VMware to end downloads and general support for older software

Versions released before May 2009 will no longer be available online

VMware will end general support of all but the most recent versions of its virtualization platform in May, and remove the older products from its download Web site, the company announced.

Older products will then enter the "extended support" phase in which "new hardware platforms are no longer supported, new guest OS updates may or may not be applied, and bug fixes are limited to critical issues," according to VMware.

Products to be removed from the download site in May include VMware ESX Server 3.5 Update 4, which was released in  March 2009, and earlier versions of the ESX hypervisor.

Older versions of VMware Virtual Center, a virtualization management software product, will also be removed from downloads and general support.

VMware is placing most of its marketing hype around vSphere, the upgrade to its core virtualization platform that became  available last May. VMware calls vSphere its "cloud operating system," saying that in addition to the basic virtualization of servers the software aggregates server, storage and network resources into a centrally managed computing pool.

Customers can stay on prior versions of ESX but may not be eligible for all the latest updates. Going forward, patches will be based on ESX 3.5 Update 5, ESX 3.0.3 Update 1, and Virtual Center 2.5 Update 6, the latter of which will be released early this year.

"By removing older releases, VMware is establishing a long-term sustainable product maintenance line for older ESX product releases, which have transitioned into the Extended Support life cycle phase," the company said. "This enables us to baseline all patches and critical fixes against these baselines. This translates to faster customer turn-around and greater product stability during the extended support phase."

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