Some of the small organizations who all are fan of VMware vSphere technology, but still not happy with it’s pricing. Those organization are more curious to know the usage of ESXi free edition for their production/lab environments.
Free and Trial ESXi versions are different When you download, install and run an unlicensed copy of the ESXi host you do get a 60 day trial period where you have access to all the features found in the Enterprise plus version of vSphere. For those of you needing a short term lab environment for study or product trial purposes then this will likely meet your requirements. However, if you intended to run the free vSphere (ESXi) hypervisor in your lab environment for longer than 60 days, you should factor in the limitations mentioned below.
With the launch of vSphere 5.1 the limitations for free ESXi editions are as follows.
Physical Processor & Physical RAM :- Though there is no limitations on the physical processors free ESXi would support, You can use server with any number of CPUs with any number of cores to deploy Free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi). But yes it does contain a physical memory limit of 32GB.
With the pricing of hardware is reduced significantly over some past years especially for high capacity memory (8GB, 16GB Modules). You can fine most often Servers now runs with more than 32GB at quite a low price.
Individual ESXi Host Management Only/ No “Nice to Have” vSphere features – This is nothing new as the same applied to earlier versions of the vSphere Hypervisor (ie: free ESXi), though with this free version there is no way to centrally manage multiple instances of the free ESXi hosts via the vSphere Client. If you have a licensed copy of vSphere vCenter Server in your environment and were wanting to also manage your vSphere free Hypervisor hosts with it, unfortunately this wouldn’t be possible unless you upgrade these hosts to a paid vSphere version. Because as there isn’t any vCenter option available with the ESXi free hypervisor you are unable to leverage any of the advanced features that are usually included with most licensed versions of vSphere, eg; HA, vMotion, DRS, Storage DRS, FT,
Read-Only APIs – The vSphere Hypervisor (free ESXi) doesn’t have a writable API unlike its pay-for-license vSphere counterparts meaning, for example; that the VMs running on the ESXi host can’t be cloned during a VM backup process. This also means that configuration changes via the vSphere Command-Line Interface (vCLI) are not possible, though you can still use the vCLI for queries. It means you can use vCLI in read only mode.
Also you also won’t be able to use Virtualization Backup solutions provided by third party
The typical use case scenario for the vSphere free ESXi Hypervisor is for a standalone ESXi instance used in an SMB or perhaps used in a lab environment where not having some of these more advanced features isn’t necessarily as show-stopper.