If we only answer this question with "yes", we haven't done anything. So, let me introduce you to VMware ESXi and how it is free.
VMware ESXi is a bare-metal hypervisor providing a virtualization layer that abstracts essential hardware resources (CPU, network, memory, and storage) and distributes them to resource consumers (Virtual Machines).
There are two free versions of ESXi: Evaluation and Free. The thing is that both have several limitations that make them unsuitable for production use. 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 the very cool features of a hypervisor.
With all that said, it becomes clear why you are buying from VMware at some point, even though you are potentially eligible to go with one 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. However, you do not have to pay for its deployment in your home lab. I think this post might be interesting for guys who have just started running their labs or are getting acquainted with VMware vSphere.
The free version of ESXi is identical to the paid version, which means we get most of the features and functionality available, except for some of the limitations mentioned below.
All features are available for use for 60 days during the evaluation period; announce that some of the features will not be available for use and will require a license to restore non-functional features.
To check if there are any restrictions on VMware ESXi Free, you must first grant SSH access to the ESXi settings. Then, to view your license and list of available options, type or copy the following command:
vim-cmd vimsvc/license –show
And all the necessary data will appear on the screen.
Here are the free limitations of ESXi:
You can download the free version of VMware directly from the product page. It is an ISO image that you can burn to a CD and then boot to a physical server using the CD. After that, you need to configure a static IP address directly from the console, set a new password, and connect from another machine via the IP address using a web browser.
On the VMware official website, you will find a download link for the VMware vSphere Client, which is the Vmware ESXi hypervisor access software. Once you have the VMware vSphere client installed on a management station, you can access the hypervisor via the vSphere client, start creating your VM from scratch, or convert to P2V using a free tool.
ESXi Free (VMware Hypervisor) is suitable for Home Lab and those who want to try out virtualization for the first time and do not want to invest too much in licenses.
The ESXi free version can be downloaded directly from VMware, an ISO image similar to the paid version. The only difference is the license key is applied.
The VMware ESXi relies on VMkernel, the microkernel, to run the VMware virtualization platform's hardware, guest systems, and service layer.
VMkernel works with physical hardware and guest VMs, connects directly to CPU and memory and uses modules connected through another module to access network and storage components of the hardware.
Here are the most important features of VMware ESXi:
At just 150 MB, Vmware promotes ESXi as the world's most diminutive hypervisor. A tiny footprint usually indicates a reduced attack area from external threats, aside from more accessible sustainability. This also means that the ESXi does not need frequent repairs.
The data in your VM is safe from prying eyes using built-in encryption. Add a role-based approach, plus extensive recording and auditing capabilities, and you'll get a secure virtual platform right from the start.
User-friendly administration tools
ESXi offers a built-in browser compatible with HTML5 for administrative use. Organizations looking for automated operations can also use the vSphere command-line interface for Remote Control and Representative State Transfer Application Programming (APIs) (REST).
With the size so small, faster installation is possible, empowering you to set up your infrastructure as soon as possible. You can even boot the ESXi from a USB flash drive.
Whatever your application requirements, one ESXi hypervisor can be configured to run up to 128 virtual processors and 120 devices with 6 TB of memory.
Also, ESXi features a high-performance cluster file system, called the Virtual Machine File System (VMFS), which allows multiple storage resources to be distributed, even with limited physical storage. VMs can also use more than one processor at a time.
Extensive support and compatibility
The popularity of ESXi as a business platform means comprehensive support from hardware vendors and application partners and compatibility with a wide range of applications and guest operating systems.
The idea that the physical limitation of the VMware ESXi Free CPU is inconvenient and unusable is not entirely correct.
Here are the significant pros of ESXi:
Here are the significant cons of ESXi:
Based on this, ESXi Free still seems to be great for home labs regardless of its limitations. The evaluation, in turn, allows you to get acquainted with all the features of ESXi. I think 60 days is enough for you to like the hypervisor, and I hope this review will make you love the hypervisor as well.