VMware’s ever shortening release cycle for new hypervisor versions

With vSphere 5.5 due out sometime later this month I thought I’d look back at the VMware release cycles for new versions over the years. If you look at the number of days that it took VMware to release a new major version of ESX/ESXi you’ll see that has been steadily dropping. With increased competition and more widespread adoption of virtualization gone are the days where VMware had the luxury of time to get new product versions out the door.

With such a short release cycle of just about 1 year now it must be a grueling task for VMware to maintain that pace especially with all the interoperability and compatibility between there ever growing product portfolio that they must maintain whenever they release a new version. It also makes it challenging for vendors to keep pace with VMware and support new features & APIs as well as major architectural changes like the end-of-life of the ESX hypervisor and the classic vSphere client.

You also have to be concerned about quality with such a fast pace, overall VMware has done a fairly decent job in that area but they have been bit in the butt a few times like with the infamous time-bomb bug. VMware will most likely stick with their one year release schedule that they have settled in to as it aligns with VMworld and trying to run any faster would likely be too much for them to handle.

Also check out my complete table of all the VMware release & build information.

ESX/ESXi versionRelease DateDays from prior release


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  1. Thanks for the article. Just sharing what I see in the field. I serve global banks, who have been using VMware for years. They begin to have 2 release cycle, 1 for ESXi (the platform) and 1 for the management (vCenter, etc). The platform is more critical as downtime impacts the VM. The Management gets upgraded more frequent as they _need_ the features, to make their life easier managing the large farm. The Platform gets upgraded only when they buy new box, as it doesn’t make sense to install old software in new box, only to upgrade it later on.

    FYI, I work for VMware.

  2. The release cycle falls directly in line with what Paul Maritz had mentioned during a keynote a few VMworlds ago which I think is a tremendous accomplishment given how well they appear have stuck with it.

    I think you bring up a very valid point that is worth elaborating on. The core product is now so much more than it used to be. It is a foundational component of all of the other value-adds that VMware provides. Maintaining interoperability has to be a monumental task. I’d love to hear a conversation from one of their product managers/developers to discuss this topic.
    The other side of the coin is that I recall with the 5.0 and 5.1 release a great deal of community angst over lack of support and release of the ancillary products in conjunction. Interesting to see how that improves over time.

    I suppose one way to ease that is to decouple vCloud Director. I kid. I kid. 🙂

  3. Thanks Eric. Nice article on release cycles. Be curious what your audience thinks about QA. I feel as release cycles have shortened the QA has fallen off. vCenter 5.1 had 6 release in less than a year, 5.1, 5.1a, 5.1b 5.1.1, 5.1.1a, 5.1.1b. Makes it tough on us in the field for our customers. As soon as we upgrade our customer to the “latest” release in a couple of weeks a new release comes out. You know what they will hear if they call VMware for support – you need to upgrade to the latest release!

  4. Yeah I noticed the same thing and almost noted that in the post, if you look at those vCenter Server point releases some of them are released only 30 days after the initial release which indicates they missed something big in their QA. The releases of ESXi are fairly stable as the hypervisor is much smaller and with much less moving parts and interoperability then vCenter Server has. Because of that I think many customers have taken the cautious approach and wait a while to upgrade to new releases.

    5.1 Update 1b 2013-08-01
    5.1 Update 1a 2013-05-22
    5.1 Update 1 2013-04-25
    5.1.0b 2012-12-20
    5.1.0a 2012-10-25
    5.1 2012-09-10

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