ESXi vs. Proxmox Virtualization. Choosing the right hypervisor for your needs.

What is Virtualization? ESXi & Proxmox VE Discussed.

Virtualization is an integral part of IT infrastructure. Knowing the right storage hypervisor to utilize is important. This blog will dive into a comparison of two major players in this field: ESXi by VMware vs. Proxmox VE.

While both virtualization softwares offer robust solutions, our emphasis will be on highlighting the feature-rich and budget-friendly Proxmox VE (Virtual Environment) which is an open-source alternative to VMware’s ESXi. Promox VE  is particularly appealing to IT professionals who want to move away from the close-sourced, proprietary, and cost-prohibitive option.

Virtualization is made possible by hypervisors like ESXi, a VMware product, and Proxmox VE, an open-source solution based on KVM and LXC; however, ESXi requires additional licenses for features like clustering (vSphere/vCenter) and if you want hyper-converged storage, vSAN. Proxmox VE offers these features without the need for supplementary licenses. Proxmox VE is especially robust, as it has native support for Ceph Clustered Storage Solutions. And we are big fans of Ceph Clustering here at 45Drives.

But, let’s talk about both options. Starting with ESXi.

ESXi: Let’s Dive In.

When it comes to server virtualization, VMware’s ESXi tends to stand out as a leading choice. It offers robust features designed to enhance performance, security, and scalability.

ESXi is Type-1 Hypervisor.

VMware ESXi is a Type-1 hypervisor. That means it installs directly on physical servers, providing high performance and efficient resource utilization. It excels in resource management with detailed control over CPU and memory allocation, allowing you to group VMs into resource pools for better management. The vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) further enhances this by automatically balancing workloads across hosts.

How Does ESXi Handle Storage?

Concerning storage, ESXi employs VMFS (Virtual Machine File System): a high-performance cluster file system that enables concurrent storage access. VMware’s vSAN (Virtual SAN) provides hyper-converged storage, pooling resources across ESXi hosts to simplify management and improve scalability. Additionally, ESXi supports NFS and iSCSI, offering flexible network storage options, and Storage I/O Control, which prioritizes storage resources for critical VMs.

Networking with ESXi.

Networking in ESXi is streamlined with the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS). The VDS centralizes the management of virtual networks. Network I/O Control allows for the prioritization of network bandwidth for VMs, ensuring that critical applications receive the necessary resources. The support for VLANs further enhances network security and performance.

ESXi’s High Availability and Fault Tolerance.

High availability and fault tolerance are also key features of ESXi. The vSphere High Availability (HA) automatically restarts VMs on other hosts in case of host failure, minimizing downtime. For continuous availability, vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) creates live shadow instances of VMs, providing an extra layer of protection, however the requirements to run a fault tolerant VM is very strict and is not viable for all use cases.

Monitoring and Management Tools for ESXi.

For monitoring and management needs, vCenter Server provides centralized management for multiple ESXi hosts, while vRealize Operations Manager offers advanced monitoring and analytics. You can monitor and set alerts for various performance metrics to ensure you’re always aware of your system’s health.

Automation and orchestration are made simple with vSphere PowerCLI—a powerful command-line interface for automating tasks. The vSphere API/SDK allows for integration with other tools and platforms, enabling seamless automation. vSphere Auto Deploy automates the deployment of ESXi hosts, making large-scale deployments faster and easier.

What Operating Systems work with ESXi?

ESXi supports various operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and others, providing flexibility for diverse environments. VMware Tools enhance the performance and manageability of guest operating systems, ensuring optimal integration.

In terms of scalability, ESXi is highly scalable. It supports large-scale deployments with thousands of VMs and hundreds of hosts. Its advanced scheduling algorithms and optimizations for CPU, memory, and I/O ensure that your infrastructure runs at peak performance.

All in all, ESXi is a great platform. It offers a rich feature set, and its offerings are solid and robust.

Proxmox VE Explained

The Open Source Alternative:

Proxmox VE is an open-source alternative to the costly, closed source VMware option. Comparatively, it offers just as much function as VMware’s ESXi hypervisor and without the vendor lock-in that tends to take place with VMware.

Proxmox VE, while built on Debian, also offers support for a wide range of operating systems and has built-in templates for popular distributions like Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, and more to meet any of your VM needs. This makes it easier for users to quickly deploy virtual machines without the need for manual installation. Overall, Proxmox VE’s open-source nature, robust feature set, community support, and regular updates make it a highly desirable choice for anyone looking to leverage the power of virtualization.

Managing Storage with Proxmox VE.

Proxmox VE supports a wider array of storage configurations directly out of the box when compared to ESXi. Proxmox VE is tightly integrated with Ceph, and can be hyperconverged, or can consume Ceph from a dedicated cluster. Proxmox VE includes support for local and network storage, as well as advanced file systems like ZFS to offer features like checksums for data integrity, snapshots, and dynamic disk resizing.

Proxmox VE’s Advanced Networking Features.

Proxmox VE’s advanced networking features like bridging, bonding, VLANs, and IPv6 support are crucial for modern IT environments and are all included out-of-the-box. With the addition of Proxmox’ SDN (Software Defined Networking), it adds even more functionality to the already robust features within Proxmox VE. It also has a tool called the Open vSwitch (OVS), which is similar to the vSphere Distributed Switch. And the SDN tool, as mentioned, is comparable to VMware’s NSX-T Data Center.

OVS and VDS both serve the purpose of providing virtual networking within their respective environments. They allow for advanced networking features, centralized management, and automation. Meanwhile, Proxmox SDN and NSX-T both provide advanced SDN capabilities within their respective environments. They enable network virtualization, advanced routing, and security policies

Scalability and High Availability with Proxmox VE.

In terms of scalability and simplicity, Proxmox VE’s ability to scale provides benefits to organizations that are growing their infrastructure. The ease of adding more nodes to a Proxmox cluster without downtime is a key feature, as well as the platform’s built-in tools for managing clustered resources. This is accomplished with Proxmox’s VE HA-Manager. The HA-Manager checks the functionality of VMs and containers and handles service failover to another node in case of errors.

Proxmox VE’s also has a fully documented REST API. This provides administrators the ability to automate all aspects of virtual machine and container management using popular scripting languages which is a stark contrast to ESXi—full API access can be limited by the licensing model.

Monitoring and Management Inside Proxmox VE.

When it comes to monitoring and managing, Proxmox VE has its own web GUI, but you can also easily deploy an external metric server utilizing graphite or Grafana, and influxdb. Furthermore, Proxmox VE can integrate with monitoring systems like Zabbix and LibreNMS; however, these methods are, by no means the only ways. Instead, they are simply a small sampling of the flexibility Proxmox VE provides in the way of monitoring and managing your virtual environment. Automation is made easy too. VM deployments can be automated in Proxmox VE using the combination of Ansible and Terraform

For integrated back-up and restore solutions, Proxmox VE includes built-in backup tools that are robust and easy to configure, including features like scheduled backups, live snapshots, and a unique backup storage format that minimizes space usage through deduplication. These tools are included without an additional cost, whereas VMware requires separate products and licenses for a fee.

While both platforms have strong communities, Proxmox VE’s open-source nature means that users have access to a wide range of plugins developed by the community. Additionally, Proxmox VE offers affordable enterprise support packages, providing an alternative for users who need guaranteed support levels without the high costs typically associated with VMware’s support services.

How Do You Choose?

While VMware’s ESXi has reigned in the virtualization market, its popularity is being strongly contested by Proxmox VE, especially amongst users seeking a cost-effective, open-source solution with a rich feature set. The user-friendliness, adaptability, and comprehensive feature offerings by Proxmox VE make it the preferred choice for IT professionals and technologists alike who are eager to build and manage virtualized environments efficiently. By opting for Proxmox VE, users gain a robust hypervisor platform devoid of traditional licensing models’ limitations.

Whether you are a hobbyist, small business owner, or IT professional, Proxmox VE offers a compelling alternative to expensive and restrictive proprietary solutions like ESXi; however, at the end of the day, the best platform is the one that aligns with your specific needs. Both options have their strengths, but it’s the understanding of these platforms that will help you make the right choice.

ESXi vs. Proxmox VE? We choose Proxmox VE.

About The Author