It’s been a long debate that everyone has been asked by what is the difference between ESX and ESXi. Most of the admins would have asked this question during interviews and also asked by new learners of VMware virtualization. I decided to post on the topic to give architectural difference always as to compare the different level capabilities between ESX & ESXi along the tabular comparison to explain the difference between VMware ESX and ESXi. Even though ESX is no more available, I thought it would be helpful especially for the new administrators to understand the architectural difference between VMware ESX and ESXi.
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What is VMware ESX ?
ESX (Elastic Sky X) is the VMware’s enterprise server virtualization platform. In ESX, VMkernel is the virtualization kernel which is managed by a console operating system which is also called as Service console. Which is Linux based and its main purpose is it to provide a Management interface for the host and lot of management agents and other third-party software agents are installed on the service console to provide the functionalists like hardware management and monitoring of ESX hypervisor.
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What is VMware ESXi?
ESXi (Elastic sky X Integrated) is also the VMware’s enterprise server virtualization platform. In ESXi, Service console is removed. All the VMware related agents and third party agents such as management and monitoring agents can also run directly on the VMkernel. ESXi is a ultra-thin architecture which is highly reliable and its small code-base allows it to be more secure with fewer codes to patch. ESXi uses Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) instead of a service console to perform management of ESXi server. ESXi installation will happen very quickly as compared to ESX installation.
Difference between VMware ESX and ESXi
Troubleshooting performed via
Active Director Authentication
Service Console Interface
3 rd Party agents installed in Service console
Via CIM Providers
Boot from SAN
Supported in ESX
Supported in ESXi
Software patches and updates
Needed as similar to Linux operation system
Few patches because of small footprint and more secure
vSphere Web Access
Full management capability via vSphere web client
Locked Down Mode
Present. Lockdown mode prevents remote users to log into the host
Major Administration command-line Command
Rapid deployment via Auto Deploy
Custom Image creation
VMkernel Network Used for
vMotion, Fault Tolerance, Storage Connectivity
Management Network, vMotion, Fault Tolerance, Storage Connectivity, ISCSI port binding
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