This content is part of the Essential Guide: VMworld 2018 conference coverage

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End of general support for vSphere 5.5 forces IT shops' hands

To position themselves for future needs and technologies, many vSphere 5.5 customers may have to move out of their comfort zones and upgrade to version 6.5.

Time waits for no one, although many vSphere 5.5 users might hope it slows down for a little while longer.

The end of general support for vSphere 5.5 is just six months, but the four-and-a-half-year old virtual platform remains the company's most popular despite the arrival of versions 6.0 and 6.5 in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Many organizations have resisted the urge to upgrade vSphere 5.5 because of its reliability, the dozens of third-party and internally developed applications, and the time, effort and cost to migrate those applications to updated platforms.

"What customers tell us is, [vSphere 5.5] just works," said one cloud and systems engineer with a large IT services provider, at a recent VTUG conference. "Customers don't really know how well many of their existing applications will work with the newer versions [6.0 and 6.5] of vSphere."

While many vSphere 5.5 users have grown comfortable with the internal ecosystems they've built around the product, there's a technology price to pay for this comfort level somewhere down the road, some analysts and market researchers say.

"It's understandable why customers try to milk as much as they can out of their existing applications," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC in Gilford, N.H. "But they can also miss out on the larger benefits of digital transformation or fully moving to multi-clouds because you have these islands of obsolescence."

Another important technical disadvantage for users who did not upgrade vSphere 5.5 is a lack of full container support; those who want to deploy fully functioning containers must move to vSphere 6.0 or 6.5. "Deploying vSphere Integrated Containers Engine to vSphere 5.5 environments should work but is unsupported and [might] not work in the future," wrote Mike Hall, a principal engineer at VMware, on the GitHub site for VMware's Virtual Integrated Containers.

If you have a mission-critical application that ties to your brand and integrity and you are running it with obsolete support from the vendor, you can think of that as negligence.
Dana Gardnerprincipal analyst, Interarbor Solutions LLC

Some believe VMware chose to end general support for vSphere 5.5 now to not only nudge those users toward versions 6.0 or 6.5, but also toward some of the company's cloud-based offerings. That might help IT shops maintain an increasing number of SaaS-based products and services or deploy Agile strategies, especially those that don't want to deal with on-premises-based products such as vSphere.

"A lot of shops are moving to Agile development where every three weeks they are pushing out enhancements to products by way of the cloud," said Geoff Woollacott, senior strategy consultant and principal analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H. "With [vSphere 5.5] you have a very different delivery model that has a cadence that doesn't fit into the new world."

Dana Gardner, principal analyst, Interarbor SolutionsDana Gardner

Once technical support ends, users who don't upgrade will stop receiving regular security updates, which could expose some of their most sensitive data.

"If you have a mission-critical application that ties to your brand and integrity and you are running it with obsolete support from the vendor, you can think of that as negligence," Gardner said.

Users that do not upgrade by the end of general support for vSphere 5.5 on Sept.19, 2018, but remain active with VMware's Support and Subscription services, can purchase extended support in one-year increments for up to two years beyond that date, according to the company.

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at [email protected]

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