VMware provides software releases to provide new functionality and to fix problems uncovered in current products. If your problem relates to a software bug in VMware as acknowledged by VMware with a bug tracking number associated with a support request, our TSE will work with you to determine the appropriate release mechanism for a fix based on the technical severity of the bug and the business impact it has on your organization.
VMware uses four mechanisms to provide enhancements and bug fixes:
(1) Major Releases or Upgrades
A major release will normally include all the bug fixes provided by releases for the previous version. In addition, it will contain fixes for critical and serious bugs discovered since the last release, and as many fixes for non-critical bugs as is feasible within our development schedules. As appropriate, bugs identified and not fixed in the release will be documented in the Release Notes. Major Releases also provide functional enhancements. Our Product Managers are alerted to all product enhancement requests, and are responsible for setting the priorities by which requested new features are implemented (also subject to technical feasibility). The version for a major releases is identified by a change in the "x" position to the product version number, e.g., VMware Workstation 4.0 will be a new major release from VMware Workstation 3.x. Your license key for version 3.x will not work with version 4.0. Customers with active Support and Subscription agreements are entitled to major releases as a feature of their support service. VMware Infrastructure customers, with licenses supported under Limited Support and Subscription variants of Production and Basic Support, must purchase major releases separately.
We do encourage you to install our major releases as soon as it is feasible.
(2) Minor Releases
Minor Releases are released regularly to provide fixes for bugs identified in current releases, and may include some minor enhancements. These minor releases go through full QA testing. Such minor releases are cumulative, so you only need to install the latest minor release to benefit from all the available bug fixes. They are usually limited to high severity bug fixes. The number in the "y" position changes in the versioning of a minor release e.g., VMware Workstation 3.1 is a minor release for VMware Workstation 3.0, and contains a number of bug fixes and support for Japanese localization and some other features. The licensing scheme typically remains the same for minor releases, e.g., your license key for 3.0 works with 3.1.
(3) Maintenance Releases
A maintenance release is provided on an as needed basis, for example when a bug or a set of bugs are affecting a number of customers severely and one cannot wait for the next major or minor product release. Maintenance releases go through full quality assurance (QA) testing, and are scheduled on an as needed basis. A maintenance release is identified by a change in the "z" position of the product version, e.g., VMware Workstation 6.5.2 is a maintenance release that supersedes VMware Workstation 6.5.1.
(4) "Update Release" Definition
Bug fixes for ESX, ESXi and vCenter Server products are released standalone and on periodic basis which can be applied to the product without requiring a product maintenance release. An Update (e.g., ESX 3.5 Update 1) is comprised of a roll-up of patches that have been issued for that major release since the last Update release or product release plus new “hardware enablements” (i.e., upgraded or new drivers or other software components needed to support new I/O devices, new CPUs, etc. in that release). Updates may contain other critical or serious corrections or fixes but do not extend the life cycle of the product. Updates in the ESX 3.5 line began with ESX 3.5 Update 1 and are expected to be released approximately once every 6 months. vCenter Server also provides bug fixes in Update releases.
Note: VMware no longer issues Maintenance Releases for VMware Virtual Infrastructure or VMware vSphere, VMware ESX, VMware ESXi, and VMware vCenter Server products.