Why are so many VMware customers still on vSphere 6.5 & 6.7?

vSphere 6.5 and 6.7 is set to go end of support next week and vSphere 7.0 has been released for over 2 and a half years now while vSphere 8.0 is due out next week.  Despite this a large percentage of the VMware customer base is still running 6.x versions even with them going end of support very soon. In this article I’ll take a look at some adoption stats and try to answer the question of why so many customers are still on vSphere 6.x.

First let’s look at the key timeline milestones for the major vSphere releases.

Product release General Availability End of General Support End of Technical Guidance
vSphere 7.0 2020-04-02 2025-04-02 2027-04-02
vSphere 6.7 2018-04-17 2022-10-15 2023-11-15
vSphere 6.5 2016-11-15 2022-10-15 2023-11-15
vSphere 6.0 2015-03-12 2020-03-12 2022-03-12
vSphere 5.5 2013-09-22 2018-09-19 2020-09-19

Now lets take a look at some version stats. We track the vSphere versions that customers use from the telemetry data of our storage arrays, VMware also tracks this as well via their vCenter analytics. Below is a look at that data from recent time periods to show what versions of  vCenter and ESXi customers are running.

April 2022

vCenter version
6.7 4,487 46.2
7.0.3 3,131 32.3
7.0.2 910 9.4
6.5 843 8.7
7.0.1 133 1.4
6.0 106 1.1
5.5 54 .6
7.0 46 .5
ESXi version # %
6.7 33,225 47.9
7.0.3 12,702 18.3
6.5 11,555 16.7
7.0.2 6,811 9.8
7.0.1 2,724 3.9
6.0 1,910 2.8
5.5 364 .6
7.0 168 .3

From these numbers we can see that about 6 months ago 56% of customers were running vCenter 6.x and 67% are running ESXi 6.x bringing the majority of the VMware customer base on the older major release of vSphere. If we contrast this to today here’s what the numbers look like.

October 2022

vCenter version # %
7.0.3 5,578 50.5
6.7 3,781 34.2
6.5 724 6.6
7.0.2 691 6.3
7.0.1 112 1.0
6.0 84 .8
5.5 44 .4
7.0 40 .4
ESXi version # %
7.0.3 28,717 37.7
6.7 28,223 37.0
6.5 9,925 13.0
7.0.2 5,462 7.2
7.0.1 1,850 2.4
6.0 1,532 2.0
5.5 365 .5
7.0 185 .2

We can see as of today that 41% of customers are running vCenter 6.x and 52% are running ESXi 6.x. So customers are finally starting to get off 6.x as it nears it’s end of support date next week. But there is still a very large percent using 6.x, especially on the host side.

I’ve always wondered why customers sit on those older versions so long instead of upgrading and gaining the new features and benefits that newer releases offer. Here are a few reasons I can think of why they stay on older releases.

  • If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Hey if it works, meets your requirements and you don’t care about new features then why upgrade which always carries a risk of something not working after the upgrade or issues while doing the upgrade. You also run the risk of compatibility issues as well.
  • It takes time to upgrade. Larger enterprises with hundreds/thousands of hosts can take a very long time to do upgrades and the process can move very slowly to plan it out and get it done.
  • Older hardware doesn’t always support newer software. Often times vendors will not qualify and certify newer versions of their software on older hardware platforms as they don’t have resources to test that many versions.
  • Issues with licensing. I’ve heard in the past some applications like Oracle are more licensing friendly on older vSphere versions due CPU socket limits. Also upgrading typically means you have to invest in more licensing costs.
  • Compatibility issues with apps and hardware. Sometimes certain applications or hardware is not cross compatible with newer versions of vSphere. In some cases it can take a while to achieve application cross compatibility nirvana across all your software and hardware as you wait for vendors to support newer versions. Also sometimes customers might be fearful that something may not work properly on newer versions.
  • Refresh cycles can be along time coming. Some customers only do hardware refreshes every 5+ years and they typically wait to upgrade to newer vSphere versions until then. It can be a lot easier to stand up a whole new hardware environment running the latest versions of vSphere and then slowly migrate your VMs to it. Performing upgrades in place can carry some risk that customers may want to avoid.
  • Nobody wants to deal with bugs. Newer software inherently carries the risk of being buggy until it has been thoroughly tested by the install base over a long period of time. As software products get more and  more complicated the risks can increase and some customers want to play it safe and wait until it has matured before diving in.

So which version will most customers eventually migrate to? From the looks of it 7.0 U3 is where most customers are heading as it’s the latest and most stable release. With vSphere 8.0 releasing next week it’s doubtful that customers will move to that release in mass as historically most customers avoid new major releases until they mature and updates are released. With the past trends we have seen with vSphere 5.x & 6.x it will most likely be years before vSphere 8.0 becomes the majority release.

So if you’re one of those customers on vSphere 6.x or were very slow to migrate to vSphere 7.0 I’d be interested to hear your reasons for staying on the older versions so long. I’m sure there are other reasons that I have not covered here, so leave a comment and let me know.

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