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VMware vSphere 5.5 End of General Support - What Now?


VMware vSphere 5.5 was probably the most installed version of vSphere to date.  And many virtualization administrators have fond memories of this release.  vSphere 5.5 goes all the way back to 2013, and it was hands down the most stable, fast and reliable hypervisor around.  But all good things must come to an end.  VMware products typically undergo a few stages within its lifetime:

  • General Availability (or GA)
  • End of General Support (EOGS)
  • End of Technical Guidance (End of Supported Life)

"End of General Support" is the date, generally 5 years after GA, from which VMware will no longer support the product actively.  And back in February of this year, we warned you that vSphere 5.5 was nearing the End of General Support or EOGS stage.  Well, that time has come and gone.  On September 19, 2018, vSphere 5.5 officially exited the general support phase and has moved onto something else, "Technical Guidance."  If you're playing buzzword bingo at home and trying to follow along, we should probably try to clarify what this means.

Technical Guidance does not mean that the product becomes instantly unsupported... well, sort of.  VMware says Support will still help in the event of an issue; however, there are some serious limitations to how far this goes once it reaches outside of General Support.

VMware's Lifecycle Policy does a good job of explaining what you get from support with products outside of general support.  It states:

"Technical Guidance is available primarily through the self-help portal and telephone support is not provided. Customers can also open a support request online to receive support and workarounds for low-severity issues on supported configurations only. During the Technical Guidance phase, VMware does not offer new hardware support, server/client/guest OS updates, new security patches or bug fixes unless otherwise noted. This phase is intended for usage by customers operating in stable environments with systems that are operating under reasonably stable loads."

Does that help?  There are no SEV 1 calls, and no patches for any issues found to be a product defect.  This also means no security patches as well.  You can still file Web-based tickets and request help troubleshooting problems.  The results of these will often consist of help identifying knowledge articles that describe known issues or environmental mis-configurations, along with configuration guidance or recommendations.

If you are comfortable running your company's entire virtual infrastructure on something like that, well, more power to you.  It could prove to be a risky bet considering there are still existing and unknown bugs out there that won't be fixed.  And let's not forget about those external attackers looming. 

The technical guidance phase for vSphere 5.5 lasts one year.  So, if you are still running 5.5 in your environment, the next date you want to have burned into your memory is September 19, 2019 which is the end of Technical Guidance... a la, end of life.

At this stage of the game, if you haven't already migrated, you should be taking the time to plan your upgrade from vSphere 5.5 to a supported version of vSphere 6.x (keep in mind there is no direct upgrade path from 5.5 to 6.7, it will require a multi-stage upgrade process).  That being said, you should be looking at either a 6.0 upgrade (End of General Support: 12 March 2020) or a 6.5 upgrade (End of General Support: 15 November 2021).  Verify support for the upgrade path from your current version of vSphere or vCenter Server to your planned upgrade version by using the VMware upgrade path compatibility matrix.

Upgrading 5.5 to 6.5 will not only bring you back into full support through March 2021, but you'll also welcome in a number of new features like:

  • VMware Update Manager (VUM) integrated into the vCenter Server appliance.
  • Built-in backup and restore for streaming critical files to a specific destination for safe keeping and future recoveries.
  • Gain forensic insights with audit-quality logging
  • A new vCenter Server high-availability feature uses cloned vCenter instances to maximize uptime for the appliance and its services.
  • Modernize the Data Center with vSphere Integrated Containers
  • Maximize Data Center resources with predictive load balancing
  • Gain vSphere VM Encryption by securing at the hypervisor level, keeping the VM from having to run its own encryption processes.
  • VMware adds vMotion encryption without requiring encryption at the network level.
  • And streamline management with a modern HTML5-based User Interface.

For a complete list of new features in vSphere 6.5, see the Release Notes.

Make sure to read the sections on upgrading, and remember to leverage VMware support to help where needed.  vSphere is a sophisticated product with multiple components that need to be upgraded.  Understanding the required upgrade steps and the sequence of tasks is vital for a successful vSphere upgrade and migration.

For more reading on the support cycles of products, check out the links below!

VMware Lifecycle Product Matrix

End of General Support for vSphere 5.5

Published Friday, September 21, 2018 3:01 PM by David Marshall
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