General support for vSphere 5.5 ends in September. Here are four ways to upgrade or extend your support.
vCORE Technology Partners | Aug. 1, 2018
With the end of general support for vSphere 5.5 less than two months away, IT organizations will need to decide quickly, if they haven’t already, how to upgrade their environment to a supported level or purchase extended support.
There are a few different upgrade options to choose from, including three newer releases of vSphere, two of which are under support until November 2021. For users who are unable to upgrade before vSphere 5.5 general support ends, there is also an option to purchase extended support.
If you’re still using Windows-based vCenter, consider migration to an appliance-based vCenter Server (VCSA) — Windows-based vCenter will be deprecated past version 6.7.
Here’s a closer look at each of the options available to extend your vSphere support life.
Option 1: Upgrade to vSphere 6.0 Update 3 (EOS for 6.0 is March 12, 2020).
This is an option for environments that use older host hardware that is no longer supported in the more recent vSphere versions, specifically Intel Xeon 51xx series, Xeon 30xx series, Xeon 32xx series, Xeon 53xx series, and Xeon 72xx/73xx series.
This is also a recommended alternative for organizations that are still using older versions of software and are not ready to upgrade the dependent software. Examples include environments that still use Horizon View 6 or older versions of backup software that require older vCenter releases.
Note that appliance-based vSphere 6.0 still requires a Windows-based server to install vSphere Update Manager (VUM), while VUM is embedded into the appliance in the more recent releases.
Option 2: Upgrade to vSphere 6.5 Update 2 (EOS is Nov. 15, 2021).
This is a recommended version for most environments that don’t need advanced features introduced in vSphere 6.7.
A few caveats to be aware of when considering upgrading to vSphere 6.5:
- vSphere native “thick” C# client is no longer available. Starting with 6.5 Update 2, HTML5 client is available but offers only partial functionality.
- You cannot use embedded vSphere Update Manager 6.5 to upgrade hosts to ESXi 6.0 level (6.5 only) – according to this article from VMware, importing the iso media for older ESXi versions will fail. If your environment still has older hosts that need ESXi 6.0, use KVM-mounted media to upgrade the hosts manually.
- Currently, it is not possible to upgrade from vCenter 6.5 Update 2 to vCenter 6.7, but this option is expected to be added in the next release of vSphere 6.5.
Option 3: Upgrade to vSphere 6.7 (EOS is Nov. 15, 2021).
Consider upgrading to this version if you’re interested in the latest features introduced in vSphere 6.7 – secure boot and virtual TPM, vSphere Quick Boot, or you’re using vSAN and are interested in new features and performance enhancements introduced in vSAN 6.7.
Note that per VMware, upgrades to vSphere 6.7 are only possible from vSphere 6.0 or vSphere 6.5. If you are currently running vSphere 5.5, you must first upgrade to either vSphere 6.0 or vSphere 6.5 before upgrading to vSphere 6.7.
Option 4: No upgrade, purchase extended support for 5.5.
Extended support for vSphere 5.5 can be purchased for up to two years past EOS. This may be an option for those rare cases where an organization has custom or in-house developed software that depends on a specific vSphere version.
Given the upgrade options available, should an organization perform an in-place upgrade (migration to VCSA) or a fresh vCenter install and then move hosts to the new vCenter?
Our recommendation is to consider a new vCenter install only if there is a need to change vSphere topology or SSO domain, or if there is a plan to move to an appliance-based vCenter server and the existing Windows-based vCenter server also runs third-party software that you cannot migrate.
An in-place upgrade works well and allows for an easy rollback mechanism in case of any issues with the new vCenter – simply power off the new appliance and power back up the old vCenter.
Prior to deciding which upgrade option to choose, we recommend taking an inventory of your environment to understand what other pieces of software may require interaction with vCenter or ESXi hosts and whether they depend on a specific vSphere version.
For vSphere components, VMware provides Product Interoperability Matrices: https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/sim/interop_matrix.php
Consider using ESXi compatibility checker fling that can validate host hardware: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/esxi-compatibility-checker
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