In addition to patching your VMware environment it is important to note the VMware Life Cycle Policy and when an upgrade to a major, minor, or maintenance release is required to continue receiving general support, extended support, and technical guidance from VMware. In this post I will be focusing specifically on VMware Infrastructure 3, but this information will apply to all VMware products so be sure to check the VMware site for the latest information.
The best place to start is by explaining the difference between a major, minor, and maintenance release. From the VMware Infrastructure 3 Support Life Cycle FAQs:
“Major Release” means a generally available release of the Software that contains functional enhancements or extensions, designated by VMware by means of a change in the digit to the left of the first decimal point (e.g. Software 5.0 >> Software 6.0).
“Minor Release” means a generally available release of the Software that introduces a limited amount of new optional features and functionality, designated by VMware by means of a change in the digit to the right of the decimal point (e.g. Software 5.0 >>Software 5.1).
“Maintenance Release” means a generally available release of the Software that typically provides maintenance corrections or fixes only, designated by VMware by means of a change in the digit to the right of the second decimal point (e.g. Software 5.0 >> Software 5.0.1).
According to the VMware Infrastructure 3 Support Life Cycle Policy all VMware products will offer nine years of phased support from the general availability of a new Major Release. In addition it states:
- General Support will be provided for two years from general availability of a Major or Minor Release, or one year after the next Major or Minor release, whichever is longer.
- Extended Support will be provided for three years following General Support.
- Technical Guidance will be provided for two additional years following Extended Support.
I bring this up because as of May 21, 2010 VMware ESX 3.5 and vCenter Server 2.5 reached the end of general support. This means that going forward these products will only be covered under extended support. The VMware Infrastructure 3 Support Life Cycle FAQs defines extended support as:
New hardware platforms are no longer supported, new guest OS updates may or may not be applied, and bug fixes are limited to critical issues. Critical bugs are deviations from specified product functionality that cause data corruption, data loss, system crash, or significant customer application down time and there is no work-around that can be implemented.
You may be wondering if this applies to maintenance releases. The VMware Infrastructure 3 Support Life Cycle FAQs states:
What about Maintenance Release? Are there seven years of support on Maintenance Release?
Maintenance Release are supported from their general availability date until one year after the general availability date of the next Maintenance Release. If there is no next Maintenance Release, the support will run until the end of support for its parent Minor Release. For example VMware ESX 2.5.3 will be supported until one year after VMware ESX 2.5.4 is released. If VMware ESX 2.5.3 is the last Maintenance Release of the VMware ESX 2.5 branch, then the support for VMware ESX 2.5.3 will continue until the end of support life cycle for VMware ESX 2.5.
This makes it appear that newer maintenance releases of ESX 3.5 and vCenter Server 2.5 may still be covered under general support. However, further down in the FAQs it states:
VMware Virtual Infrastructure products remaining for Extended Support:
These versions will be the baseline for ongoing support during the Extended Support phase. All subsequent patches issued will be based solely upon the releases below.
- ESX 3.5 Update 5 will remain throughout the duration of Extended Support
- ESX 3.0.3 Update 1 will remain throughout the duration of Extended Support
- VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 6 expected in early 2010
As described, the latest releases of each of these products will be available for download. Additionally, any applicable patch releases and critical bug fixes will be made available online in accordance with our published support policy.
By removing older releases, VMware is taking proactive steps to create a more sustainable product maintenance line as our older ESX product lines enter the extended support life cycle phase. This measure enables us to baseline all patches and critical fix releases against the latest available products available to users. This translates to faster customer turn-around and greater product stability during the extended support phase.
This brings up the question of whether or not customers are forced to upgrade in order to continue receiving support. The FAQs also addresses this question:
Are customers forced to upgrade immediately to the baseline release version?
Customers may stay at a prior version, however VMware’s patch release program during Extended Support will be continued with the condition that all subsequent patches will be based on the latest baseline. In some cases where there are release dependencies, prior update content may be included with patches.
In summary, the VMware Life Cycle Policy can be confusing and you should be sure you fully understand it so you can plan your environment accordingly. In addition, I would recommend that all people running VI 3 plan to upgrade to the latest versions of ESX 3.x and vCenter Server 2.5 as soon as possible.
© 2010, Steve Flanders. All rights reserved.