Is it time to upgrade your virtual infrastructure?

The start of a new year is always a good time to plan your housekeeping, consider your approach and set the strategy for the year ahead. This often brings about the question, "When should I upgrade my virtual infrastructure?". In the second half of 2016 we saw major updates to the two main hypervisor platforms the majority of our customers use, VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. So now may be the right time to start considering your upgrade strategy to the latest and greatest hypervisors. 

Why should I upgrade?

Upgrading to the latest hypervisor will often bring a number of benefits, the first consideration that we can't afford to miss is improved security. Whether it is a whole release upgrade or an incremental patch there are always a wrath of security updates included in every release. With an increasing focus on security this reason alone maybe enough to upgrade in your infrastructure. However there are often two more tangible reasons to upgrade namely, Improved Performance and Increased Functionality.  

With the latest releases of vSphere and Hyper-V we saw a number of new features and improvements that are likely to help your business or at the very least improve your ability to manage your virtual infrastructure. 

Take a look at these guides to see what is new in:

Hyper-V 2016 >> https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server-docs/compute/hyper-v/what-s-new-in-hyper-v-on-windows

vSphere 6.5 >>  https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/whitepaper/vsphere/vmw-white-paper-vsphr-whats-new-6-5.pdf

It is also worth considering that having an up to date installation of your hypervisor is often the first support step when seeking assistance with any component within your virtual infrastructure. Now this doesn't usually mean having the latest and greatest fult version but it will certainly mean having a fully patched dot release of a supported release. 

When should I upgrade?

My recommendation is that you should have a strategy in place to ensure you are able to patch your infrastructure on a regular basis, patches will often include the most critical performance, functionality and security bugs that may be apparent within your infrastructure. I would then recommend a larger maintenance window for a strategic upgrade of your virtual infrastructure to the very latest full version. 

As I write this today, I am happy to recommend that our customers upgrade their Hyper-V version to 2016, this has been out for some time now and the major third party manufacturers such as Veeam are supporting this version. 

https://www.veeam.com/pdf/datasheet/Support_for_Microsoft_Server_2016_en.pdf

With vSphere 6.5 is now also widely supported by all the third party software vendors including Veeam. vSphere 6.5 Update 1 has now also been released with a number of key updates. 

What else do I need to consider?

When undertaking any upgrade we do need to take a strategic and considered approach, as always an upgrade isn't without risk or complication however this shouldn't be the reason to not do the upgrade. 

Hardware Compatibility

When undertaking a significant upgrade it is important to consider the hardware compatibility of the components used within your infrastructure. There maybe a need to upgrade firmware and the vendors hardware compatibility lists HCL's is the place to get started. 

Software Compatibility

With your virtual environment being the core component holding together your corporate applications it is important that we consider the compatibility of the components within your infrastructure. Common areas for consideration are backup and replication software, operating systems of guests, monitoring software and more. 

Downtime

Whilst most modern platforms allow you to minimise downtime it is important that you fully understand what if any downtime is required and even when downtime isn't required ensure that you undertake the upgrade at the most appropriate time. 

Cost

The good news for most is that as long as you have valid support and subscription with VMware or a software assurance agreement with Microsoft then you shouldn't have to pay out for any more licensing to undertake the upgrade. 

Need some help?

If you would like a hand with your upgrade have a chat with ComputerWorld. We have been helping our customers get the most out of their infrastructure and designing solutions for the future of their businesses for over 20 years, we have a team of speciaist virtualisation consultants who can make the upgrade quick and pain free. 

Complete the form below to get in touch with one of our virtualisation and cloud specialists, or give us a call on 01454 338 341.