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Upgrading VMware ESX to vSphere: The ultimate resource guide

A smart admin learns about the ins and outs of upgrading a certain product before he makes the leap, especially when it's a major release. Upgrade VMware ESX 2.x or 3.x to vSphere 4 without the headache by using this comprehensive upgrade guide.

New product releases are part of what makes being an administrator fun -- but they can also be a headache. In this guide, you'll find links on upgrading to VMware vSphere 4 that will:

  • help you know for sure that upgrading right now is the right choice for your organization;
  • outline the most important new changes and features in vSphere;
  • provide an upgrade path from your current infrastructure, or assist you with a new installation;
  • help you understand the new licensing levels; and
  • provide valuable links to VMware's own vSphere resources.


I) Think Critically: Is vSphere Right For Your Organization?

Should you deploy VMware vSphere?
By Scott Lowe for
Of course VMware wants you to upgrade to vSphere, but does it make sense for your business or organization? This article helps you evaluate the jump from both a business and a technical perspective.

Can you afford vSphere?
By Eric Siebert for the SearchServerVirtualization Blog
VMware vSphere is a great release — if your hardware is supported and you have the money you may need to pay for additional licensing and training. If you do, then by all means upgrade and check out all the new features and functionality that is has to offer. If you don't, there are a few issues you may want to seriously consider.

VMware vSphere beginner's guide
The latest version of VMware ESX displays the innovation one would expect from the virtualization superpower. If you're just getting started, this VMware vSphere 4 beginner's guide is worth a look. 

Upgrading to VMware vSphere: Five pros and five cons
By Eric Siebert for
Increased performance, scalability and new features top the list as to why you should upgrade to vSphere, but proven product stability, third-party product and hardware compatibility are reasons you may want to stay with VMware Infrastructure 3 for now.


II) Taking the Plunge: Upgrade How-Tos

Various methods for upgrading to vSphere
By Jon Owings for
So you've made the commitment to take the plunge and upgrade your existing VMware infrastructure to VMware vSphere. Here are the various options for doing so.

Upgrading virtual machines for vSphere implementation
By Jason Kappel for
When implementing vSphere, it's essential that you upgrade VMware Tools and the virtual hardware as well. Find out how you can do this manually or through the Upgrade Manager.

How to upgrade to vSphere – and save cash in the process
By Rick Vanover for
When you upgrade to vSphere, surveying your current VMware Infrastructure 3 licensing structure and service contracts can help you get the most bang for your buck out of newer server hardware and vSphere licenses.

Upgrading production servers to vSphere: When and why
By Eric Siebert for the Virtualization Pro blog
While some administrators indicated that they would be upgrading to vSphere immediately upon its release, others said it'd be a year or more, with good cause.

VMware vSphere upgrade path overview
By Sidney Smith for Virtualization with Sid Smith
There is no need to panic about upgrading to vSphere -- the upgrade path from ESX 2.x and 3.x is very painless and fairly simple. A lot of you will remember all the issues you have had in the past performing upgrades and scripting installs; VMware is quickly trying to make all of that a thing from the past with new features available in vSphere.

FAQ: VMware vSphere, ESX 4 and vCenter 4 installation
By the editors
In this Project FAQ, vSphere expert Jason Kappel answers frequently asked questions about performing a fresh install instead of an upgrade and explains the step-by-step process for installing vSphere, ESX 4 and vCenter 4.


III. Become a Know-It-All: Understanding Licensing and New Features

VMware vSphere and vCenter licensing and pricing explained
By Alex Barrett for
In total, IT organizations can choose between six VMware vSphere editions, or bundles, and one free product. The paid editions can be configured with a customer's choice of the full ESX hypervisor, or the "light" ESXi. The free edition is available only with ESXi. Learn more about licensing and pricing with this tutorial written by Alex Barrett, one of TechTarget's news directors.

Creating a VMware vSphere guest OS: What's new
By Alex Barrett for
When you create a virtual machine in vSphere, you'll notice a number of changes and improvements to the process. There are more OS options and more network adapter choices and you can create thin-provisioned disks, for example. In this tip, you'll learn how the steps involved in creating a new guest OS on a host VMware ESX server have changed, complete with screenshots.

Master's guide to VMware Fault Tolerance
By Eric Siebert for the Virtualization Pro blog
VMware vSphere's new Fault Tolerance (FT) feature deserves its own guide if you really want to understand it in detail. Here you'll find's articles on Fault Tolerance as well as a lot otehr valuable information and illustrations.

VSphere features explained: vStorage thin-provisioned disks and the Cisco Nexus vSwitch
By Gabrie van Zanten for the Virtualization Pro blog
Learn about two new vSphere features: vStorage thin-provisioned disks and the Cisco Nexus vSwitch. VSphere features a great new feature called vStorage, which enables you to thin-provision your disks in a few clicks. Cisco is the first to deliver a vSwitch that integrates with VMware vSphere. This vSwitch will act just like a physical Cisco switch but with a number of features customized for a virtual infrastructure.


IV. Knowledge is Power: The Best vSphere Resources from Around the Web

Every vSphere link you could ever need to get started with vSphere
By Eric Siebert for vSphere-Land
Eric Siebert maintains a list of hundreds of vSphere links for the VMware administrator. While you won't find summaries explaining what you'll find when you click on a certain link, the titles are self-explanatory and organized by installation links, documentation links, important download links, licensing links, hardware compatibility guide links, and release notes.

VMware's vSphere 4 product support page
By VMware, Inc.
Here you'll find all of VMware's best articles on vSphere 4 licensing, installation and troubleshooting, including a "QuickStart Series" that outlines installation, configuration, using vCenter Server to manage your virtual machines; setting up clusters; availability and load balancing; and monitoring and backup.

VMware's vSphere 4 licensing troubleshooting guide
By VMware, Inc.
If your upgrade is going awry, VMware has provided a few links that explain how to obtain a new product liense, modify licenses including upgrading, downgrading, combining and dividing licenses, how to register or active licenses, how to assign license keys to vSphere 4, and how to locatey our upgraded licenses from VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) to vSphere 4.

VMware KB Blog: Let's get this vSphere party started right!
By "Knowledge Champion" for VMware KB Blog VMware isn't blind to the fact that blogs are paramount in today's virtualization community. The VMware Knowledge Base (KB) Blog published a blog with the vSphere launch that provides links to top KB articles, including best practices for upgrades and installation, how to combine license keys on vSphere and more.


Hannah Drake is the editor of, which she helped launch in 2007 while working on sister site She has assigned and edited technical tips about virtualization and VMware since 2006. She spends her free time volunteering for animal rescue organizations, going hiking with her rescue pup Benji, staying active, reading novels and watching her favorite TV shows, currently Dexter and Grey's Anatomy. You can reach her at

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