There are a number of reasons why a VMware vSphere environment may not be at version 4.1. One possible reason may be issues in getting the vCenter Server and supporting databases migrated to the new supported platforms matrix, which can be a dizzying array of 64-bit environments.

The vSphere 4.0 major version had the Update 3 release in May 2011. The first step to determine if this incremental update is a good fit for installation in your environment (it will be in most cases) is to review the release notes. For this release, these are the notable features:

  • Support for more operating system platforms, specifically RHEL 6, SLES 11 SP1, and SP1 for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Support for more database platforms, specifically SQL Server 2008 R2, Oracle 11g R2, and IBM DB2 9.7.2 (x86 and x64 for all of these database platforms).
  • The (supported) ability to install the vCenter Server on Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • Updates to a few vCenter plug-ins, specifically Update Manager, Guided Consolidation, and Orchestrator.

There also were a number of things corrected with this incremental update, which are identified in the release notes.

This update is effectively a stopgap version, which means it keeps a vSphere 4.0 environment current, but it isn’t necessarily the right place to be for the long haul. If you haven’t already, it is definitely time to upgrade the vCenter Server and its database to a supported platform on vSphere 4.1.

If you do install vSphere 4.0 Update 3, it is important to note that the upgrade path changes slightly; specifically, the option to upgrade from vSphere 4.0 Update 3 directly to vSphere 4.1 (base release) is removed. The upgrade path only goes from vSphere 4.0 Update 3 to vSphere 4.1 Update 1. The current documentation doesn’t indicate how this upgrade path would be impacted by subsequent vSphere 4.1 or newer versions, but we can look to past releases for guidance. When ESX 3.5 and vSphere 4 were released, a number of updates for ESX 3 and vCenter Server 2.5 continued for a while (which was helpful to the large enterprises). Based on prior behavior, I assume that vSphere 4.0 Update 3 is the last major release for the base vSphere 4 series. It is definitely in the best interest of the vSphere administrator to keep up to date with the latest release from VMware.

If you are still on the base release of vSphere 4, what is holding you back? Let us know in the discussion.