vSphere 5 Free Hypervisor = Useless

UPDATE: VMware has revised the vRAM entitlements (it’s now 32GB instead of 8GB) for all of its products. Therefore this post is pretty much void, and you can get more details about the new vRAM entitlements by visiting VMware.com or check out my friend Tim’s blog tsmith.co.

I took a look at the VMware Free Hypervisor Saturday morning and was able to confirm the Twitter rumors…. the free version of ESXi 5 (or the VMware Hypervisor if you want to be all official) will only allow 8GB of vRAM per host… what the hell is VMware thinking?

The free version of ESXi is probably the best way of getting someone started down the VMware road…. they buy a server put 20-30GB of RAM in it and spin up 4-5 virtual machines and get used to it. Then when their next hardware refresh comes along 99.9% of the time the customer will virtualize the rest of their servers. However, if I can only allow a customer to allocate 8GB of RAM to virtual machines (note that this means 8GB total… not 8GB per VM) with the free license there is a darn good chance that I will have to use a different hypervisor… be it Hyper-V or XenServer or whatever.

Either way, I still have a job, but I prefer to use the best technology available, and I believe that VMware is the best… but they are sure going to make it a hard sell with vSphere 5.

Let’s step back and think about it:

  1. Hyper-V comes with the Windows licenses that the customer already bought
  2. XenServer offers a feature-rich free hypervisor with no RAM limitations (and their free version has more features then ESXi 4.x free too)
  3. Ubuntu even lets me virtualize Windows servers with no limitations (while it does lack features the others have)

So when I talk to Mr. Customer and they ask why I have included a $500 dollar license for vSphere Essentials when they only have 1 server, and really aren’t sold on VMware yet anyway… it’s going to be a much harder sell. In my opinion, VMware needs to put ESXi Free back the way it was… don’t let me do the advanced stuff … but don’t cripple the product with the new vRAM crap either…

Just my 2 cents 🙂




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27 Responses to "vSphere 5 Free Hypervisor = Useless"

  1. Just thinking out loud here. If you are a VMware Partner, isn’t that was the 60-day trial licenses you can get for customers via Partner Central are for? Gives access to all features.

  2. Sure… and you can even use the free version for 60 days in trial mode, but alot of times a customer will buy a single new server, and we will load ESXi on it so they can play around with VMware while they only have one or two VM’s…. this plants the seed… and when it comes time to refresh other servers they will usually understand why they need virtualization and go down that road…. it makes it a little less to take in all at once for them..

    They use it for more then just a trial… but more of a way to save cash on buying multiple servers for a small project…. i guess that savings would offset the 500$ charge for essentials… but its just another thing that will help Hyper-V gain market share. Don’t get me wrong… I’m always going to be a VMware guy, but this doesn’t make it any easier to make the sale.

  3. To be completely fair here, if you pay $500 to get the Essentials bundle don’t forget that you also get vCenter with that. So to make a fair comparison to Hyper-V you’d need to include SCVMM in that as well.

    Granted the Essentials bundle doesn’t have a ton of vRAM entitlements but for $500 to get 3 hosts + vCenter is still a good deal.

  4. I saw a post on the VMTN license thread from John Troyer where it is 8 GB per socket for the free version and not 8 GB per host.

    Not sure if that helps but hey 16 GB on a two socket server is better than 8 🙂

  5. Agreed Justin; if VMware wants people to be able to *swallow* their new pricing scheme a bit easier, revamping the vRAM cap for vSphere Hyp 5 would be 1 way to do so. I don’t like the vRAM limit in this version either…
    Thanks for posting!

  6. Justin,

    I just asked a VMware resource about this… the correct answer is that there is an 8GB vRAM entitlement per processor, with a max of up to 32GB per physical host.

    So, in the case of a dual socket server your vRAM limit if you are using vSphere hypervisor 5.0 is 16GB. With a 4 socket server (who uses 4 socket servers with free ESXi, I know…) then the vRAM limitation is 32GB.

  7. Well that is good news! If that is the case then this post was completely useless…. however if it is true then you should really have that resource update their website…. because if you read the ESXi FAQ page it says 8GB per ESXi license. In the past when you registered for ESXi you only got one licenses …. so from that I would assume (as i think most others would too) that you only get 8GB per server. Can you get me more details? Like a document detailing this or how exactly they do it in vSphere 5? If I would have be allowed in the BETA I would have better information.

  8. I got my information direct from a VMware resource on the “vSphere 5 pricing and packaging” webinar on monday.

    I asked the question in the Q&A on the webinar and their wording was exactly what I put in my original comment here.

    In current versions of the free hypervisor today you get a single license key that is good for up to 4 sockets, does that mean it is technically 4 ” socket licenses,” which would translate to 4x 8GB vRAM in 5.0? Not sure… but according to the licensing rep that answered my question on the webinar it would seem that is the case.

  9. I wish they would at least make the limits 12Gb per socket and 48Gb (or at least 36Gb) vs. 8Gb and 32Gb current limit to accomodate those who are using tri-channel motherboards.

    As noted on a different board, some of us run single-CPU LGA 1366 boards that are populated with 2Gb sticks. On an 1156 (dual channel), that adds up to 8Gb. But on our LGA 1366 (tri-channel), those 2Gb sticks add up to 12Gb.

  10. Some of us who have been long time ESXi users, and have legacy servers, are running older ESXi versions (ie. 3.5, 4.1, etc.). Does anyone here know if these older versions are free from this limitation? I’d hate to find production servers all starting to be rolled back to the 8GB per socket level without my knowledge…. 🙁

  11. Yes, the older version wont be affected by the vRAM entitlements. But if you ever want to upgrade to the latest VMware Hypervisor then you will be affected.

  12. This is all very interesting – thanks for the post, and thanks for the comments.

    I’ve wanted to try out ESXi 5 since it was announced (regardless of the rumoured limitations of the free version), but cannot find a way to download it. Wherever I look once logged in at vmware.com, I just get presented with ESXi 4.1 and older. I can’t see a free version of 5… 🙁

    Can anyone give me a tip of where to get it? I see it says my license code is good for “4.1 and above”, so I presume I just need access to the binaries.

    Incidentally, I have a spare Dell test server with 32 GB of RAM, and will happy to upgrade it straight off, and let everyone know what the restrictions are that I see…

    Thank you 😀

  13. vSphere 5 has not been released yet. It was announced in July, but its rumored to be released on August 22nd. At that time you should be able to download ESXi5… but you will also need a new key as the keys have changed from 4 to 5 because of the new requirements.

  14. Thanks Sunny,

    You guys have modified the entitlements since I wrote this post originally. I should probably go back through and update the post since it is pretty popular.

  15. VMware vSphere is awful! First I spent all day looking for a free solution and reading what is free. Than, when I installed the server and the client I was asked to register again and got a 60 day evaluation. WTF. Didn’t they say its free?
    The documentation is even worse. Some idiot thought that by making the documentation bigger, more complex and repeating every ware what is virtualization, will make a good documentation.
    These people are idiots. By the documentation and the web site you would thing its the most complex application ever created.

  16. I think maybe you got the wrong idea when you read free. There is a version of ESXi that is free but there are no advanced features. Your best bet would be to download the vSphere evaluators guide as it has step by step instructions, even screenshots, on how to setup an entire environment. If you are unable to follow the guide, then I would suggest you call a consultant and pay them to walk you through the evaluation process.

    Saying vSphere is awful is pure ignorance on your part. I dont like HyperV or Xenserver, but I have never called them awful… they simply fit a different client base then what I am used to. Anyhow, if you are unable to get VMware to work I would say that you will probably want to stay away from xenserver as it is very similar….

  17. I thought I had forgotten to update the article, but if you read the first line (starts with “Update:”) you will see that I in fact did update the article to mention that the limit had been lifted.

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