ESXi 5.5 u3b Compatibility

We came across an unexpected situation recently at a customer site that I wanted to briefly discuss.  Typically, when applying ESXi host updates, you're safe to install whatever patches are available for your current version of ESXi.  The December 2015 patch, ESXi550-201512001, as described in this VMware blog entry, does not fall into that category.  You may have heard about the POODLE exploit; this patch updates the openSSL implementation and disables SSL version 3 in order to block that vulnerability.

Blocking vulnerabilities is well and good, but this patch requires many vsphere administrators to modify their normal patching workflow.  If you just apply the available ESXi updates, your ESXi hosts will lose their connection to vCenter and enter an unmanaged state.  The proper way to apply this update is to update vCenter first, then apply updates to the ESXi hosts.  That workflow is well understood, when updating ESXi versions (say, from 5.1 to 5.5 or 5.5 to 6.0)... but as the compatibility charts demonstrate, it usually isn't required for patches within a minor version.

So, I'm just throwing my voice in there with everyone else to make sure that the vsphere admin community is aware of this requirement.  Before applying ESXi host update 3b, make sure that you've updated your vCenter!

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