To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade to vSphere 6.0: ‘When’ is the Question

It’s been six weeks since VMware vSphere 6.0 was released on March 12, 2015.

How long will it take before the majority of organizations adopt it? Instead of relying on conventional wisdom or user surveys to provide insight, we thought it would be interesting to examine actual upgrade adoption data to see what it tells us…

Our rock star data scientists ran a trend analysis of ESX version distribution across the CloudPhysics global data set over time, shown above.

Each colored “band” represents the percentage of hosts from all organizations within our global data set on a particular ESX release (per the legend) over time. I’ve annotated the chart with the dotted vertical lines that indicate, from left to right, the release dates for 5.1, 5.5, and 6.0 respectively.

vSphere upgrade patterns are clear

The data shows a pattern of upgrade adoption that is relatively consistent over the past few years (and releases):

  • Approximately 50% of organizations have upgraded their physical hosts to the most recent version by the time the subsequent version is released (circles associated with each dotted vertical line).
  • vSphere releases typically happen every 12-13 months, so another way of to think about this is that it takes a year before a simple majority (i.e., more than 50%) of users adopt the release.
  • Approximately 10-15% of organizations are two or more upgrades behind at the time of a new release.

Given these data-driven observations, we predict that by this time next year, roughly 50% of organizations using vSphere will have upgraded to 6.0.

Why vSphere upgrade timing varies

A question many will ask is why organizations upgrade when they do. Upgrading core infrastructure is no trivial exercise. Large organizations with large environments – even those who typically adopt new releases immediately – need a running start to perform the extensive planning required and schedule the upgrade into a backlog of projects and competing IT priorities. Smaller organizations, or those with lean IT teams and fewer resources, may wait until the initial bugs/security gaps are discovered (by others) before they commence with an upgrade. Often, an upgrade is tied to a hardware refresh cycle.  Finally, some organizations will skip a release altogether if the feature set is not compelling for their particular requirements.

Regardless of timing, an upgrade is a major undertaking that brings with it fear of breakage and disruption – which is not to be taken lightly. Recently a company came to us for help after a vSphere 5.5 upgrade led to costly datacenter downtime. While their team had done countless tasks correctly, they missed one particular PCIE driver incompatibility issue that turned deadly. The good news is that CloudPhysics was able to quickly pinpoint the issue post facto for immediate remediation. The even better news is that CloudPhysics can just as easily expose these and other upgrade risks, across all vCenters, in just minutes – before your upgrade begins.

Watch our blog in the coming weeks for more information on using CloudPhysics to reduce the risk of your 6.0 upgrade – whenever you choose to make it.

What are your plans upgrade to vSphere 6.0?

Where does your organization fall on the upgrade curve? When do you plan to upgrade to 6.0 and what’s driving it? Tell us in the comments below.