Understanding VMware ESX features

An expert outlines VMware ESX features and ESX hardware compatibility and installation concerns.

VMware's ESX Server is the industry's most widely deployed virtualization option for data center consolidation

and server consolidation. In this guide to VMware ESX, we outline the core features of VMware ESX and explain the key differences between ESX and ESXi.

The VMware ESX hypervisor is installed on a physical server that enables a server to run multiple guest virtual machines (VMs) inside it. Each of these VMs then runs as a guest OS, such as Windows Server 2008 or Linux. In this guide to VMware's ESX Server, we explain the core features of VMware ESX Server.

VMware virtualization's hypervisor was recently upgraded from ESX Server 3.5 to ESX Server 4.0. In doing so, VMware's enterprise virtualization platform was renamed from VMware Infrastructure to vSphere. Now, if you want to use ESX Server, you don't buy ESX Server; you buy the vSphere suite (for more on vSphere pricing check out our guide), where the exception is the free edition of VMware ESXi.

Today, vSphere offers two flavors of ESX: ESX (full or classic) or the thin ESX, "ESXi" (installable or embedded). ESXi Server offers the same performance as ESX Server (full or classic editions), but it lacks the service console for command line management. ESXi comes as a free edition and as an installable embedded commercial edition included in vSphere.

Unlike VMware Server or Workstation, VMware ESX Server you install VMware ESX directly on a physical server. Because ESX Server is the operating system and it has a limited set of drivers, you must ensure that your hardware is compatible with ESX. To do so, check the VMware Hardware Compatibility Guide before installing ESX Server.

Core features of VMware ESX:
  • Memory overcommittment and deduplication, which allow for higher consolidation ratios
  • Huge scalability with up to 64 logical processing cores, 256 virtual CPUs, and 1 TB of RAM per host, enabling higher consolidation ratios;
  • Memory ballooning;
  • Network traffic shaping;
  • Network interface card teaming (or NIC teaming);
  • VMware vSphere client allows for easy graphical user interface management;
  • VMware Power command-line interface (or PowerCLI) and vCLI;
  • and many more

See VMware ESX Server features for the complete list features.

Return to guide's main page for more on VMware virtualization products and features .
This was first published in November 2009

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