An ode to joy – or why you don’t have to mourn the free ESXi

An ode to joy, or why you don’t have to mourn the free ESXi. An obituary.

But before I go into depth here, I would like to declare the following:

This blog post is reflecting my personal opinion. Based on my knowledge and experience, as well as the things I have read on the internet and heard from people directly and discussed with them, I have written this blog post.

The title of this blog post says a lot. At least I think so. And I’m glad you stumbled across this blog post or clicked the link wherever it has been posted. In the last few days, there has been a lot of reading about the fact that VMware by Broadcom has canceled the free ESXi hypervisor. And yes, that may not be the fine English way to mash such a product. I don’t even know if there is a “good” way to do something like that.

Yes. It’s bad that the “free ESXi” has been canceled. At least according to what I read about on X (Twitter) and some IT news portals. People were (and still are) angry about this move of thinning out the product portfolio. I never used this free version, and I wasn’t even aware that this was such a big thing. But that doesn’t count here.

Yes. There are alternative hypervisors, like Hyper-V, Proxmox, and others, and they are free. You can run virtual machines even on storage systems like TrueNAS or Unraid (the last one does cost some bucks). And a free hypervisor, I don’t care about the flavor, might be just enough for some people. They may run a homelab with some VMs, maybe some production services for their home network like Pi-Hole, to name one.

But this is it.

And what is it?

With these free hypervisors (and to be honest, I didn’t test them all), there is nothing like:

  • Clustering of hypervisors
  • Load balancing of virtual workloads on them (something like VMware vSphere DRS)
  • No high availability
  • No hyperconverged storage (something like VMware vSAN)
  • Just to name a few cool features

As mentioned, for some people, a free hypervisor is just enough. They don’t need business or enterprise features like the ones in the list above. But I have read statements from people who have probably been working in IT for a long time and are familiar with exactly the features mentioned above. And honestly. If you run a homelab to prepare for a certification, for learning, or even for “production” services in your home network (think about the WAF – Wife Acceptance Factor), wouldn’t you like to have at least some redundancy? Or even high availability?

Well. There is at least one solution. And it is an affordable one. And perhaps a large part of the readership even feels addressed, because they work with it now and then, or even every day.

I’m talking about spending some money on VMware licenses!

You may think “Ooohhh boy”. But listen, or read further. Please hear me out. That’s my personal opinion. If you can afford hardware for a few thousand dollars, you can afford these VMware licenses. And let me explain even further. You may be familiar with, or even be a member of, a VMware Users Group. The VMware User Group has over 150’000 members worldwide and is represented by a local group in almost every country. And the VMUG membership is free.

But that is not the point I want to clarify in detail here.

What about VMUG Advantage

There is something you can get from VMUG for some bucks. It is called VMUG Advantage. And it costs only US $210 for one year. It sounds like a subscription, yes. But you have to take care of it yourself so that the membership can be extended or renewed. And with these US $210 you can get a shedload (shedload (C) by Rick Vanover) of benefits! I’d like to highlight some here.

With a VMUG Advantage subscription, you can get:

  • A truckload of VMware licenses (I’ll go into detail later on)
  • 20% off at VMware training courses
  • Discounts on VMware certifications and subscriptions
  • 35% off at VMware certification preparation
  • 35% off at VMware Lab Connect
  • A nice discount on a VMware Explore ticket
  • Access to VMware TestDrive

For all those who were upset about the scrapping of the free ESXi: With the EvalExperience you can build a home lab that many others would perhaps lick their fingers at. At least because you can’t just get such enterprise features for free.

Have you seen what you get for US $210? Mouth-watering, right?

What about the vExpert program

There is another possibility to get hands-on VMware licenses. It is the VMware vExpert program. I wrote about the vExpert program and explained what it is. It is not a certification exam that you can pass (or buy). It is you, and you have to apply for this program. And some time after the application you might be accepted, or not. But if you made it, you get access to a shedload of VMware licenses. And to a huge network of other vExperts all around the world. We’re talking here about more than 1500 people. Worldwide.

What about being a VMUG Leader

Talking about the VMUG, you may be already a member of a local VMUG chapter. Or you may even be a leader of a VMUG chapter. If you’re a VMUG leader, feel free to reach out to the VMUG leaderservices about VMUG Advantage, and they will help you, without further costs.

An ode to joy – Or why you don’t have to mourn the free ESXi

An obituary

The free ESXi is gone now. But there are alternatives as explained above. And if you like to use business or enterprise features for your homelab, you’re welcome to subscribe to VMUG Advantage. It’s just US $210 for one year.

The free ESXi is dead. Long live the free ESXi.

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