The writing has been on the wall for many years now, but it’s finally happening. With the next numeric version of vSphere (6.6, 7.0, whatever it’s going to be called) VMware announced the deprecation of vCenter on Windows Server. The following numeric version won’t be supported at all. So what does this really mean?
Deprecation is a word that’s thrown around a lot with software vendors. Essentially, all it really means is that something is no longer a preferred implementation, and before long it will not be supported. How long that lasts depends on the vendor. For example, VMware deprecated support for the thick client years and years ago, but it’s still functioned (and actually been required for some tasks) up until recently. This time VMware has taken a firm stand. The next numeric version of vCenter will support being installed on Windows. After that, it will no longer function.
This is kind of like Windows itself. Server 2003 is unsupported, but it keeps working; you just can’t get new features. Once we get two numeric versions of vCenter out, there will no longer be a Windows installer. As simple as that, you won’t be able to install VMware 7 (or whatever it’s called) on a Windows system. If you still have a previous version of vCenter installed (6, 6.5, etc.) it will keep working. Additionally you’ll be able to get support for a while depending on VMware’s policies. However, no new features will come to those versions, and you’ll have to migrate to get them.
What This Really Means
Start planning your migration. VMware has made some nice tools (Flings) to migrate from the Windows vCenter to the appliance that have been tested for a few years. These are now actually included in the vCenter appliance installer. It’s not that bad of a process now, and the 6.5 vCenter appliance fully supports all functions of the Windows client, including Update Manager (yay). Additionally, if running on the appliance, you no longer have to worry about really annoying things, like log collection, SQL management and other random oddities that crop up in the vCenter application running on Windows. All of that is contained and well automated in the vCenter appliance.
For smaller environments, the migration isn’t that bad; it’s as simple as clicking through the options in the installer and following the prompts. For bigger environments, there may be some changes to their architecture and design if they aren’t yet to 6.5, but even then it’s not an incredibly disruptive process. One of the things that has been a problem for years with this kind of migration was moving Veeam from one vCenter to another. Well, Veeam has a tool that will update all of the MoRefs within Veeam so that your backups can continue to function as normal. That makes even fewer concerns with regards to the upgrade as you no longer have to seed backups from scratch.