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Upgrades are part of IT administrators' lives. Software versions change; you patch, update and move forward. VMware software makes up the foundation of everything in the data center in certain shops, so a vSphere 6.7 upgrade can have a huge effect on your resources and underlying infrastructure.
Older CPUs and hardware platforms don't work with newer versions of vSphere, so you might need to look at new infrastructure hardware platforms. Nowadays, you have traditional storage, vSAN, solid-state drives (SSDs) and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) to choose from. All of them have their place, but you must decide what's right for you.
Hardware and software compatibility
To start, you must determine what you need to replace versus what you want to replace. To figure this out, you must decide whether you plan to only upgrade your software or whether your storage and compute need updates, too.
Ask yourself what's compatible with your compute and storage and whether performance will suffer. If you won't gain much performance by changing the compute or storage and your hardware is still compatible, then just upgrade the software. Change for the sake of change in IT benefits no one, and nonbeneficial upgrades can introduce potential problems.
When to upgrade storage to vSAN or HCI
Although your primary storage could retire before your compute nodes, the compute often fails before anything else. This is where additional upgrade choices come into play.
If your primary storage does the job, it's still under maintenance and you have capacity, upgrading to vSAN or HCI is often unnecessary. A vSAN or HCI platform might increase your disk performance, but you must make this decision from a business perspective and not a technical one. Booting up a VM a few seconds faster doesn't justify the cost of retiring your existing storage.
Performance increases don't always bring more profits, and any change -- even one that seems positive -- can have detrimental effects on a system. Dealing with a compatibility issue from a vSphere 6.7 upgrade is different than replacing your storage with vSAN or HCI, which would be more expensive and require more effort.
Consider vSAN or HCI when a storage platform reaches its end of life, the capacity or performance starts to fail or the cost of infrastructure maintenance becomes too high. Moving to an HCI platform or vSAN with SSD can change the game when it comes to the performance of your IT systems.
Upgrading compute and storage simultaneously
Most admins aren't lucky enough to have their compute nodes and primary storage sunset at the same time, but there are some strategies to get a little extra life out of them to help line up upgrades.
Extend your infrastructure without breaking the bank by using local SSD for caching or offloading. You might have to put off a large-scale VMware infrastructure upgrade, but VMware, like many other vendors, notifies you about end-of-life software.
Technologies such as HCI platforms and vSAN are the future of virtualization, but make sure to maximize your existing infrastructure before moving forward with them, even if it means staying one step behind.