Are VMware vSphere 5.1 bugs behind us?

If anyone has been following the release of vSphere 5.1, you know it was not exactly a smooth launch. In fact, I would dare to call it a huge debacle. To me, it seems like it was rushed out the door without having components even beta tested, like the required SSO service. The original SSL certificate replacement instructions were 100% wrong, plus several components were very buggy. I really have no earthly idea how the code made it past internal quality assurance.

Clearly VMware recognized the 5.1.0 GA version had significant problems, and support calls probably clogged their phones. I know I personally spent many hours with the India support desk trying to fix SSL problems, with little success. So a few weeks after 5.1.0 GA, out came 5.1.0a. This helped, but still had a number of install problems and bugs. In late December 2012 they shipped 5.1.0b, which did zap many remaining installation bugs. Meantime, they also published a number of KB articles covering the right way to replace the certificates. Several articles have had revisions since their initial release.

So using the vSphere 5.1.0b media, refreshed VMware KB articles, and updating my own 15 blog articles, I finally got through a complete install without having to hack VMware scripts or do other undocumented steps. Easy? No. Quick? No. Vastly harder than it should be? Yes. Feel fragile? Yes.

Should you bet the stability of a large enterprise production environment on vSphere 5.1.0b? Only you can answer that for yourself, but personally this is the first release of vSphere that I won’t put into production. vSphere 5.0 U2 is very stable, and there aren’t any compelling features for my environment in 5.1 that I can’t wait to get rolled into vSphere v.Next due out in late 2013.

I’m also hopeful the new VMware CEO will put an emphasis on quality, and not push releases out the door that are not production ready. Just yesterday VMware announced some layoffs, spinning off a few products, and re-focusing on their core technology. I hope that includes re-focusing on quality releases and not just packing in new features to one-up Hyper-V.

Even if you don’t want to put 5.1 into production, I would strongly urge you to install it in a lab environment. Get used to the new web client, try out the new VDS features, etc. This will help you ramp up quicker on vSphere v.Next. Plus if you run into any bugs, open a support case so the future releases are more stable.

You can find Part 1 of my 15-part vCenter 5.1 installation series here. It was a lot of work, but I tried to incorporate my own lessons learned, reader feedback, and changes in VMware KB articles. In my home lab I now have a running vCenter 5.1.0b install, and I have yet to see any SSL problems or broken services.

If anyone follows my revamped guides and still has problems, please leave comments for the appropriate article. I can’t guarantee I’ll respond to all comments, but other readers may.

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February 2, 2013 4:38 am

I’m really annoyed with how complex VMware have made the installation routine for vCenter 5.1.

I followed your original posts about installing vCenter with proper certificates and remember thinking this is the most arduous installation I’ve ever done.

Even in other environments with simple SSO/Inventory/vCenter installations, getting the SQL account/password syntac correct was ridiculous.

I can’t believe how bad this release has been. I can’t wait till VMworld next year!

Reply to  Mark

@Mark: I completely agree! VMware is going in the complete opposite direction they should be for vSphere in terms of installation and configuration complexity. Security should not be an after thought, or take 20 pages of instructions. I suspect many people will be scouting out alternatives, even if they don’t change their primary production hypervisor. vSphere 6.0 must be made vastly easier, or their market share will slide even further as the competition beefs up their enterprise readiness.

February 6, 2013 12:01 pm

vmware vCenter 5.1b is the first installation I’ve given up, it looks more and more likely that we will eventually move over to HyperV since VMware seems to forget what SMB size business wants (we have 7 hosts and 100 virtual machines so we are just a little bigger than the max spec for sql express install). Our main goal for going for 5.1 was support for Windows 2012 but it seems that 5.0u2 supports that so I will try that instead. Then again Symantec is even slower than VMware and has no real timeline yet for when Backup Exec… Read more »

February 21, 2013 3:46 am

After spending the best part of a week trying to troubleshoot problems with multi-site SSO configuration exports, (Enterprise certificates with intermediate CAs) I’m going to revert to 5.0 U2. I will continue to work on these 5.1 problems in the lab, but I don’t have the confidence in this product to really use it in production. It just all feels a bit unfinished.

Great set of blogs by the way, keep up the good work.

April 11, 2013 3:32 pm

Yeah I have been very underwhelmed by 5.1 and its lack of simple installation and stability. I think they have released the Windows ME of vmware products. I sent our vmware contacts and email basically saying the SSO components and the bugs in 5.1 are simply making the product look shit and they should not pat themselves on the back for producing this crap. Historically the installs have been for me very robust but we have 5.1b now and for the first time i am very nervous having it in production. It was apparently forwarded on internally to the USA… Read more »