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6.5.0 Update 1 (Build 7388607) / 19 December 2017
|Platform||IA-32 (discontinued in 4.0 onwards), x86-64|
VMware ESXi (formerly ESX) is an enterprise-class, type-1 hypervisor developed by VMware for deploying and serving virtual computers. As a type-1 hypervisor, ESXi is not a software application that is installed on an operating system (OS); instead, it includes and integrates vital OS components, such as a kernel.
After version 4.1 (released in 2010), VMware renamed ESX to ESXi. ESXi replaces Service Console (a rudimentary operating system) with a more closely integrated OS. ESX/ESXi is the primary component in the VMware Infrastructure software suite.
- 1 Architecture
- 2 Versions
- 3 Lawsuit
- 4 Related or additional products
- 5 Known limitations
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
This section needs to be updated.(June 2015)
ESX runs on bare metal (without running an operating system) unlike other VMware products. It includes its own kernel: A Linux kernel is started first, and is then used to load a variety of specialized virtualization components, including ESX, which is otherwise known as the vmkernel component. The Linux kernel is the primary virtual machine; it is invoked by the service console. At normal run-time, the vmkernel is running on the bare computer, and the Linux-based service console runs as the first virtual machine. VMware dropped development of ESX at version 4.1, and now uses ESXi, which does not include a Linux kernel.
Interface to hardware
The vmkernel handles CPU and memory directly, using scan-before-execution (SBE) to handle special or privileged CPU instructions and the SRAT (system resource allocation table) to track allocated memory.
Access to other hardware (such as network or storage devices) takes place using modules. At least some of the modules derive from modules used in the Linux kernel. To access these modules, an additional module called
vmklinux implements the Linux module interface. According to the README file, "This module contains the Linux emulation layer used by the vmkernel."
The vmkernel uses the device drivers:
These drivers mostly equate to those described in VMware's hardware compatibility list. All these modules fall under the GPL. Programmers have adapted them to run with the vmkernel: VMware Inc has changed the module-loading and some other minor things.
In ESX (and not ESXi), the Service Console is a vestigial general purpose operating system most significantly used as bootstrap for the VMware kernel, vmkernel, and secondarily used as a management interface. Both of these Console Operating System functions are being deprecated from version 5.0, as VMware migrates exclusively to the ESXi model. The Service Console, for all intents and purposes, is the operating system used to interact with VMware ESX and the virtual machines that run on the server.
ESX uses a Linux kernel to load additional code: often referred to by VMware, Inc. as the "vmkernel". The dependencies between the "vmkernel" and the Linux part of the ESX server have changed drastically over different major versions of the software. The VMware FAQ states: "ESX Server also incorporates a service console based on a Linux 2.4 kernel that is used to boot the ESX Server virtualization layer". The Linux kernel runs before any other software on an ESX host. On ESX versions 1 and 2, no VMkernel processes run on the system during the boot process. After the Linux kernel has loaded, the S90vmware script loads the vmkernel. VMware Inc states that vmkernel does not derive from Linux, but acknowledges that it has adapted certain device-drivers from Linux device drivers. The Linux kernel continues running, under the control of the vmkernel, providing functions including the proc file system used by the ESX and an environment to run support applications. ESX version 3 loads the VMkernel from the Linux initrd, thus much earlier in the boot-sequence than in previous ESX versions.
In traditional systems, a given operating system runs a single kernel. The VMware FAQ mentions that ESX has both a Linux 2.4 kernel and vmkernel – hence confusion over whether ESX has a Linux base. An ESX system starts a Linux kernel first, but it loads vmkernel (also described by VMware as a kernel), which according to VMware 'wraps around' the linux kernel, and which (according to VMware Inc) does not derive from Linux.
The ESX userspace environment, known as the "Service Console" (or as "COS" or as "vmnix"), derives from a modified version of Red Hat Linux, (Red Hat 7.2 for ESX 2.x and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 for ESX 3.x). In general, this Service Console provides management interfaces (CLI, webpage MUI, Remote Console).
As a further detail which differentiates the ESX from other VMware virtualization products: ESX supports the VMware proprietary cluster file system VMFS. VMFS enables multiple hosts to access the same SAN LUNs simultaneously, while file-level locking provides simple protection to file-system integrity.
Purple Screen of Death
In the event of a hardware error, the vmkernel can catch a Machine Check Exception. This results in an error message displayed on a purple diagnostic screen. This is colloquially known as a purple diagnostic screen, or purple screen of death (PSOD, cf. Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)).
Upon displaying a purple diagnostic screen, the vmkernel writes debug information to the core dump partition. This information, together with the error codes displayed on the purple diagnostic screen can be used by VMware support to determine the cause of the problem.
vMotion: live migration
Live migration (vMotion) in ESX allows a virtual machine to move between two different hosts. Live storage migration (Storage vMotion) enables live migration of virtual disks on the fly. During vMotion Live Migration (vLM) of a running virtual machine (VM) the content of the (RAM) memory of the VM is sent from the running VM to the new VM (the instance on another host that will become the running VM after the vLM). The content of memory is by its nature changing all the time. ESX uses a system where the content is sent to the other VM and then it will check what data is changed and send that, each time smaller blocks. At the last moment it will very briefly 'freeze' the existing VM, transfer the last changes in the RAM content and then start the new VM. The intended effect of this process is to minimize the time during which the VM is suspended; in a best case this will be the time of the final transfer plus the time required to start the new VM.
VMware ESX is available in two main types: ESX and ESXi, although since version 5 only ESXi is continued.
VMware ESXi, a smaller-footprint version of ESX, does not include the ESX Service Console. It is available - without the need to purchase a vCenter license - as a free download from VMware, with some features disabled.
ESXi apparently stands for "ESX integrated".
VMware ESXi originated as a compact version of VMware ESX that allowed for a smaller 32 MB disk footprint on the host. With a simple configuration console for mostly network configuration and remote based VMware Infrastructure Client Interface, this allows for more resources to be dedicated to the guest environments.
Two variations of ESXi exist:
- VMware ESXi Installable
- VMware ESXi Embedded Edition
Originally named VMware ESX Server ESXi edition, through several revisions the ESXi product finally became VMware ESXi 3. New editions then followed: ESXi 3.5, ESXi 4 ESXi 5 and (as of 2015[update]) ESXi 6.
VMware has been sued by Christoph Hellwig, a Linux kernel developer, for GPL license violations. It was alleged that VMware had misappropriated portions of the Linux kernel, and used them without permission. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court in July 2016 based on a technicality and Hellwig announced he would file an appeal.
Related or additional products
The following products operate in conjunction with ESX:
- vCenter Server, enables monitoring and management of multiple ESX, ESXi and GSX servers. In addition, users must install it to run infrastructure services such as:
- vMotion (transferring virtual machines between servers on the fly whilst they are running, with zero downtime)
- svMotion aka Storage vMotion (transferring virtual machines between Shared Storage LUNs on the fly, with zero downtime)
- enhanced vMotion aka evMotion (a simultaneous vMotion and svMotion, supported on version 5.1 and above)
- Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) (automated vMotion based on host/VM load requirements/demands)
- High Availability (HA) (restarting of Virtual Machine Guest Operating Systems in the event of a physical ESX Host failure)
- Fault Tolerance (almost instant stateful fail-over of a VM in the event of a physical host failure)
- Converter, enables users to create VMware ESX Server- or Workstation-compatible virtual machines from either physical machines or from virtual machines made by other virtualization products. Converter replaces the VMware "P2V Assistant" and "Importer" products — P2V Assistant allowed users to convert physical machines into virtual machines; and Importer allowed the import of virtual machines from other products into VMware Workstation.
- vSphere Client (formerly VMware Infrastructure Client), enables monitoring and management of a single instance of ESX or ESXi server. After ESX 4.1, vSphere Client was no longer available from the ESX/ESXi server, but must be downloaded from the VMware web site.
Cisco Nexus 1000v
Network-connectivity between ESX hosts and the VMs running on it relies on virtual NICs (inside the VM) and virtual switches. The latter exists in two versions: the 'standard' vSwitch allowing several VMs on a single ESX host to share a physical NIC and the 'distributed vSwitch' where the vSwitches on different ESX hosts together form one logical switch. Cisco offers in their Cisco Nexus product-line the Nexus 1000v, an advanced version of the standard distributed vSwitch. A Nexus 1000v consists of two parts: a supervisor module (VSM) and on each ESX host a virtual ethernet module (VEM). The VSM runs as a virtual appliance within the ESX cluster or on dedicated hardware (Nexus 1010 series) and the VEM runs as module on each host and replaces a standard dvS (distributed virtual switch) from VMware. Configuration of the switch is done on the VSM using the standard NX-OS CLI. It offers capabilities to create standard port-profiles which can then be assigned to virtual machines using vCenter.
There are several differences between the standard dvS and the N1000v, one is that the Cisco switch generally has full support for network technologies such as LACP link aggregation or that the VMware switch supports new features such as routing based on physical NIC load. However the main difference lies in the architecture: Nexus 1000v is working in the same way as a physical Ethernet switch does while dvS is relying on information from ESX. This has consequences for example in scalability where the Kappa limit for a N1000v is 2048 virtual ports against 60000 for a dvS. The Nexus1000v is developed in co-operation between Cisco and VMware and uses the API of the dvS
Third party management tools
Because VMware ESX is a leader in the server-virtualisation market, software and hardware vendors offer a range of tools to integrate their products or services with ESX. Examples are the products from Veeam Software with backup and management applications and a plugin to monitor and manage ESX using HP OpenView, Quest Software with a range of management and backup-applications and most major backup-solution providers have plugins or modules for ESX. Using Microsoft Operations Manager (SCOM) 2007/2012 with a Bridgeways ESX management pack gives you a realtime ESX datacenter health view.
Also hardware-vendors such as HP and Dell include tools to support the use of ESX(i) on their hardware platforms. An example is the ESX module for Dell's OpenManage management platform.
VMware has added a Web Client since v5 but it will work on vCenter only and does not contain all features. vEMan is a Linux application which is trying to fill that gap. These are just a few examples: there are numerous 3rd party products to manage, monitor or backup ESX infrastructures and the VMs running on them.
Known limitations of VMware ESXi, as of April 2015, include the following:
Some maximums in ESXi Server 6.0 may influence the design of data centers:
- Guest system maximum RAM: 4080 GB
- Host system maximum RAM: 6 TB (12 TB on certain certified OEM hardware platforms)
- Number of hosts in a high availability or Distributed Resource Scheduler cluster: 64
- Maximum number of processors per virtual machine: 128
- Maximum number of processors per host: 480
- Maximum number of virtual CPUs per physical CPU core: 32
- Maximum number of virtual machines per host: 1024
- Maximum number of virtual CPUs per fault tolerant virtual machine: 4
- Maximum guest system RAM per fault tolerant virtual machine: 64 GB
- VMFS5 maximum volume size: 64 TB, but maximum file size is 62 TB -512 bytes
In terms of performance, virtualization imposes a cost in the additional work the CPU has to perform to virtualize the underlying hardware. Instructions that perform this extra work, and other activities that require virtualization, tend to lie in operating system calls. In an unmodified operating system, OS calls introduce the greatest portion of virtualization "overhead".
Paravirtualization or other virtualization techniques may help with these issues. VMware developed the Virtual Machine Interface for this purpose, and selected operating systems currently[update] support this. A comparison between full virtualization and paravirtualization for the ESX Server shows that in some cases paravirtualization is much faster.
- 64 ESX/ESXi hosts per VSM (Virtual Supervisor Module)
- 2048 virtual ethernet interfaces per VMware vDS (virtual distributed switch)
- and a maximum of 216 virtual interfaces per ESX/ESXi host
- 2048 active VLAN's (one to be used for communication between VEM's and VSM)
- 2048 port-profiles
- 32 physical NIC's per ESX/ESXi (physical) host
- 256 port-channels per VMware vDS (virtual distributed switch)
- and a maximum of 8 port-channels per ESX/ESXi host
Fibre Channel Fabric limitations
Regardless of the type of virtual SCSI adapter used, there are these limitations:
- Maximum of 4 Virtual SCSI adapters, one of which should be dedicated to virtual disk use
- Maximum of 15 SCSI LUNs per adapter
- Comparison of platform virtualization software
- KVM Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine – an open source hypervisor platform
- Hyper-V – a competitor of VMware ESX from Microsoft
- Xen – an open source hypervisor platform
- Virtual appliance
- Virtual machine
- Virtual disk image
- VMware VMFS
- x86 virtualization
- "VMware ESX 4.0 only installs and runs on servers with 64bit x86 CPUs. 32bit systems are no longer supported". VMware, Inc.
- "ESX Server Architecture". Vmware.com. Archived from the original on 2009-11-07. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
- VMware:vSphere ESX and ESXi Info Center
- What does ESX stand for?
- "Glossary" (PDF). Developer’s Guide to Building vApps and Virtual Appliances: VMware Studio 2.5. Palo Alto: VMware. 2011. p. 153. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- "ESX Server Datasheet"
- "ESX Server Architecture". Vmware.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "ESX machine boots". Video.google.com.au. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "VMKernel Scheduler". vmware.com. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
- Mike, Foley. "It's a Unix system, I know this!". VMware Blogs. VMware.
- "Support for 64-bit Computing". Vmware.com. 19 April 2004. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- Gerstel, Markus: "Virtualisierungsansätze mit Schwerpunkt Xen" Archived 15 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
- VMware ESX
- "VMware ESX Server 2: NUMA Support" (PDF). Palo Alto, California: VMware Inc. 2005. p. 7. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
SRAT (system resource allocation table) – table that keeps track of memory allocated to a virtual machine.
- "ESX Server Open Source". Vmware.com. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "ESX Hardware Compatibility List". Vmware.com. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "ESXi vs. ESX: A comparison of features". Vmware, Inc. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
- VMware FAQ Archived 11 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- ESX Server Advanced Technical Design Guide Archived 25 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- "KB: Decoding Machine Check Exception (MCE) output after a purple diagnostic screen |publisher=VMware, Inc."
- The Design and Evolution of Live Storage Migration in VMware ESX
- VMware Blog by Kyle Gleed: vMotion: what's going on under the covers, 25 February 2011, visited: 2 February 2012
- VMware website vMotion brochure. Retrieved 3 February 2012
- VMware KBArticle Windows 8/Windows 2012 doesn't boot on ESX, visited 12 September 2012
- "Download VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi)". www.vmware.com. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "Getting Started with ESXi Installable" (PDF). VMware. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "VMware ESX and ESXi 4.1 Comparison". Vmware.com. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "What do ESX and ESXi stand for?". VM.Blog. 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
Apparently, the 'i' in ESXi stands for Integrated, probably coming from the fact that this version of ESX can be embedded in a small bit of flash memory on the server hardware.
- Andreas Peetz. "ESXi embedded vs. ESXi installable FAQ". Retrieved 2014-08-11.
- "Free VMware ESXi: Bare Metal Hypervisor with Live Migration". Vmware.com. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "Conservancy Announces Funding for GPL Compliance Lawsuit". sfconservancy.org. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
- "German court ruling" (PDF). 8 July 2016.
- "Hellwig To Appeal VMware Ruling After Evidentiary Set Back in Lower Court". 9 August 2016.
- Overview of the Nexus 1000v virtual switch, visited 9 July 2012
- VMware continues virtualization market romp, 18 April 2012. Visited: 9 July 2012
- About Veeam, visited 9 July 2012
- Veeam OpenView plugin for VMware, visited 9 July 2012
- OpenManage (omsa) support for ESXi 5.0, visited 9 July 2012
- VMware info about Web Client – VMware ESXi/ESX 4.1 and ESXi 5.0 Comparison
- Availability of vSphere Client for Linux systems – What the web client can do and what not
- vEMan website vEMan – Linux vSphere client
- Petri website 3rd party ESX tools, 23 December 2008. Visited: 11 september 2001
- "Configuration Maximums" (PDF). VMware, Inc. 22 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
- "Performance of VMware VMI" (PDF). VMware, Inc. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-22.