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ESX vs ESXi – Difference between ESX and ESXi

Here you will find out:

  • what is VMware ESXi and ESX
  • ESX vs ESXi
  • how DiskInternals can help you

Are you ready? Let's read!

According to the most recent figures, VMware controls more than 75% of the worldwide server virtualization industry, making it the uncontested market leader, with its competitors trailing far behind. The VMware hypervisor allows you to virtualize even the most resource-intensive applications while keeping within budget.

If you're new to VMware software, you've probably heard of the apparently never-ending ESX vs. ESXi debate. These are two variants of VMware hypervisor architectures, both of which are intended for "bare-metal" installation on top of a real server (without running an operating system). The purpose of this article is to clarify the distinction between them.

What Does ESXi Stand for and How Did It All Begin?

If you're familiar with the VMware product line, you're probably aware that ESXi, unlike ESX, is accessible for free. As a result, there is a frequent misunderstanding that ESX servers are more efficient and feature-rich than ESXi servers. However, this assumption is not totally correct.

ESX is the forerunner to ESXi. vSphere 4.1 ("vSphere") is the most recent VMware version that includes both ESX and ESXi hypervisor designs. ESXi became the successor for ESX after its introduction in August 2010. VMware announced the switch from ESX, its traditional hypervisor design, to ESXi, a lighter alternative.

ESX vs. ESXi: Key Differences

The main difference between ESX and ESXi is that ESX is built on a Linux-based console OS, but ESXi has a menu for server setup and may run on any general-purpose operating system. For your information, ESX stands for Elastic Sky X, and the newly added letter I in ESXi refers for "integrated."

As an aside, ESXi was known internally as "VMvisor" ("VMware Hypervisor") during its early development stage in 2004, and was renamed "ESXi" just three years later. Only ESXi has been supported since version 5, which was released in July 2011.

Console OS in ESX

The ESX architecture, as previously stated, is built on a Linux-based Console Operating System (COS). This is the primary distinction between ESX and ESXi, as the latter does not use the COS. The console OS in ESX is responsible for booting the server and then loading the vSphere hypervisor into memory. However, the COS is no longer required after that, as these are its only tasks.

Apart from the fact that the console OS has a restricted function, it offers a number of issues for VMware and its customers. In terms of time and work necessary to keep COS protected and maintained, it is rather demanding. The following are some of its drawbacks:

  • The majority of security concerns in an ESX-based infrastructure are caused by COS vulnerabilities;
  • Enabling third-party agents or tools may offer security risks and should be closely managed;
  • Third-party agents or utilities that are allowed to run in the COS compete with the hypervisor for the system's resources.

The hypervisor in ESXi, which was first introduced in VMware's 3.5 version, is no longer dependent on an external OS. It is loaded straight into memory from the boot device. The removal of the COS is advantageous in a number of ways:

  • The smaller boot image allows you to design a safe and tightly locked-down architecture;
  • The deployment strategy becomes more flexible and agile, which is useful for infrastructures with a high number of ESXi hosts.

In this approach, the essential point in the ESX vs. ESXi debate is that the introduction of the ESXi design addressed some of the issues with ESX, hence improving the platform's security, performance, and reliability.

ESX vs. ESXi: Basic Features of the Latter

ESXi is still a "bare-metal" hypervisor that creates a virtualization layer between the hardware and the operating system of the machine. One of the most important features of ESXi is that it strikes a balance between the ever-increasing demand for resource capacity and the cost of ownership.

ESXi provides a smarter approach to use hardware by enabling effective segmentation of the available hardware. To put it another way, ESXi allows you to combine numerous servers onto fewer physical machines. This reduces both IT administration effort and resource needs, particularly in terms of space and power usage, allowing you to save money overall.

At a glance, below are some of ESXi's important features:

Smaller footprint

ESXi may be thought of as a scaled-down version of ESX. For fast reference, "footprint" refers to the amount of memory that software (or, in this case, a hypervisor) takes up. This is just roughly 130 MB in the instance of ESXi 6.7, but an ESXi 6.7 ISO Image is 325 MB. In comparison, ESXi 6 has a footprint of around 155 MB.

Flexible configuration models

VMware provides a tool that allows customers to determine the recommended configuration limitations for a certain product. It is recommended that you do not go over the product's supported limitations while deploying, configuring, and operating physical or virtual equipment. VMware now has the ability to accommodate applications of virtually any scale. Each of your VMs in ESXi 6.7 may have up to 256 virtual CPUs, 6 TB of RAM, 2 GB of video memory, and so on. The virtual disk has a capacity of 62 TB.

Enhanced security

To secure ESXi hosts from illegal access and misuse, VMware provides a wide range of tools and capabilities. Since version 6.5, you may encrypt your virtual machines, including their data, virtual disk files, and core dump files. You may establish access controls for all users in your infrastructure using VMware's versatile role-based access control system. Finally, audit logging, which includes network traffic, compliance warnings, firewall activity, and OS updates, enables for even better infrastructure monitoring.

Rich ecosystem

Third-party hardware, products, guest operating systems, and services are all supported by the VMware ecosystem. You may utilize third-party management software in combination with your ESXi host, for example, to make infrastructure administration much easier. Global Support Services (GSS), a VMware product, allows you to determine whether a technical issue is caused by third-party hardware or software.

User-friendly experience

The vSphere Client has been accessible in an HTML5 version since version 6.5, which dramatically enhances the user experience. The vSphere Command-Line Interface (vSphere CLI) is included in that release, allowing you to run basic management tasks from any machine with network and system access. You may utilize the REST-based APIs for development purposes, which will improve application provisioning, conditional access restrictions, and the self-service catalog, among other things.

File recovery difference: ESX vs ESXi

For DiskInternals VMFS Recovery, there is no difference what exactly to recover - this application will perfectly cope with data from both platforms.

VMware virtual machines are capable of losing their data for any reason, from physical to logical. All this is possible with DiskInternals VMFS Recovery - it recovers data, even in the most difficult situations. VMFS Recovery automatically checks the current state of disk storage, VMFS, volumes, RAID (if used), and reads VMDK files, as well as VMFS structures, where possible. Virtual disks can be mounted in local disks, and they will be available for Windows Explorer, etc. Any program restrictions bypass Windows. It also supports Unicode file names and multilevel folders. All recovered files are available for viewing before buying a license, so do not worry about recovery - it is automatic here.

In addition, be calm if you have little experience in such programs - the Recovery Wizard will open on its own and tell you in necessary situations. The program also offers to use one of several recovery modes - fast (superficial) or full (this mode is recommended for a more productive result). Data export is possible only after purchasing the license.

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