As you might know, VMware released a new version of Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 at the end of 2007. If you have a maintenance contract, you can upgrade to the new version for free. Here is a summary of the most significant changes with Virtual Infrastructure 3.5:

Elimination of the 8GB limit for Infrastructure Foundation. For users that have the VMware Infrastructure Foundation (formerly Starter), there's no longer an 8GB memory limit on an ESX host. With the Starter Package you were limited to 8GB of memory on the host regardless of the physical memory capacity of the server. Now you can address up to 256GB of memory on a host. Most servers today can only hold 128GB of memory.

64GB of memory for a virtual server guest. The previous limit was 16GB per virtual server guest. Now you can address up to 256GB of RAM on an ESX host and you can allocate up to 64GB of memory to a virtual server. On enterprise SQL Server or Exchange Server servers, 16GB was a serious limitation, but 64GB should be adequate for most servers.

Standard edition includes high availability and consolidated backup. Virtual Infrastructure Standard now includes high availability and consolidated backup features. However you still need at least one VirtualCenter Server license to use these features.

Storage VMotion. If you have Virtual Infrastructure Enterprise or VMotion, you can now move virtual machine disks from one datastore to another with no downtime.

Upgrading from an earlier version of Virtual Infrastructure is a fairly simple task. Whenever possible, I suggest downloading the ISO file and burning the image to CD-ROM. You can also download an update package that will upgrade from 3.0.x to 3.5 for remote upgrades. However when possible, I suggest using the ISO image, because the installation process is easier than the upgrade package. Complete the following steps to upgrade to Virtual Infrastructure 3.5:

  1. Download the 3.5 ISO image and verify the MD5 checksum to ensure you have a valid ISO download. Of course, your CD-ROM-burning software must be capable of burning an ISO image.
  2. Shutdown any virtual server guest you have running on the host.
  3. Using the Virtual Infrastructure Client, shut down the ESX host. To do so, right-click the ESX host and select Shutdown. Alternately you can log on to the ESX server console and issue the command:
      shutdown –y –g0,     <p>
    to shut down the server.    </p><p>
    </p>
  4. If you have any USB or other external devices, you may want to disconnect them before the upgrade. During the upgrade the ESX server might not recognize these devices, which can cause the server to behave abnormally.
  5. Insert the upgrade 3.5 CD-ROM and reboot the server. Make sure your server is configured to boot to a CD. Follow the on-screen instructions to install the upgrade. Make sure to select the option to upgrade the existing server. Don't select the option to install a new installation of ESX.
  6. Boot to ESX 3.5. After the upgrade is complete, reboot the server. Make sure all of your guests start up and there are no issues.
  7. The first time you connect with the Virtual Infrastructure Client, you'll be prompted to download the new client. After the new client is installed, you must manually uninstall the previous version.
  8. Upgrade VMware Tools on each Virtual Server Guest. For each virtual server guest, open up the ESX Management Client, right click on the virtual server guest and select Install/Upgrade VMware Tools.

We did run into one issue with an ESX server that had a generic SCSI tape drive installed in it. When we attempted to start the guest that had the tape drive configured for it, we received the following error: scsi0:filename isn't a valid non-disk SCSI device

The workaround is to shut down the virtual server guest, remove the generic SCSI device, and add it back into the virtual server guest configuration. This will remap the device to the virtual server guest and it should start up normally.

In our experience, the virtual server guests running on the ESX host run approximately 15 percent faster on Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 compared to 3.0. VMware made some significant performance tweaks with this version of ESX. If you have a maintenance agreement with VMware the upgrade is included in the price of your maintenance contract. It’s a worthwhile upgrade that doesn’t require too much time.

Tip – Limit your Outbound Internet Traffic

Some firewalls allow all outbound traffic to the Internet by default. Of course, you should always limit inbound traffic into your network to reduce your company’s “footprint,” but also consider limiting your outbound traffic as well. This will give you some protection against a virus/spyware/malware spreading to other locations, because these programs often use high-order ports to propagate. The most common outbound ports include:

  • http (80)
  • https (443)
  • smtp (25 Limit outbound traffic to known mail servers).
  • Dns (53)
  • ftp (21)
  • ntp (123)
Your company may need additional ports open, but this is a good starting point.