I can still remember when I was a VI Admin and how annoying it was to try to correlate the build numbers for my ESX(i) hosts and vCenter Servers that I have deployed with the versions listed on VMware's website. This especially gets challenging when there are multiple patch releases (a, b, c or 01, 02, 03) in between major releases (5.5, 6.0, 6.0u1, 6.0u2, 6.5, etc.). Historically, most customers including myself would retrieve the respective build numbers and then manually comparing them to either the release notes and/or download website which was very tedious.
Although VMware has exposed the version number within our vSphere products since day 1 which can also be retrieved programmatically using the vSphere API (here), it unfortunately does not provide more details than simply the major/minor version (e.g. 5,5, 6.0, 6.5, etc) of the software. Recently, VMware had released a series of VMware KBs which provides a mapping between the build numbers for vCenter Server, ESXi and vSAN to their respective versions which can be found in the links below:
These are definitely a great set of resources that I know many customers including myself have been using since its release. Having said that, the process today is still pretty manual since you need to manually retrieve the build numbers for either a VC, ESXi or vSAN Host (can be automated using vSphere APIs) and then comparing that to the KBs to get the correct versions. How cool would it be if you could *easily* just point to YOUR environment and retrieve the version information for either a vCenter Server (Windows or VCSA), ESXi host(s) or vSAN host(s) without needing to manually perform this lookup each time? Well, I have just done that! I have taken all three KBs and converted that information into a simple PowerCLI script called VCESXivSANBuildVersion.ps1 leveraging our vSphere API and it provides three functions:
- Get-VCVersion - Retrieves the vCenter Server version given a VC connection
- Get-ESXiVersion - Retrieves the ESXi version for all hosts given a vSphere Cluster
- Get-VSANVersion - Retrieves the vSAN version for all hosts given a vSAN Cluster
Here is an example output using the first two functions:
For the vCenter Server version output, you will notice that I am also including the OS platform of your vCenter Server, so you can distinguish between a Windows vCenter Server and a vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) which can be useful to see if you have been #migrate2vcsa ;). For the ESXi version output, you will notice the "OriginalInstallDate" value, this is actually new API property that was introduced in vSphere 6.5 and it provides you with the original installation date of your ESXi host (more details can be found here) which is pretty neat.
Here is an example output using last function:
If you wanted to take this a step further, you could even take this output and dynamically update the vSphere UI using either Custom Attributes or vSphere Tags so you know what version the software is at any given moment. Its easy enough to set this up as a scheduled task that could run periodically so you always have the latest information provided in the vSphere UIs.
Although this is a significant improvement over the existing manual methods, I think most of you will agree that it would be ideal if this information was natively available within the product which means BOTH UI and APIs. I think we all appreciate versioning of software is not always easy and it can change from release to release for a variety of reasons, most of which may not be technical. If the vSphere platform could dynamically pull this information in either real time and/or through an offline mechanism and provide this association by default, it would greatly improve the experience when needing to troubleshoot or perform maintenance of the vSphere platform. If this is something you would like to see, please leave a comment below providing your feedback. I know I have already pinged our PMs about this and I am sure they would love to hear form you as well!
Note1: Update levels can be found using the vSphere API, take a look at this article here for more details.
Note2: As of ESXi 6.5 Update 1, the Update levels are also included by default in the Embedded Host Client as shown in the screenshot below:
Note3: As of vSAN 6.2, the vSAN Management API already includes vSAN version information that can be queried. Take a look at this script here which exercises this new API. For example above, I decided to not use this new API since customers may be running older releases of vSAN which is not covered by the vSAN Mgmt API.
Note4: VMware has also published simliar build to version mapping for other VMware products which can find the complete list here.