager which contains device manager. If you use computer manager, you won’t see hidden devices.

so once you opened device manager, you should see following picture.

You still to enable show hidden device. But if you don’t set environment variable and open device manager, you won’t able to see those hidden devices.

Next step is to remove those hidden devices.

then, you can add IP and finial picture should look like this one.

All right. This is end of part 1 of Upgrading ESX 3.5 to vSphere. I explained how to upgrade VMs and also use the new technology in vSphere. I hope you will like it and please feel free to leave comments.



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