VMware ESXi 6.x end of support: What you need to know
This article explains what the end of support for VMware ESXi means for you, and what the potential upgrade paths are. It also gives more information on ESXi, vSphere and virtualisation.
On 15 October 2022, VMware will end support on the ESXi 6.5 and 6.7 releases, and the products will enter a technical guidance phase. This will run until 15 November 2023. But due to the widespread use of ESXi 6.5 and 6.7, VMware has decided to offer support for 2 years, until 15 October 2024. However, there will be no architectural or performance updates and no new features will be added after 15 October 2022. In addition to this, security patches will be limited, large and only released around once a year (!).
If you have purchased the two years of additional support (before the expiry of the regular support, i.e. before 15 October 2022), you can also claim the technical guidance phase up to one year after the expiration of the extended support, so until 15 October 2025. However, this approach may not be a good idea, and this is why.
More than 57% of current ESXi Servers will run out of support
Data indicates that more than 57% of all ESXi installations still use versions 6.5 and 6.7. So, after 15 October, more than half of the global ESXi installations will go out of support or switch to the extended support option. Incidentally, an additional 16% of all ESXi instances are currently completely end of life and out of support. So therefore we can conclude that only 26% of all ESXi installations are currently on version 7.
What is VMware ESXi?
VMware ESX (known ‘ESX’ before 2010 and the version 4.1 release) is a so-called hypervisor. A hypervisor allows you to run virtual machines that share the same underlying hardware. ESXi is part of VMware’s vSphere product range, intended to help organisations use their hardware more efficiently. In vSphere, all virtual machines run on ESXi.
ESXi runs on server hardware and creates an abstract layer between CPU, memory, storage and network connections of the physical host and virtual machines. In this way, an application on a virtual machine can leverage all of these physical resources without needing direct access to the underlying hardware.
VMware and the ESXi Lifecycle
VMware has given all vSphere products their own Enterprise Infrastructure Support Lifecycle Policy (EIP). This policy outlines what you can expect when you use vSphere products. For example, VMware 7 offers its support on every major release for seven years. These seven years are divided into five years of general support and two years of additional technical guidance. During the general five-year support period, you can expect regular updates to improve products and services, security updates and technical support for customers who purchase support from VMware.
Each larger product release can expect at least three update releases, with bug fixes, new functionality and other improvements. However, these update releases do not extend the five years of regular support on the product itself. The following two years of technical guidance gives fewer updates and focuses mainly on hardware support, security updates and bug fixes. Customers are also increasingly encouraged to use the self-service options and existing documentation.
Particularly noteworthy are hardware support and security fixes: without hardware updates you cannot use modern hardware and without security updates the platform can become vulnerable.
Why upgrade to version 7?
Upgrading ESXi to version 7 can be a challenge for many organisations. And this issue only becomes more problematic the longer the upgrade gets postponed.
We at Ekco already run our cloud on version 7 and this experience of upgrading our own technology means we are well placed to advise you on how best to confront your own ESXi challenges.
Below are some of the main reasons you may want to consider upgrading:
- ESXi, being a hypervisor, uses the underlying hardware to help VMs achieve maximum performance with maximum efficiently. Newer versions have performance optimisations not found in older versions. For example, they offer a smoother experience while using multiple hosts.
- Given the escalating concerns around energy prices, energy consumption is easier to manage with newer hardware. The latest version of ESXi is more efficient in this area. This way, not every host has to use 100% capacity 24 hours a day to give optimal experience.
- Disaster recovery and high availability options were improved in version 7. Organisations have more capabilities to ensure they are available anytime, anywhere.
- Support is up to date: this may seem obvious, given what is already covered in this article, but with a new version of ESXi you can count on proactive support from VMware. Any problems will be solved quickly because VMware itself also benefits from this.
- Integration with other services and products, from both VMware and third parties, is again better than in previous versions.
So we not only advise people to switch to version 7, but also to follow the releases, partially implement them, and then use an invariable adaptation process. You should not fall behind in your update cycle, as this will eliminate bigger problems down the line.
How to approach the upgrade to ESXi version 7
VMware offers comprehensive guides to help you upgrade to version 7. There are several checks you have to do and there are upgrade paths, as you can’t always go from your current version to the latest version in one go. There may be quite a few maintenance requirements ahead of you, where you have to upgrade your environment in phases. Your hardware also needs to be compatible with the latest version – we often come across organisations that, for example, use CPU architectures that are eight years old (or even older). These are not always supported in version 7 of ESXi.
An alternative is therefore to switch to the Ekco Cloud, where we take care of the management and upgrading of the ESXi layer, provide modern hardware, fast network connectivity and direct peering with, for example, the AMS-IX and NL-IX. This means you don’t have any of the burdens or have to maintain your infrastructure, but keep all of the benefits. And the costs, ultimately, remain manageable and you only pay for what you use per month.
In addition, at Ekco we can also support you in the transition to the public cloud. As one of the largest Microsoft Azure specialists, we are also happy to help you set this option against the existing ESXi solution or to switch to your own Ekco Cloud based on ESXi. We also support other public cloud providers with expert levels of support.
On-prem, private or public cloud are not the only options. There is another way. This is a hybrid cloud approach in which an on-premise or self-managed solution exists alongside a presence in the Ekco or public cloud. We are happy to support organisations in both the upgrade from ESXi 6.5 and 6.7 to version 7 and to the cloud.
Our specialists have the answer