What Is VMware ESXi?

One of the pioneers in virtualization, VMware is known to every admin who's ever worked with a virtualized environment. VMware ESXi (VMware hypervisor) is the next-generation bare-metal hypervisor that concludes the core of VMware vSphere. ESXi VMware is responsible for creating and managing virtual machines (VMs), which are the centerfold of virtualization. Creating VMs on the ESXi server is the primary function of VMware hypervisor. In the past, there were two versions of vSphere hypervisor: VMware ESX and VMware ESXi, which were divided into Type 1 and Type 2 hypervisors. Starting with vSphere version 5, VMware ESXi is the only hypervisor option deployable for vSphere. All hypervisors have the same idea behind them but each of them works slightly differently because of different developers.

Just like other hypervisors, ESXi VMware creates a virtualization layer that then abstracts the available hardware resources of your ESXi server (CPU, networking, storage, and memory resources). VMware ESXi then creates virtual machines wherein the applications can be run and access the virtualized resources within that abstracted layer. During that process, applications don't necessarily even need to access the actual hardware resources of the physical ESXi host. ESXi is a very lightweight hypervisor with quite a simple approach. You can install vSphere ESXi on your HDD, USB device, or even an SD card. It's quite straightforward in installation and operation, but some education and/or experience with virtualization will be needed to get the hang of VMware ESXi. It will how also depend on ESXi versions and your goals.

VMware ESXi Free vs Paid

VMware has only two ESXi versions, which are, as you've guessed, ESXi Free and ESXi Paid. VMware hypervisor is installed via a single medium and process. You will get the same hypervisor that is the vSphere enterprise quality. It's just that certain features of VMware ESXi will be unavailable to you until you decide to pay for an ESXi license of your choice.

VMware ESXi Free Limitations

Not all the best things in life are free. However, ESXi free can be very helpful when it comes to personal education about virtualization and development, as well as it's decent for testing and disaster recovery. Considering VMware ESXi limitations, ESXi free isn't recommended for production purposes. Since the free version of vSphere ESXi lacks access to support and vCenter Server, it can cause unwanted problems.

That being said, VMware has an ESXi Evaluation license that is meant to help you test the solution. You can use free VMware ESXi to test out how it works on its own or test out other vSphere suite elements, like NSX, VMware VSAN, or vRealize Suite, and others. Such an option provides the chance to see whether you like what vSphere ESXi has to offer, test it all in your lab, and then decide where to go further.

If you're a beginner or a pro that's seeking to deep dive into virtualization even further, ESXi free is great for training and professional development. You can utilize the free VMware hypervisor version to see how it's installed into an ESXi host, and how it's configured, an ESXi works with VMs. On the other hand, you can also use ESXi free to test out Windows and Windows Server versions before you decide to commit to one.

Finally, you can run disaster recovery on your ESXi server by using the free ESXi. Nonetheless, don't get your hopes up too much. VMware ESXi free has a very limited potential when it comes to disaster recovery. If you are a tiny business and you need some modest backup, yes, free ESXi can be used for your disaster recovery. However, using the paid version is advised for regular production and DR.

VMware ESXi Price and License

First of all, VMware ESXi free doesn't have access to vCenter Server or to VMware support. These features are vital for operating your daily ESXi host work, your virtualized environment, disaster recovery, and prevention from downtime. There's only so much the free version of ESXi will offer you in terms of training, testing, and DR. To learn more and get actual use, you'll have to pay the VMware ESXi price.

Managing multiple VMs inside your VMware ESXi virtualization environment without central management is, simply put, difficult and counter-productive. To effectively monitor and manage your ESXi host and VMs, you will have to purchase the ESXi license and the license for vCenter Server. VMware licensing is quite complicated, but, in the end, paying for a bundle is always cheaper than paying per feature.

To ensure constant application uptime and ensure either zero or insignificant level of downtime, you will need to introduce a failover or fault tolerance of some sort. You will need to pay for an ESXi license to receive access to vSphere High Availability, vCenter Server, and a set of other ESXi features to make sure your VMs and other ESXi hosts can continue working even if one of the hosts fails.

Without paying for vCenter Server (VMware's central management suite), patching will overwhelm you and create danger for your virtualization environment. Purchasing a VMware ESXi license means you'll get access to vCenter Server, as well as Update Manager and other tools, which will help you patch all your ESXi hosts and VMs from a central user interface (UI) without any manual intervention or headache.

VMware ESXi Versions

VMware ESXi is a hypervisor with many useful bells and whistles which you need to pay for to use them, but they are ultimately necessary to ensure a smooth and highly performing production virtualization environment. Then again, be sure to check the latest VMware ESXi versions, VMware hardware compatibility lists, and other requirements to make sure you go for the one that best suites your business needs.

Key Features
and Benefits
of ESXi

An entire manual with several volumes would be necessary to fit in the description of all the capabilities that ESXi and other conjunct VMware products offer. We'll focus on the frontline ones.

Key ESXi Features

Apart from its core purpose as a hypervisor (abstraction of hardware resources), VMware ESXi is also capable of logging and auditing, traffic shaping, security access based on roles, and memory ballooning. ESXi can also be managed through a vSphere PowerCLI or the all-encompassing GUI — vCenter Server. ESXi can also configure up to 120 devices and 128 CPUs. System administrators can surf between the functionality of ESXi hosts using either CLIs and/or API-based integration and management that excludes third-party tools that can compromise security. ESXi also allows running Windows Servers VMs.

Main ESXi Benefits

VMware synthesized its previous experience into ESXi being a straightforward and bare-metal hypervisor for simplicity of installation, functionality, and use. ESXi is lightweight and needs less patching, which also translates into its higher security because of having less volume for backdoors. Security management is located in the vmkernel itself for higher ESXi cybersecurity. Therefore, it's fast to install, simple to manage, provides for a safe virtualization environment for your ESXi host, and its management, thanks to the GUI, is also unified and accounts for better monitoring and operation.

ESXi Disadvantages

As well as having various awesome features and benefits, VMware ESXi has quite prominent disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage of ESXi is overly complex licensing and feature walls, demanding to pay for every advanced feature separately. Luckily, to enjoy high constant application uptime, flawless failover, or even High Availability if you need it, you can skip paying for all of that and just opt for one solution for anything that a solid virtualization production environment may need — StarWind Virtual SAN.

VMware ESXi vs StarWind Virtual SAN (VSAN)

VMware ESXi hypervisor, along with VMware VSAN software-defined storage solution, comes in an integrated package as VMware vSphere virtualization platform, delivering reliable and continuous performance. However, even though the efficiency of the VMware VSAN solution is out of the question, in certain cases, StarWind Virtual SAN can come off as a more suitable alternative:

  • StarWind VSAN was created to grant SMB, ROBO and Edge infrastructures constant uptime from the get-go.
  • Unlike VMware VSAN, which is based on the “2 nodes + 1 witness host” configuration for deploying a failover cluster, StarWind VSAN provides high availability with only 2 nodes without the necessity to license a witness.
  • SSDs are not the only options: StarWind VSAN deploys on whatever hardware you already got.
  • No HCLs for StarWind VSAN: it fits any configuration that meets its minimum requirements.
  • Cooperative and rapidly responsive StarWind support from deployment to troubleshooting

With StarWind VSAN, SMEs, ROBO & Edge can afford to enjoy all the benefits and performance of VMware ESXi hypervisor without having to over-pay for extra features separately.

What is
StarWind VSAN?

StarWind Virtual SAN seems to be a perfect fit for such cases because it allows creating a shared storage pool with off-the-shelves hardware at minimal costs, bringing to the table a rich feature-packed stack as well. Not only would it make your environment more efficient with a minimum of resources, StarWind, working on 2 nodes, can still keep your infrastructure highly available and fault-tolerant, since it keeps functionality even if one of the nodes goes off due to failure or outage. If you need to build and maintain a virtual infrastructure without costly proprietary hardware and need a universal storage solution, take a look!

Features and Benefits of StarWind VSAN

Physical storage solutions still have a lot to offer, but many businesses neither require them nor can afford it. What to do when your infrastructure seemingly has no other option? StarWind Virtual SAN is the answer to that question. It gives you everything you'll need for a reasonable price, and it doesn't take a computing prodigy to run it.


By limiting the hardware footprint accompanying traditional physical storage, StarWind VSAN allows you to double your savings by lowering CapEx and OpEx. You can forget about additional licensing expenses as well. Naturally, as any product of a kind, it still requires hardware for work, but the difference in price between custom hardware and commodity one is evident enough.

Simple in Use

Despite offering impressive performance, StarWind VSAN isn't following that scale in managing and administering. You can run it wherever you want, and it doesn't get more simple in configuring. If you have any experience in working with a virtualized environment, you'll have no trouble running and deploying StarWind Virtual SAN.

Rich Features Set

And if all that wasn't enough for you, StarWind VSAN isn't limited by just price, reliability, and flexibility. It also offers a set of features such as server-side cache, NFS support, or Automated Storage Tiering to provide your environment with fault tolerance, high availability, and maximum performance.

If you want to find out more about StarWind Virtual SAN than a brief overview can offer, you can search for more details here

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