What Is VMware vSphere?

VMware vSphere is a virtualization and cloud management platform, consisting of VMware ESXi hypervisor and various other vSphere components, that is designed to make hyper-converged infrastructure utilization cost-effective and secure. Thanks to a shrewd combination of features, after you install VMware vSphere, your environment will be able to run, connect, manage, and secure your applications and data in a unified hybrid-cloud environment. But, essentially, vSphere is much more than that. Unlike other hypervisor vendors, VMware vSphere concludes a very broad suite of server virtualization features.

Along with vSphere ESXi comes the vital administration element, vCenter. VMware vCenter is a complex management software that includes various tools and features to monitor, manage, and otherwise operate your vSphere environment. While the baseline capabilities of the vSphere Web Client make it possible to operate the fundamentals of a newly virtualized environment even for a system administrator who's fresh to VMware vSphere, other features of vCenter will need education. Although vSphere is a highly popular, powerhouse virtualization suite, it's probably the most complicated one in terms of operation.

VMware vSphere Features

VMware vSphere hypervisor has its own set of features, while other vSphere components govern other areas of your virtualized environment's activities. These would include: VMware ESXi (hypervisor), vCenter Server (central administration suite), vCenter Single Sign-On (authentication service), Security Token Service, vSphere Administrator Server (user and group management), vCenter Lookup Service (vSphere topology), VMware Directory Service (automatic updates across authorized clients), vCenter Server Plug-Ins, vSphere tcServer, Host Agent, and many-many others.

VMware vSphere is no easy feat to master. If you wish to make the most of vSphere essentials, you will have to educate yourself thoroughly and pay considerable costs to access all those features. vSphere is a powerful option for data center virtualization that markets itself as transforming complex data centers into simplified cloud computing infrastructures. However, while the mentioned VMware vSphere features are indeed capable of anything, their diversification comes in different-tier licenses and requires significant monetary and time resources to deploy and use properly. You have to calculate your decision thoroughly.

VMware vSphere

Let's make a brief summary and rundown of the things you will undoubtedly have to consider while dealing with VMware vSphere.

How to Use vSphere?

  • VMware vSphere ESXi is a bare-metal hypervisor that abstracts processors, storage, memory, and other IT resources into virtual machines (VMs)
  • VMware vCenter Server (it was previously called VirtualCenter) is the central management and monitoring API for all your data center services
  • Storage vMotion and vMotion are features that allow migrating VMs, virtual disks, and configuration files while all your systems are still running
  • VMware vSphere Client concludes a management console, an HTML-5 web console, that enables remote connection to VMware vCenter
  • vSphere High Availability is a separate feature that, once enabled, utilizes other available hosts to restart the failed virtual machines
  • vSphere Distributed Switch comprises the ability of a virtual switch to connect to many hosts simultaneously for most comfortable network use
  • VMware DRS and Storage DRS act to balance out vSphere in terms of computing capacity, storage capacity, and I/O across the entire environment
  • vSphere Software Development Kits enable their users with interfaces that provide them with access to certain core parts of vSphere itself
  • VMware vSphere Virtual SMP acts to increase performance by allowing one VM to access more than one physical processor at the same time

What Is vSphere Hypervisor?

VMware vSphere hypervisor has gone through multiple substantial changes over the years. VMware usually introduces profound changes to its vSphere suite whenever a new version comes out.

The most fundamental vSphere changes were these versions:

  • VMware vSphere 4.0 was mostly centered around focusing on centralized management. Here, VMware first brought centralized licensing, a unified API for various vCenter hosts. It also featured vCenter Server Linked Mode, host profiles, vApp, and updates to different security features.
  • VMware vSphere 4.1 introduced the option of scripted installations and removing vSphere Client from either of the vSphere hypervisors (ESXi, ESX). The updates also included iSCSI hardware offloading, as well as other performance enhancements for Network File System and VAAI.
  • Vmware vSphere 5.0 centered around the new hypervisor version, ESXi 5.0. This implied new computing upgrades, like 32-way virtual SMP, UEFI BIOS, 3D graphics, 1TB RAM support, USB 3.0, and macOS compatibility. Hosts became able to support 160 logical CPUs, 2 TB RAM, and 512VMs/host.
  • VMware vSphere 5.1 continued to expand the number of VMs and their abilities (64 virtual CPUs, 1TB RAM), as well as a new VM format, VM version 9, was introduced. This update also enabled vMotion to work without shared storage and vSphere Replication was integrated as a new feature.
  • VMware vSphere 5.5 related to graphic enhancements. For example, vGPU support was extended and Linux VMs received graphical acceleration. There were also networking updates, like support and traffic filtering for 40GB NICs and aggregation control protocol. This version fine-tuned VMDK and increased their size.
  • VMware vSphere 6.0 focused on making the suite even more powerful than before. VMs could now support 128 virtual CPUs and 4TB RAM, while hosts could support 480 logical CPUs, 12TB RAM, and over 1,000 VMs. Graphics were further enhanced, instant clone was added, and long-distance vMotion was enabled.
  • VMware vSphere 6.5 chose cybersecurity as its theme. For example, it included VM encryption, secure boot for VMs, security automation, secure vMotion, Host Profiles, and PXE-based host auto-deployment. Computing was also tuned up in terms of load balancing, HA, and fault tolerance.
  • VMware vSphere 7.0 went completely off-script and introduced vSphere anew. There was a whole slew of fundamental changes and updates added. Among others, Advanced Cross vCenter Server Migration, new download page, lifecycle matrix, PVRDMA Support for Native Endpoints, new graphics, vSphere with Tanzu, and many more.

VMware vSphere is an enterprise-class powerhouse data center virtualization suite indeed, but it needs an incredible amount of shared storage and memory to support and run those features properly. But is VMware VSAN the only possible companion to VMware ESXi? Of course not! Other vendors offer solutions that are often way more suitable in a series of particular use cases.

With this in mind, StarWind, being one such vendor, offers not an alternative to VMware VSAN but a solution that is better suited for certain scenarios; like ROBO & Edge, for example. Unlike VMware vSphere's SDS option, StarWind has a transparent licensing policy meant for its solution, grants access to all of its features upon purchase, and has no restrictions in terms of functionality, scalability, or flexibility of use.

VMware vSphere and
StarWind VSAN for vSphere

VMware vSphere Cost

  • Every licensing package has different feature sets and tools
  • More expensive licenses grant access to better functions and support
  • Strict hardware compatibility lists (HCLs) that demand specific firmware for VMware software
  • Licensing is provided per 1 CPU (which has hosts, CPUs per host, RAM, HCL, and VM limitations)
  • Fault tolerance is either 2 or 8 vCPUs that is purchased for different pricing
  • Scalability is restricted depending on the licensing and HCLs

StarWind Virtual SAN for vSphere

  • Comes in the form of a lightweight VM based on Linux
  • Created to grant SMB, ROBO & Edge infrastructures constant uptime from the get-go
  • SDS that offers a full set of features in every license
  • Licenses differ only in shared storage capacity volumes
  • Deploys on whatever hardware you already got
  • Does not force the customer to abide by strict HCLs
  • Flexible scalability up and out at no additional cost
  • Cooperative and rapidly responsive support from deployment to troubleshooting

StarWind Virtual SAN is a software-defined storage solution designed to bring the most actual enterprise-class hyperconvergence features to the mass market. It fully removes the need for physical shared storage and uses an elaborate set of features to ensure constant application uptime, flawless fault tolerance, and High Availability (if needed) on truly minimal requirements.

Features and Benefits of StarWind VSAN

Simple to Use and

StarWind VSAN is a lightweight VM that ties your entire vSphere environment into a robust highly available, fault-tolerant storage pool starting with 2 nodes. You can orchestrate, monitor, and manage your virtualized cluster via a unified console that is included in every edition. There are no hidden license terms or tricks: you buy a single solution that doesn’t care for your infrastructure’s compilation and you’re good to go.


StarWind VSAN provides you with unlimited scaling possibilities with the node quantity of your choice. In-line deduplication and compression ensure storage optimization and maximum speed. It assures data resiliency with the required Hardware or Software RAID, as well as reduces physically written data and increases VM IOPs. Thanks to "mirroring" of internal hard disks and flash between hypervisor servers, you won't experience any downtime or lose any data.


StarWind VSAN is laser-focused on particular scenarios where VMware VSAN is not the best fit for the customer from the price tag, flexibility, and licensing perspectives. It ensures maximum bandwidth and constant uptime. Your existing virtualization admin will quickly get the hang of the product and receive all the necessary support from StarWind engineers as you deploy, configure, and use it. It also gets rid of the need to buy new physical shared storage. As a result, StarWind Virtual SAN lowers your TCO, CapEx and OpEx, and increases ROI.

To learn more about the technical criteria and benefits that StarWind VSAN brings, its pricing and configuration, feel free to fill out the form below.
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