Both VMware ESX and ESXi are VMware’s bare-metal hypervisors that are production-proven in small scale to large scale industries. These market leading hypervisors have decreased the capital as well as operational expenses, consolidated the security and enhanced the performance of virtual IT infrastructure. We will be seeing some major difference between VMware ESX Vs ESXi in this post.
ESXi is the latest of the two hypervisors with thin architecture which is OS independent and provides the same performance as ESX. We cannot declare that one architecture is better than other but yes, there are some technical differences between them and according to your needs of IT infrastructure either of them can suit you. Let us explore ourselves how the latest ESXi differs from ESX as we read along.
VMware ESX Vs ESXi
In ESX (Elastic Sky X), the VMFS file of the ESX kernel is managed by a Linux-based service console. The user has rights to run drivers, agents, applications or Linux codes in the service console. The service console acts as a management interface to monitor hypervisor and manages the hardware.
ESXi (Electric Sky X integrated) on the other hand does not support any such service console. Although there is no SSH access to ESXi but you can manage ESXi with the help of DCUI.
Management through CLI
ESXi can be managed through APIs. VMware provides a vSphere command-line interface(vCLI) and Power CLI for monitoring and host management. These agentless command lines can be operated remotely to control, diagnose and troubleshoot the ESXi. These command lines can provide the same functionality as shell commands in service console do. ESX, on the other hand, can also be managed and configured by vCLI
“Important: In order to use the full functionality of vCLI, you should have a license for either vSphere essentials, vSphere standard or vSphere enterprise editions.”
With service console removed from ESXi, the memory footprint has also been reduced to 32Mb only as compared to ESX with a memory footprint of 2Gb. With such a lower memory overhead, the installation of ESXi is faster and the booting time is also reduced considerably. Moreover, ESXi has smaller code base makes the patching of code more secure.
Built as a thin-architecture, the ESXI can be easily embedded in servers and there is no need to get it installed on the storage device. Due its compact size, the ESXi can also be installed on any removable drive and can even be booted from it. Unlike ESX, which supports booting from SAN, booting from SAN is not possible in ESXi.
Serial Cable Link
You can communicate with ESX host by connecting a serial cable to it in VMware ESX whereas this facility of interaction with the host is not present in VMware ESXi.
Active Directory Users
The service console in VMware ESX lets you install 3rd party software to authenticate windows active directory authentication. The integration of active directory is not possible in VMware ESXi since it does not support it.
If you open the hypervisor console in VMware ESXi, you can easily find health status under the configuration heading. The health status feature in ESXI is significant in the sense that you can easily monitor the live status of complete hardware components like processors, memory, RAID controllers, Power supply, etc. The hardware monitoring helps administrators to look for any suspicious behavior of the component and take preventive measure promptly. This feature is missing in VMware ESX.
The new software updates or patches are dependent on the earlier applied patches in ESX hypervisor. Since ESX console works same like Linux OS, you have to reboot VMware ESX repeatedly to apply the new patch successfully. The patches in the ESXi system do not need earlier version patches and behave just like firmware updates. Even the 3rd party components can be updated without the need of any base components of VMware ESXi.
VSphere Web Access
In ESXi, you can enjoy the management capabilities of VSphere easily by installing VSphere client whereas VSphere access is limited and only experimental level in VMware ESX.
The methods to diagnose and troubleshoot the problems are limited in VMware ESX. The only way to do so is through the service console. On the contrary, you have the liberty to resolve the issues in many ways in ESXi. The remote commands like VMware-cmd or vmkfstools can be used to diagnose the problems. If needed, the management agents can be easily restarted through DCUI console and has the options to repair the system. In VMware ESXi, advanced diagnostics can be carried with the help of Tech-support mode.
This is one of the vital security features of the VMware ESXi. The locked-down mode can be used to restrict the access of remote users to the Host. This security mode is not present in VMware ESX.
Although the installation of VMware ESX or ESXi is time-consuming but with the launch of VMware VSphere5, the installation can be done in short span of time with the inbuilt feature of Auto Deploy. With this new auto deploy feature, you can automate not only the ESXi installation but host configuration is also automated. As far as ESX is concerned, there is no such feature present in it.
The ESXi images which are already created can be customized with VMware Front Experience ESXi-Customizer. You can add the new drivers or other add-ons to the already created ESXi image. The same is not possible with WSX images.
You have learned the architectural difference between VMware ESX and ESXi. Whether you are an aspirant for a job interview in virtualization or you are a System administrator and want to deploy VMware hypervisor at your company, the knowledge about both of ESX and ESXi is imperative for you. If you are planning to buy the best hypervisor software for your company, it is better to try both of the VMware’s versions since both ESX and ESXi are available as free evaluation versions.