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Can you upgrade older versions of vSphere Distributed Switch to vSphere 6?

The latest version of vSphere brings new capabilities to the vSphere Distributed Switch. So how do you go about upgrading an outdated version of vDS?

VMware's vSphere Distributed Switch technology goes a long way toward simplifying and streamlining the organization...

and management of virtual switches in the data center environment. The single uniform vSphere Distributed Switch umbrella helps to ensure that switch options and configurations are consistent -- nothing is overlooked or set improperly. This can ease network administration and support a wide range of advanced capabilities on the enterprise network.

The simple answer to the question is yes, data centers employing vSphere 5.x can update vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) instances when vSphere 6.x is deployed. Updates allow vDS instances to use the features and functionality available in vSphere 6 such as network I/O control (NIOC), multicast snooping and a dedicated TCP/IP network stack. Fortunately, vDS updates are also nondisruptive and can be accomplished without taking hosts or virtual machines offline.

Before updating vDS instances, the enterprise will need to deploy vCenter Server 6, and all hosts connected to the vDS will need to run vSphere ESXi 6. The update can then be accomplished by selecting the distributed switch in the vSphere Web Client, opting to upgrade, and then selecting the vDS target version that you want to use. Updates will typically embrace the latest vSphere version, though older deployments can also select version 5.5 or even 5.1 -- but the features available in vSphere 6 will not be available in older update target versions.

Now initiate the update through vSphere Web Client. Any ESXi hosts incompatible with the selected target version will need to be upgraded or removed -- disconnected -- from the vSphere Distributed Switch. Administrators can also opt to update to enhanced Link Aggregation Control Protocol and NIOC version 3 support.

Keep in mind, once a vDS is updated, it cannot be reverted, and ESXi hosts with older vSphere versions cannot be added to the vDS. In the event that an update process fails, administrators can recreate the original switch, port groups and connected hosts by importing a previously saved switch configuration file. But this means the configuration file must first be saved and protected before the update process starts.

Exploring vSphere Distributed Switches

Part 1: VSphere Distributed Switch introduces a robust set of features to help make networking administration easy.

Part 2: Updated versions of the vSphere Distributed Switch add new capabilities, including network traffic analysis, network I/O support and multicast snooping.

Next Steps

Migrate from vSS to vDS without the downtime

Test your knowledge of vSphere 6 features and enhancements

Weigh the pros and cons of VMware virtual switches

This was last published in July 2016

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How has the vSphere 6 version of the Distributed Switch simplified networking administration for you?
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