I can’t get the answer I’m looking for.

What is vSphere?

Before I get demolished… understand, I’ve been running ESXi 6 to 6.7 on my homelab for the past few years. I’ve got some old Dell rackmounts, and on my r710, I do run ESXI which hosts a virtualized pfsense for my firewall, windows for filesharing and kids minecraft, unifi video nvr, etc…

I have only ever administrated ESXI from the web interface. But I keep seeing advanced configurations for ESXI handled thru vSphere. But I don’t have that.

Here’s where I’m confused: I go to the VMWare Site, they seem to refer to it as vSphere Hypervisor. Well, I thought ESXI was the hypervisor. Is vSphere a separate license from ESXI? Everytime I try to find a vSphere download, it seems to lead me to ESXI.

I have to stick to ESXI 6.7, seems that’s the last supported release that my r710 x5690 cpus can support.

Vsphere = esxi + vcenter


Vcenter is the advanced config thing. Esxi is free. it was cool once but it’s become so limited because, if anything, more features have been taken out than added over the years


Vcenter will be separate license from your esxi host license. Vcenter is used to manage multiple esxi hosts/nodes and the virtual machines that run on them. It also let’s you manage the datastores, distributed virtual switches and many more things.

If you only have one esxi host. Vcenter might not be worth setting up. However if you are learning VMware virtualzation for a career then you need to know vcenter.

I would recommend getting a vmug license if you want to learn VMware, it costs $200 a year and it gives you year long licenses for esxi, vcenter and many more VMware technologies.

1 Like

Is ESXi (the free hupervisor) really that bad? I’m considering playing with it once the new server arrives that actually supports it lol

“vSphere” consists of ESXi PLUS the management framework for VMware ESXi. Think of it as the “full solution” that includes the vCenter “brain” that provides centralised reporting, logging, management credentials, load balancing, etc.

Without vCenter, you don’t get HA, DRS, etc. - those are the core components of the vSphere solution.

i.e., vCenter and ESXi are both parts of vSphere, ESXi is the hypervisor, vCenter is the controller.

It’s not bad, but you’re probably better off messing with HyperV in Windows or KVM in Linux to be honest.

I say that as a long time (since 2008) vSphere administrator who is currently cutting over to HyperV.

Why? The vSphere benefits simply do not justify the cost any more. And anecdotally I’ve noticed better performance on same hardware with HyperV. And speaking of hardware… if it runs Windows it will run HyperV. ESXi - if its not on the HCL its a crap-shoot, and yes I’ve run into real world reliability problems with hardware going off-of the HCL. Same hardware (its new) is fine on HyperV.

Windows shop, you need to pay the Windows virtualisation licenses anyway, the hypervisor fee for HyperV is essentially free, and because we pay enterprise licensing SCVMM is also free as part of our System Center bundle.

The money we will save on vSphere can pay for 2x the hardware to run HyperV on… easily.

If you’re a Windows shop, hyper-v now makes sense due to licensing. If you’re not, KVM is probably better. And in both cases, cloud first is probably appropriate unless you’re either masochistic or have some need for on-prem gear.

1 Like

Yeah its more of a home lab to get some IT experience in a lot of areas. I have some experience with proxmox, but I’m looking to broaden the horizons with the new test server keeping the proxmox ryzen system on the asrockrack x470 as a basic home server.
Citrix is on my list and I plan on attempting to use a old nvidia GRID K2, although it my be mute if newer nvidia gpus have, or will shortly have support for pass through.
I’m just a tinkerer and trying to stay busy.
I also scored a license for windows server 2019 so I may attempt that as well. I was just hoping to do something linux based to stretch my skills.
Thanks for the input from a industry standpoint. I am hoping to go that way someday maybe, but may be too late for me at this age.

I switched to hyperV for home lab also - partly because of work but also partly due to performance, driver compatibility and its just one less thing to worry about patching, etc.

IMHO (again industry perspective) - vSphere is dead - it just hasn’t realised yet. It will hold on in legacy circles for a while but I just do not see why you would stand up a new environment using it; it makes no sense.

And from a licensing perspective they’re worse to deal with than microsoft.


I recommend playing around with ESXi and vCenter to tinker with to become familiar with how to do certain things that most hypervisor solutions provide, and to learn its strengths and weaknesses in terms of usability. If you can, try to get the 6.5-6.7 version as it has more compatibility than 7.x does. Both of these come with evaluation licenses at initial install if you just want to spin them up for a weekend to tinker with, but without VMUG or a license tied to your VMware login, you won’t be able to get a vCenter download directly from VMware (honestly, this bit ticks me the hell off)


Yeah I don’t see why older versions wouldn’t be free as well. Makes no sense. Yeah I’ll probably boot it as a experiment.

VMware generally make older versions unavailable to download eventually if i recall, and whilst ESXi is “free” you’d still need a free code from VMware to install it. Which might be difficult if you’re trying to run an older version. Ditto for vSphere evaluation keys.

Again… VMware licensing/key BS that just makes them awkward to deal with…

But yeah as far as VMware licensing department goes… to elaborate on my hatred/comment that they are worse than MS…

  • I work for a company with subsidiaries. i.e., we own companies underneath us.
  • We were running some licenses for company X that we purchased with parent company Y and were not using with the parent company Y.
  • VMware audited us and made is buy new licenses for company X rendering the spare licenses we had in company Y invalid.

Sorry, but fuck off. Same WAN, same AD domain, same administrators… make us pay for the same software multiple times despite having free licenses we already paid for that are unused?

That’s on top of the fact that if we pay VMware we also need to pay MS for the windows virtualization licenses for the guest anyway… VMware per-core licenses don’t cover you for the guest. However Windows guest licenses cover the host in Hyper-V’s case.

VMware can go fuck themselves. We are dropping them - with prejudice.

MS? We’ve got all our child companies rolled up into the one parent company EA. Yeah they can be difficult to deal with as well, and getting a straight answer on licensing questions can at times be difficult… but they are willing to play ball at least and negotiate … and aren’t stiffing us for things twice because a child company is using licenses from the owning parent… within the parent’s environment…

1 Like

Noted, yes I am seeing that as well as I attempt to navigate this new Dell hardware. There are a lot of integration features with vmware and windows it seems, but I’d need to run windows server 2016 to get them to work I think, or at least that’s what is supported.

I just got done messing with the Dell PERC H310 which is basically a lsi card with a few added bits of code, but when you flash it to IT mode Dell life cycle controller and integrated hardware monitor says “nope, I don’t know what this is, and I can’t see the drives you attached” lol…so it’s a learning curve especially for a home lab. But interesting to say the least.