On September 19th, vSphere 5.5 exited its general support phase and moved into something called “Technical Guidance”. In response to this, many have already moved to a newer release of the vSphere 6.x line. Whether it be for compatibility concerns or a reasonable wariness of touching what’s not broken, there are several of us who are riding the wave to the very end. Let’s talk about what “End of General Support” really means for those still running vSphere 5.5.
First, let’s clear up a common misconception about Technical Guidance. Specifically, it does not mean that the product becomes instantly unsupported. I hear this word thrown around a lot for products out of the general support phase, but it’s misleading to do so. VMware Support will still help in the event of an issue in an environment running these products. There are, however, some serious limitations to how far this goes now that it is outside of General Support. Many times, these cases will end up requiring an upgrade anyway.
VMware’s Lifecycle Policy documentation does a pretty good job explaining what you get from support with products outside of general support. Here’s what it says:
“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.”
Pretty straightforward. No Severity 1 calls, and no patches for any issues found to be a product defect. This means 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 misconfigurations, along with configuration guidance or recommendations.
The Reality of Supporting vSphere 5.5
What’s not clear from the statement above are the less obvious effects of opening cases for outdated products. Support engineers are human just like our customers, and there are limitations to the knowledge that a team of technicians can maintain in its ranks.
vSphere 5.5 was released in 2013, and there have since been three more major releases of the product. Many Support Engineers came in during the 6.x era, and vSphere 5.5 volume has been steadily declining for years. This means that it can be difficult and time consuming to answer complex questions about the 5.5 product line. Furthermore, when vSphere 6.x released, it changed the game quite a bit in terms of architecture and troubleshooting techniques. This matters a great deal to what support becomes accustomed to seeing when they help customers, and as the volume of vSphere 5.5 cases drops, so does the overall knowledge of it within support.
It’s important to know that if you are upgrading from vSphere 5.5, VMware support is still here to help if a problem should arise. We are equipped to handle the Technical Guidance cases that come in, but it becomes harder to do so as we move deeper into the Technical Guidance period – and questions take longer to answer.
vSphere 5.5 was a great release, and I miss some of the ways it worked that changed in 6.x. With a lack of ongoing security patches, reduced supportability, and missing new features, however, it’s just not a good choice for production environments going forward. If you have not started planning a way to move to 6.x yet, now is the time to do so.
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