ESXi is still the best virtual host platform among hypervisors
January 10, 2020

ESXi is still the best virtual host platform among hypervisors

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with VMware ESXi

My company uses ESXi as the go-to host hypervisor platform of choice when deploying virtual hosts at all of the plants and offices in our network. We use at least one ESXi host at every plant/office and at some sites, we have several.

ESXi's purpose is to act as a host platform for creating, running and managing virtual machines of various types, i.e. servers, user endpoints, appliances, web servers, SQL servers, etc. It's similar to Hyper-V (the Microsoft-branded competition for ESXi) but in my opinion, it has more and better features, overall, although the learning curve for ESXi is both steeper and longer for system admins than most other hypervisors.

Why do we use it? ESXi enables us to host many virtual servers and other endpoints on one physical host machine. This saves on electricity, space, heating, and cooling and improves ease of management of the hosted devices for everything from rebooting them to backing them up to restoring them.

Short answer? For small, medium or large enterprises, ESXi is (still) the best choice for hosting virtual machines. It really doesn't have much legitimate, serious competition in the world of hypervisors.
  • ESXi makes management of hosted machines easy. Everything is in one place. If you have a vCenter (which costs extra) to manage all your ESXi hosts, then everything is truly in one place and there is no need to hop around from management tool to management tool. Al the virtual machines' hardware settings, OS information, storage volume information, backup information, even a remote console just like a KVM ... all of it is in one place.
  • ESXi balances workloads well when using vCenter. Behind the scenes, the vCenter allows an ESXi host to "talk to" other ESXi hosts and when one VM has resources usage that gets past a certain threshold, it can move virtual machines around to balance workloads, even while the machines are running and service users. It's completely invisible to the users, who don't experience latency or any kind of interruptions when their VM is being moved.
  • The vSphere / vCenter GUI is complex. This is because there is just a crap-top of stuff that ESXi manages, so there is frankly a crap-top of necessary stuff that you have been able to manage in the user interfaces. The learning curve is a little steep. Just because it does a lot of things.
  • Live (powered on) ESXi snapshots of VMs still don't act as SQL backups very well. Snapshots can't backup SQL reliably because of the architecture of SQL and how it interacts with the live resources running on the VM. This is one of the many reasons why taking a snapshot works better when the VM is powered off. This is also why we don't rely only on snapshots to backup our VMs. We also use Veeam and for critical SQL databases we use native SQL backups and in one case, another backup solution (Veritas) that can do SQL better.
  • Our occupied rack space has drastically decreased over the last decade thanks to ESXi. We have about one-fourth of the physical footprint that we previously had. You might think that it would be more like 1/8th because we probably host 8-10 Windows and Linux servers on each ESXi host. But remember that we have a lot of switches, routers, firewalls, appliances and other devices in our racks, not just servers. But still, the data center is a lot smaller and a lot easier to cool than it used to be. I know that the electricity bill dropped, too, but I don't pay that one so I don't know how much.
  • We aren't buying physical servers anymore except for the host servers. And VMs can easily be moved from one ESXi host to another using vMotion. This means that we are literally never in danger of a critical individual server's hardware dying. We can also keep running legacy servers forever because we can move that old legacy server from one host to another whenever new hardware is needed, and only the hosts involve hardware at all. It's astonishing when I think about all the physical servers that we no longer have to buy and maintain.
We actually have both Hyper-V and ESXi hosts in our enterprise. We use Hyper-V only when there is a temporary need for a virtual device (so when our admins are doing testing of an endpoint configuration for instance) but we use ESXi hosts for anything that is in live production. Hyper-V has some of the features that one expects from a hypervisor but certainly not the enormous menu of features that come with ESXi and it's optional GUI tools. Of course, the advantage to Hyper-V is that you already paid for it when you bought your Windows OS.

ESXi costs $. But for what you get, it makes sense.
I rarely ever need support for anything VMWare makes, but when I do, the documentation available just in the free community is generally enough. It's extensive and the community is truly robust and active. And if you have a myvmware account, you can get support for your owned products from VMWare support by the conventional case/ticket method.

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ESXi is the right host OS if you want all the features a host OS would normally need to provide AND if you ware willing to pay for the license. It's not cheap. You will also want to pay for VMWare support unless you have an on-staff VMWare admin who really knows their way around ESXi and vSphere / vCenter functions.

If you want a free hypervisor? Then you need to try Hyper-V first to see if it can do everything you think it should be able to do. Hyper-V comes with Windows (both the server and PC flavors) as a role. It can do some basic functions of a host. But it doesn't have all the full capabilities and management features that ESXi hosts do when managed with vSphere / vCenter.

VMware ESXi Feature Ratings

Virtual machine automated provisioning
Management console
Live virtual machine backup
Live virtual machine migration
Hypervisor-level security