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ESX 4.0 Upgrade Rollback

May 21, 2009

Reading through the Upgrade Guide (vsp_40_upgrade_guide.pdf) there is a section on page 82 that I thought I would bring to everyone’s attention.

Procedure
1 Run the rollback-to-esx3 command in the ESX 4.0 service console.
The rollback-to-esx3 command reconfigures the bootloader to boot into ESX 3.x and removes the ability
to boot into ESX 4.0.
You can include the optional -f (force) flag. If you omit the -f flag, you are prompted to confirm that you
want to roll back to ESX 3.x.
2 Reboot the server.
While the host is powering on, observe that the boot menu has changed to ESX 3.x.
3 After the host boots into ESX 3.x, delete the ESX 4.0 service console VMDK folder from the VMFS datastore.
The service console VMDK folder name has the following format: esxconsole-<UUID>.

As you can see the rollback process is incredibly easy – I will still hold the on to the seat of my pants if I have to do it in a production environment though 🙂

So, if you are going to rollback, this is what you need to know:

If you upgraded the virtual machine hardware, the virtual machines will not work after you perform the
ESX rollback. To avoid this situation, take a snapshot of the virtual machine before you upgrade the virtual
machine hardware. After you run the ESX rollback script, boot into ESX 3.x and revert to the snapshot.

To confirm, a snapshot to roll back VM hardware will only work if you have upgraded from version 4 virtual hardware, not version 3 virtual hardware.

When you upgrade from virtual hardware version 3 to version 7, the upgrade is irreversible, even if you take a virtual machine backup or snapshot before performing the upgrade.

When you upgrade from virtual hardware version 4 to version 7 the upgrade is reversible if you take a virtual machine backup or snapshot before performing the upgrade.

Part of the upgrade process is to upgrade the VM’s virtual hardware, but downgrading virtual hardware is not an option if you need to roll back. A lot of people back up their VM’s every night, so I wonder how many people would do the upgrade without bothering to snapshot their VM’s? Hey, if something goes wrong, I can just restore the VM from backup right? Snapshots obviously require a certain amount of storage space, often, an unknown amount, especially if the VM’s are very transactional.

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