Difference between VMware ESX and ESXi

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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Migrate Windows vCenter Server 6.0 to vCenter Server appliance 6.5

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.

Graphics Thanks to VMware

Difference between VMware ESX and ESXi

 ESX 4.1 is the last version availability of ESX server. After vSphere 5, only ESXi is available.  This comparison based out of the VMware Article. Below table explains the Difference between VMware ESX and ESXi in a comparative way.
Service Console
Troubleshooting performed via
Service Console
ESXi Shell
Active Director Authentication
Secure Syslog
Not Supported
Management Network
Service Console Interface
VMKernel Interface
Jumbo Frames
Hardware Montioring
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
Only experimental
Full management capability via vSphere web client
Locked Down Mode
Not present
Present. Lockdown mode prevents remote users to log into the host
Scripted Installtion
vMA Support
Major Administration command-line Command
Rapid deployment via Auto Deploy
Not supported
Custom Image creation
Not supported
VMkernel Network Used for
vMotion, Fault Tolerance, Storage Connectivity
Management Network, vMotion, Fault Tolerance, Storage Connectivity, ISCSI port binding

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