Licensing the Free ESXi

imageSo lots of my clients are beginning to look at Hyper-V and the idea of trying out the free Hypervisor from Microsoft in their development environments. I put it in quotes since it is not exactly FREE since you need a Windows 2008 R2 license but I digress (and yeah; many of you have EAs with MS so go ahead and call it free Smile). (Thanks for the correction Matt). I’ve noticed that because of this new interest in getting a low cost entry hypervisor, I have been having more conversations about ESXi and the free licenses available for it.  What I have noticed is that many people don’t realize that VMware has a completely free version of ESXi available for download and use.  Many customers only think of Hyper-V or XenServer when evaluating the free hypervisor sets.  So here is the deal with ESXi free.

When you first go to VMware and download the ESXi bits, you will install it with the base Evaluation version.  This will give you access to EVERYTHING for 90 days as if you purchased an Enterprise Plus license.  You can connect, manage and configure it all via vCenter at that point.

Once you have completed the installation and configuration of ESXi, you then need to switch it over to a permanent free license.  You can simply grab this from the VMware website.  You will have to create a quick account and give up some marketing info but after that, you can get all the free ESXi licenses you want. 


License in hand, connect your VI client to the ESXi host and pop in the permanent license.  After applying, you will notice the feature list drop significantly.


I do wish that there was some sort of vMotion included in the free license similar to the Live Migration available in Microsoft’s Hyper-V but without a ‘free’ base version of vCenter to manage it all, it’s unlikely to happen.