When doing manual host upgrades, either through the direct method or via a locally placed upgrade bundle, there is a distinct lack of progress information available after running the esxcli command.
Thankfully the ESXi host provides a running logfile of the upgrade process, which makes it much easier to keep track of what is going on and that the upgrade is indeed being performed.
The esxupdate.log is located in /var/log, and by issuing the following command in a terminal window you can have a rolling log showing you the upgrade status and progress:
~ # tail -f /var/log/esxupdate.log
By running the following command in one terminal window (this uses the VMware offline bundle to upgrade from ESXi 5.1 to 5.1 Update 1):
~ # esxcli software vib update -d /vmfs/volumes/[lunID]/update-from-esxi5.1-5.1_update01.zip
you get output like this in the secondary terminal window where the log file is being monitored:
2013-06-26T10:24:51Z esxupdate: HostImage: INFO: Attempting to download VIB tools-light 2013-06-26T10:25:07Z esxupdate: vmware.runcommand: INFO: runcommand called with: args = '/sbin/backup.sh 0 /altbootbank', outfile = 'None', returnoutput = 'True', timeout = '0.0'. 2013-06-26T10:25:08Z esxupdate: BootBankInstaller.pyc: INFO: boot config of '/altbootbank' is being updated, 5 2013-06-26T10:25:08Z esxupdate: HostImage: DEBUG: Host is remediated by installer: locker, boot 2013-06-26T10:25:08Z esxupdate: root: DEBUG: Finished execution of command = vib.install 2013-06-26T10:25:08Z esxupdate: root: DEBUG: Completed esxcli output, going to exit esxcli-software
That sure beats waiting «blindly» for an upgrade/installation to finish, and in many ways this is also much better than a non-sensical progressbar.