What's the limitations of the ESXi 5 Free Edition – the VMware vSphere Hypervisor? The free version of the VMware vSphere Hypervisor – ESXi 5, has got some limitations. I know it's been discussed on many places already, but I'm still getting questions about that and so I wanted to clear this out.
What's the principal limitations of the ESXi 5.0 – The Free version of VMware Hypervizor?
Number of Physical CPU limit – There is none. You can use this version of VMware Hypervizor on any server with any number of physical CPU. One, two, four, eight……
Quantity of physical RAM – The Free VMware hypervizor (ESXi 5.1) can be used in servers with 32Gigs of physical RAM installed.
UPDATE: The vRAM is gone…!! yep..
How much vRAM does a VMware vSphere Hypervisor license provide?
For vSphere Hypervisor 5.1, there is no vRAM restriction.
Quantity of virtual RAM (vRAM) – You're able to run VMs with up to 32 Gigs of virtual memory configured – vRAM. The host it's entitled with 32 Gigs of vRAM. Note that it's not a hard limit and that if you do use memory over-commit you can still run those VMs. But you violate the VMware's EULA.
A quick quote from the FAQ page:
How much vRAM does a VMware vSphere Hypervisor license provide? vSphere Hypervisor license provides a vRAM entitlement of 32GB per server, regardless of the number of physical processors. vSphere Hypervisor can be used on servers with maximum physical RAM capacity of 32GB
Note: The bellow is still valid for ESXi 5.1, with the hard limit of physical RAM to 32Gb (for ESXi 5.1 only). If the physical server running the free ESXi 5.1 hypervisor has more than that, the host will just not boot. Read my Full updated post on the options you have on the ESXi 5.1 Free version.
Management Options – with the VMware Free Hypervisor you manage single server only. With the vSphere client, you connect to your ESXi host to manage your VMs etc… If you have many ESX hosts…… you can only manage them one-by-one. For example, you're running 2 ESXi hosts, you connect to them with 2 different vSphere client sessions.
But on the other hand, concerning the storage, the VMs can live on shared storage without a problem. Even when using the free version of ESXi 5. Both ESXi hosts can access via iSCSI, NFS or FC your SAN and create data stores etc…. but you won't be able to use vMotion, HA and other advanced vSphere 5 features because you don't have the option of central management with the VMware Free hypervisor.
Other Limitations – There are other limitations like CLI is available in read-only access or no SNMP support. Full read-write access is necessary for all commercial backup/recovery solutions like Veeam, Trilead or PHD Virtual.
A quick quote from VMware KB2005377:
vCLI, PowerCLI, and vSphere SDk for Perl are limited to read-only access for the free vSphere Hypervisor edition. To enable full functionality of vCLI on a VMware ESXi host, the host must be licensed with vSphere Essentials, vSphere Essential Plus, vSphere Standard, vSphere Enterprise, or vSphere Enterprise Plus.
In many cases users testing VMware Free hypervisor in a production environment for not important workloads or for testing virtualization, because there are still many, many companies which don't use virtualization at all. So it's the best way to start with. And after the first phase or testing period finished, the upgrade to the licensed version is a snap, since no reinstallation of ESXi 5 is necessary. Another point that I wanted to clear out… -:).
The best way for a small business to go further after testing the ESXi 5 Free version is to buy an Essentials or Essentials Plus version of VMware vSphere 5. Those kits do include the centralized management – vCenter Server – which can manage up to 3 physical hosts (it's hard to limit). Besides using the centralized management to manage the VMs from one central location, the more advanced features, like HA (High availability) and vMotion are included (in the Essentials Plus version). High Availability (HA) can automatically restart a VMs on another host if the underlying host where the VMs has been running has a hardware problem and fails. vMotion can migrate VM from one host to another without downtime.
Read the updated post concerning the ESXi 5.1 Free version or the details in the ESXi 5.5 Free Version – no more hard limit 32GB of RAM!