ESXi is often told that it is a free hypervisor. You either have to buy ESXi or go with ESXi free.
The thing is, they both have some limitations that make them unsuitable for use in production.
The first has a time limit of 60 days but provides all the features of the ESXi. On the other hand, the latter has no time limits but lacks many great hypervisor features.
Now, it becomes clear why you are only buying from VMware at some point, even though you are potentially good at going with any of those free licenses.
The good thing is that VMware is very loyal to ESXi licensing. Well, you will not get a rich set of hypervisor features in the free version, of course; but you should not have to pay for its deployment in your home lab!
This article compares the free licenses for VMware ESXi 6.7 Update 1 (I call it ESXi below) and Enterprise Plus. I think this post might be interesting for guys who have just started working with their home labs or are getting acquainted with VMware vSphere.
What’s on the table?
VMware Free is 100% free, just as the name implies. Register on the VMware website, download the hypervisor, ask for the key, and you’re good to go!
The VMware evaluation features all of the ESXi features but shuts down in 60 days. Once the timer stops, you will not do anything on the vCenter server. Virtual workers will continue to work like clockwork, but once you turn off any of them, you will never rerun it until you buy a commercial version or switch to Free.
Enterprise Plus is a premium version of ESXi. It is a commercial edition, so there are no time limits, and it provides you with all the robust features of a hypervisor.
You will not add and manage hosts to vCenter via vCenter if you go with the Free version or after the Elevation expires. If you stubbornly try to add hosts to vCenter anyway, you will encounter an error or be asked to purchase the appropriate license.
Here is the error message I was talking about. Quick reminder: The two hosts below have Enterprise Plus installed and an active evaluation version.
Evaluation is the only ESXi license with limited time. Once installed, you can enjoy the unlimited features of ESXi for 60 days. As soon as the time is reduced, you should either renew the license or switch to Free.
The good thing is that you can permanently switch to Evaluation from any other license, including free. Of course, once you run out of time, no magic will happen if you switch to Free and back. You will not have a 60-day trial again unless you reinstall ESXi.
No matter if you buy ESXi or go with the free version, you are about to benefit from it.