The speed at which technology changes is absolutely amazing in that as soon as you buy something, the next faster, bigger model comes out. I think back to when I started my career and remember a workstation that I was using with a 200MHz processor and I was really thrilled when I got it bumped up to 64MB of ram. Now, although the hardware was changing at blazing speeds, you used to know you had a three to five year run with the operating system before you had to worry about upgrading and refreshing the operating systems. VMware has been changing the rules the last few years on major releases coming out, every two years.
In the beginning, I got started with a proof of concept with VMware ESX1.5 and did my actual production deployment with ESX2.0. VMware ESX2.0 has been around for two years before VMware released version 3.0. Now, during that time, VMware was really focused on getting the management tools into place. Virtual Center was released and I can remember how cool the vMotion demo was to stream a movie from a virtual machine and then vMotioning the virtual machine from host to host all in the while never skipping a beat with the streaming movie. After the management foundation was in place, VMware then released ESX 3.0 in 2006 with ESX3.5 following two years later.
VMware kept to a two year release schedule with both ESX4 and ESX5. It was April 2009 when ESX4 was released and then in what seemed like a blink of an eye ESX5 was released in 2011. Until I started working in larger environments the two year release schedule was just about the right time frame for upgrades and refreshes.
There is a specific client that I have been working with that started the documentation and design process to upgrade their environment from ESX3.x to vSphere. The process was started with the different groups documenting the design and consolidation path. This pre-deployment planning process took a while to finally get to the point of deployment, but then came the question of, should we stop, change the plan and head straight for ESX5? The recommendation that I presented was to go ahead and jump to ESX5 since it has been released long enough to be vetted by others to be a very stable platform.
Is a two year release cycle working for your environment? This is the first time that I have had to skip a release to get the environment to the current release. How many of you out there have been in this position before? Is this much more common than I expect? I could see the in and out consultants coming across this a few times over the years but for those with full time positions or long term consulting positions, is this common practice that you have seen? Are you one of the brave souls that will install the new release in relative short order or do you wait for at least the first update? Please share your upgrade dos and don’ts.