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24Mar/110

ESXi Really Is Free!

Now that I'm past my first month at the new gig I have learned quite a bit.  I've gotten a handle on the environment and layout here, and I'm still finding things every day.  There are a few things that have been quite an adjustment to get used to.

One of the things I miss the most is VirtualCenter and shared storage.  When I first got here there was no virtualization and when we started discussing it the folks around here were pretty set that we would use Hyper-V.  The primary reason for this is that my new company is on a program for start-up companies called BizSpark which allows you access to any Microsoft product with deferred payment, so Hyper-V was essentially no cost for a while.   I recall hearing that ESXi is a free license when your just installing it on a single server, so I started poking around.  Without shared storage though, you cant do anything more with Hyper-V than you can with ESXi.  It turns out that ESXi is indeed available free of cost, and if you go onto VMWare's website you can register, download, and get a license code for it in just a few minutes!

I installed ESXi 4.1 onto our new Dell server, setup my local storage, networking and authentication, and started setting up new guests just as I would have if we did have shared storage and VirtualCenter.  There are limitations, but many of them are management and monitoring/alerting features. Without VirtualCenter your not going to be able to VMotion, DRS, and several other advance features, but without shared storage you cant anyway!  As far as core functionality and usability the product really is complete and usable.

One of the notable limitations I've experienced is the lack of performance monitoring.  You only get the 'RealTime' reports of performance on your Host and Guests.  To relieve some of this I've downloaded Veeam's (also free) Monitoring software.  It has more enhanced monitoring of the environment, although it also is limited and only allows for historical reports back 1 week.

All in all, with some known limitations, but a greatly improved price tag, you CAN run VMWare for free.

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