System Center 2016: upgrade of Virtual Machine Manager in high availability

In certain environments System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) plays a major role within your infrastructure, to the point that it requires a configuration in high availability. This happens especially at large infrastructures that host a large number of virtual machines, such as Service Provider, where Virtual Machine Manager is used extensively to perform different tasks of managing your virtual datacenter and deliver services. Thanks to the new features in Windows Server 2016 you can address the upgrade of deployments in high availability of SCVMM minimizing catches of service. This article will examine what steps to take to upgrade to Virtual Machine Manager 2016 in a high availability implementation.

A requirement to continue this activity is that Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 is updated with at least the update rollup 9. It is also important to ensure that the SCVMM database is hosted on a SQL Server instance of a supported version from SCVMM 2016. Before you begin the activity is essential to carry out the operations mentioned in the specific section of the official Microsoft documentation, in particular, you should ensure that you have a backup of the SCVMM database.

At this point you can follow the steps below that, also relying on the capabilities of Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade, allow you to update the implementation of SCVMM 2012 R2 minimizing the catch of the service only for the time needed for a failover and allowing you to also make the switch to Windows Server 2016 of the various nodes in the cluster.

The procedure initially plans to add to the existing cluster that hosts Virtual Machine Manager and with nodes based on Windows Server 2012 R2, an equal number of nodes Windows Server 2016.

Figure 1 – Adding cluster nodes

Figure 2 – Choose servers to add to the cluster environment

Figure 3 - Confirmation of the nodes to add to the cluster

Figure 4 - Adding nodes successfully completed

Since then the cluster will come in Mixed Mode with both nodes Windows Server 2012 R2 and nodes Windows Server 2016 and will continue to provide the service of SCVMM.

Figure 5 – Cluster consisting of nodes Windows Server 2012 R2 and nodes Windows Server 2016

On nodes Windows Server 2016 you must install the component Assessment and Deployment kit (ADK) of Windows 10 and proceed to install Virtual Machine Manager 2016. The installation can also be done on Windows Server 2016 without the desktop experience, assuming that you do not need to set up on the same system the SCVMM Library and that Operations Manager integration is not necessary, as it requires the presence of SCOM console which is not supported on server core.

Figure 6 - Setup of Virtual Machine Manager 2016 in a environment Windows Server 2016 (core)

The setup automatically detects the presence of a highly available SCVMM environment and prompts you to add the new SCVMM server as a node of the actual installation.

Figure 7 – Detection of HA environment

Figure 8 – Selecting features to install

Then you are prompted for information for product registration (Name, Organization and Product Key) and you must accept the license agreement. Continuing with the setup you are prompted as follows:

Figure 9 - Selecting the settings for updating SCVMM via Windows Update

Figure 10 – SCVMM installation path

The check of prerequisites checks whether the environment is suitable to accommodate the installation of SCVMM and returns any warning or error conditions:

Figure 11 – Check the prerequisites

The SQL Server command line utilities is required for SQL Server data-tier apps present in the SCVMM Fabric.

The configuration for your database is detected automatically, you can not edit it, and the setup requires upgrading of the SCVMM database recognizing that it is a DB on the previous version of SCVMM:

Figure 12 – Configuration for accessing the SCVMM database and upgrade notification

Then you are prompted to enter the password of the service account of SCVMM, which must be an administrator of the machine where you are performing the installation:

Figure 13 - Service Account and Distributed Key Management configuration

Even the ports used by the different features of SCVMM are inherited by the current installation and is not allowed to change them during setup:

Figure 14 - Summary non-editable of the ports used by the Management Server

During the setup of a Virtual Machine Manager environment in high availability you cannot specify settings related to the Library, but you must take care of it after the installation.

Figure 15 - Library settings unavailable

At this point, the setup shows a compatibility report where are highlighted some aspects to consider regarding the installation process:

Figure 16 – Upgrade compatibility report

As the last step shows a summary of your choices and you can start the installation process:

Figure 17 – Summary of installation choices

Figure 18 – Setup completed successfully

After the installation it is recommended to install the latest update rollup for System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

Concluded this setup on all new cluster nodes you want to add, you can fail over the SCVMM service to one of the upgraded nodes. After you make sure of the correct functioning of the Virtual Machine Manager 2016 you can proceed with the removal of nodes with SCVMM 2012 R2 and its uninstallation:

Figure 19 - Evict nodes with SCVMM 2012 R2

Following is appropriate to adjust if necessary the configuration relative to the Quorum in the cluster environment and validate the configuration using the Cluster Validation Wizard. Only when there is the certainty that the environment is in a final stable condition you can update the Functional Level of the cluster through the cmdlet Powershell Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel (non-reversible operation).

Finally you should consider conducting the following:

  • Update all SCVMM agents.
  • If the deployment of SCVMM 2012 R2 was integrated with Azure Site Recovery you need to completely repeat the installation and configuration.
  • Configure the possible integration with Operations Manager. In this regard it should be noted that the System Center components must comply with a precise order in the upgrade process and SCOM needs to be updated before than SCVMM.
  • Removing and adding driver packages to the Library of SCVMM to allow you to properly complete the discovery process.
  • If there is a PXE server in the Fabric of SCVMM it is necessary to remove it and add it again to renew certificates used by role.

Figure 20 – Removal of systems with PXE Server role

Figure 21 - Adding systems with the role of PXE Server



Virtual Machine Manager upgrade process in high availability needs to be approached with utmost caution given the likely criticality of the service, but the intended upgrade path is simple and also thanks to the functionality of Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade introduced in Windows Server 2016 it is possible to upgrade the entire environment contemplating also the update of the operating system of the nodes that host SCVMM, with a short stop given by one failover activity.

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