Proxmox vs ESXi

Proxmox vs. ESXI: Is Proxmox an alternative to ESXi?

Virtualization platform: Proxmox vs ESXi

Virtualization is a hypervisor software technology that allows one physical host to run many virtual machines as guest operating systems. It’s trendy for server consolidation.

The VMware solution has the top spot by market share. However, VMware is getting more expensive in maintenance fees. Management realizes costs are climbing practically every year. Is it still worth it? 

Proxmox is a free and open-source server management platform for enterprise virtualization. It is an alternative to ESXi, running on Linux with a simple yet powerful web user interface/GUI.

Both hypervisors have a bare-metal installer that installs on the physical hardware, including all necessary management tools.

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Proxmox vs ESXi is a hot topic in IT departments. What should I choose? In this article, I will try to answer this question or give you my view. 

What Is a Hypervisor?

A hypervisor is software that runs on top of the operating system, isolating it from the hardware and enabling multiple virtual machines to run concurrently on the same hardware.

A hypervisor is a virtual machine monitor that interfaces between the guest and host operating systems. A hypervisor provides the guest operating system with access to hardware resources and also manages the virtual machine’s memory by controlling its

What is VMware ESXi?

ESXi provides a hypervisor for server virtualization. Without running an operating system, ESXi runs on bare metal. It contains its Linux-based operating system. The primary purpose of ESXi is to provide a hardware abstraction layer between the guest OSes and the underlying hardware. All guests are managed through a single interface, making administration more manageable. In addition, ESXi supports multiple platforms such as Intel processors X86 and X64, ARMv7, PowerPC, IA32e, SPARC, etc.

Vmware Vcenter Server is the central management point for all your hosts or ESXi servers. It’s a web-based management interface.

VMware Vsphere is a set of tools that includes vCenter Server, vMotion, Storage vMotion, Fault Tolerance, High Availability, and much more. Vcenter Server makes it easy to manage all the tools, hosts, and virtual servers from a central location. 

Vsphere offers everything you need for perfect virtualization infrastructure. It’s available in different editions—Essential, Standard, and Enterprise. 

Features found with ESXi 8.0. Some features are only available in the Enterprise edition.

  • High Availability (HA): Automatically restarts VMs on other available hosts in case of a server failure, minimizing downtime.
  • Online migration feature – Storage vMotion: Allows for the live migration of VM disk files across storage arrays without downtime.
  • vMotion for processor: Enables the live migration of running VMs from one physical server to another with no impact on operations.
  • Backup and Restore: Native features and third-party integrations that provide data protection and recovery options for VMs.
  • VM encryption: Protects data and ensures privacy by encrypting VM files.
  • Instant Clone: Creates copies of existing VMs quickly for testing, development, or scaling out applications.
  • Distributed Switch: Provides centralized network settings management across multiple hosts for consistency and ease of administration.
  • Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS): Dynamically allocates resources among VMs based on predefined rules and current demands.
  • Storage DRS: Automatically balances storage capacity and I/O load within a storage cluster for optimal performance.
  • Network I/O Control: Manages network bandwidth allocation among VMs on a network switch to ensure network performance.
  • Storage I/O Control: Prioritizes access to storage resources during periods of contention, ensuring performance consistency.
  • Fault Tolerance (FT): Provides continuous replication of VMs to ensure zero downtime and no data loss in case of server failures.
  • vSphere Update Manager: Assists with the patching and version management of ESXi hosts, VMs, and virtual appliances.
  • vSphere Trust Authority: Establishes a trusted platform by ensuring that ESXi hosts and VMs are running on trusted hardware.
  • vSphere Lifecycle Manager: Manages the lifecycle of vSphere components, including software deployment, update, and configuration.
  • vSphere Security: Advanced security features for ESXi and VMs, including TPM 2.0 support, secure boot, and encryption for secure operations.

The current version is ESXi 8.0, always the latest version and build you find here

What is Proxmox VE?

Proxmox Cluster

Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE) is a Debian GNU/Linux distribution that hosts virtualized environments. Proxmox uses KVM instead of Xen or other proprietary solutions. It was created because of the lack of support for KVM in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. In addition, it is a lightweight alternative to other virtualization platforms. Deployed from scratch in less than ten minutes and has an easy-to-use web interface for managing the host system and all of its guests, further offering Linux Containers (LXC) as “Proxmox VE Clones” to create containers. Proxmox can be used as a single virtualization platform for small and large enterprises, educational institutes, and home users with distributed IT projects.

Developed by Proxmox Server Solutions in Austria, the based open source software is released under the GNU General Public License.

You can run multiple operating systems (OS) and virtual machines with VMware ESXi. However, it is not as customizable as Proxmox. 

When deployed, the resource manager, Proxmox VE HA Manager, monitors all VMs and containers on the whole cluster and automatically gets into action if one fails. There is also an integrated live/online migration feature. This enables the movement of VMs from one Proxmox VE cluster node to another without any downtime.

Several features make it a viable alternative to VMware ESXi.

Here are some features:

  • Server virtualization
  • Kernel-based Virtual machine (KVM)
  • Container-based Linux virtual machine (LXRC)
  • web-based management interface
  • Cluster file system
  • Live online migration
  • Command-line interface (CLI)
  • High Availability cluster (HA)
  • Bridged networking
  • lots of storage types like ceph, ZFS, NFS, CIFs, iSCSI, and much more
  • Backup and replication: A backup solution with features like scheduled backups, compression, and deduplication.
  • Task automation: Provides a way to automate tasks using the REST API or CLI scripts.
  • Distributed Firewall
  • IPv4 and IPv6 support
  • Storage replication: Proxmox offers built-in storage replication for disaster recovery purposes.
  • more features here

The current version is 8.02.

Proxmox vs ESXi - Backup Server
Backup Server

A table with the comparison of the key features

What are Proxmox VE advantages vs. ESXi?

Why choose Proxmox VE instead of Vmware ESXi?

You may wonder about their differences if you’re already familiar with VMware. Well, here are some key differences between Proxmox and VMware ESXi.

  • Open Source – Proxmox VE is open-source software meaning anyone can download the latest version and modify it however they see fit. There are even third-party companies offering commercial services. VMware requires annual subscription fees depending on how large your environment is.
  • Security – Proxmox uses Linux-based operating systems, so it’s much more secure than traditional hypervisors such as ESXi. As a bonus, since all VMs run within containers, this also means that any malicious code running inside one VM will not be able to affect others.
  • Availability – Proxmox VE offers built-in High Availability features while ESXi doesn’t (additional cost). Also, unlike ESXi, Proxmox VE lets administrators configure multiple nodes simultaneously. So if one goes offline, another automatically steps in.
  • Support – The community behind Proxmox has been around for years now, so you’ll have plenty of resources at hand should you ever encounter problems.
  • Customization – One of the most significant advantages of Proxmox is that it gives admins complete control over the entire system. They can customize almost every aspect, including hardware, OS, networking, storage, etc. All these options make it easier for Software development to build exactly what you need rather than shoehorn something into a prebuilt image.

A perfect barebone ESXi host

Are you looking for an inexpensive ESXi host for a small environment or homelab? You need to look no further than the Supermicro barebone E300-9D. It’s a beautiful small computer that offers all the features you need for an ESXi host. It runs ESXi 8.0 right out of the box.

License options for Proxmox and VMware Vsphere

Proxmox VE is open-source software. Everyone can download and use the product for free. Purchasing support gives licensees access to the enterprise repository with automatic periodic updates and support. The highest licensing tier includes support tickets with a 2-hour response time. In addition, support includes technical assistance, installation help, troubleshooting, and training.

However, ESXi is only available in a free trial version, after which subscriptions are required. Standard and Enterprise Plus are the two paid licenses. There is another edition, Essential, with limited features available for up to three hosts. 

There are three different levels of support available from VMware. These include standard, professional, or advanced. Each tier comes with its benefits. Users get basic phone support, email responses, and online forums with standard support. Professional help adds live chat and ticketing capabilities. Advanced support allows customers 24/7 telephone support, remote desktop sessions, and video conferencing.

Proxmox Server Subscription

PlanPrice / per year and per CPU SocketBenefit
CommunityCHF 105
  • Access to Enterprise repository
  • Complete feature-set
  • Community support
BasicCHF 325
  • Access to Enterprise repository
  • Complete feature-set
  • Support via Customer Portal
  • 3 support tickets/year
  • Response time: 1 business day
StandardCHF 490
  • Access to Enterprise repository
  • Complete feature-set
  • Support via Customer Portal
  • Ten support tickets/per year
  • Response time: 4 hours*
    within a business day
  • Remote support (via SSH)
  • Offline subscription key activation
PremiumCHF 980
  • Access to Enterprise repository
  • Complete feature-set
  • Support via Customer Portal
  • Unlimited support tickets
  • Response time: 2 hours*
    within a business day
  • Remote support (via SSH)
  • Offline subscription key activation

A good articel about VMware Editions

My recommendations for a host

BrandModelBuy in USBuy in UKKaufe in Deutschland
DellPoweredge R710View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon
DellPoweredge R630View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon
HPEProLiant DL360 Gen10View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon
HPEProliant DL380 Gen 9View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon
HPEProliant ML350 Gen10View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon
SupermicroE300View on AmazonView on AmazonGehe zu Amazon

My Thoughts on the product features and what to choose

The decision to choose Proxmox or VMware ESXI is not a one-size-fits-all decision. What is most important is your organization’s financial resources. Considering how your choices will impact your organization, with the two significant players differentiating themselves in features, pricing, and support options, is essential.

VMware ESXi is a top-rated virtualization platform that provides enhanced performance and usability. If your company can manage getting locked into VMware, you may benefit from increased performance and usability. However, Proxmox is a cheaper alternative offering comparable features to VMware.

Suppose you have more experience or internal resources than money. In that case, Proxmox may be a better option for your company because the features and pricing of Proxmox are more attractive than VMware.

In most cases, Vmware Vsphere is the better choice with its enterprise features. VMware is a big company, the software suite is well documented, and you find a vast knowledge base online. ESXi is a very popular virtualization software. In addition, Veeam (third-party tools) provides a rich and solid backup infrastructure. 

See my latest article on migrating a VM from VMware to Proxmox.

Want to build VMware ESXi homelab?

Q&A section

Is Proxmox better than VMware?

Regarding virtualization, Proxmox and VMware offer different features and benefits. Proxmox is open source, whereas VMware products are proprietary. Proxmox also has much simpler hardware requirements, which makes it more accessible for many organizations. Additionally, it has a lower learning curve due to its use of the standard Debian Linux. On the other hand, VMware has more features than Proxmox, though Proxmox’s features are often more helpful. Whether Proxmox or VMware is better depends on an organization’s needs, financial resources, and experience.

What is the best hypervisor for a homelab in 2023

Proxmox also markets strongly in this sub, so the best answer will likely be that. As long as you don’t care about learning an enterprise hypervisor and it’s primarily used for home labs, it’s okay.

How to Get Started with Proxmox

To make the transition to Proxmox (and KVM in general) more effortless, it is advisable, to begin with Linux basics and learn LVM (a thorough understanding of LVM is vital). The web UI is generally intuitive and easy to use.

What is a type 1 hypervisor?

Directly on the host hardware. The operating system allows bare metal servers (hosts or nodes) to be managed individually with one or more virtual machines.

What are the limitations of free ESXi

The free version of ESXi has several limitations that should be considered when deciding whether to use it. The most current version of ESXi (8.0) has no hardware limitations other than a maximum of two physical CPUs and eight vCPUs per VM. The free version cannot access vCenter Server for managing virtual machines, vStorage API for backups from third-party solutions, or clustering capabilities.

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  1. Little bit biased comparison… ESXi is also Linux-based, so I don’t see why Proxmox should be inherently more secure. Every system need to be patched. The last security flaw have been discovered on ESXi but it don’t mean that Proxmox will never have security issues. Especially if they come close to ESXi in terms of market share and when they will start to have old systems left unpatched by some user like it happened with ESXi. Proxmox is actuelly too small and too new to have this kind of grown-up concerns. From my own experiences ESXi virtual networking is much more reliable and easy to manage. You can easyly isolate or route virtual networks with virtual switches. It works well out of the box for both hypervisor and VMs. On the other hand Proxmox needs manual tunning in command line to work well in company networks as it not showing it’s MAC address by default but unique identifiers that are totally irrelevant for DHCP/DNS servers and networking devices. Same for VMs by default. I don’t see why using a basic Debian in CLI is more user friendly and require less learning than ESXi well polished and complete Web UI. You presume that everybody have already skills in Debian administration?

    1. Many thank for your comments and expression of your views. A little debate.

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