ReviewsProxmox vs ESXi: Choosing the Best Hypervisor

Proxmox vs ESXi: Choosing the Best Hypervisor

A graphic image showing logos for Proxmox versus VMware in a review of the Best Hypervisors on ServerWatch.

In the world of server virtualization, Proxmox and ESXi are two frequently mentioned examples of viable hypervisors. But how does Proxmox, an open-source solution, fare against longtime virtualization giant VMware and its hypervisor ESXi?

This article looks at what to consider when choosing a hypervisor, explains the Proxmox Virtual Environment and vSphere ESXi, and discusses how the two compare to meet server management objectives.

How to Pick the Best Hypervisor

For mid-to-large organizations — as well as startups that need scalability — to virtualize or not isn’t an option. The benefits of utilizing hypervisors to partition existing hardware into multiple virtual machines are clear.

Proxmox and VMware ESXi both offer what’s known as Type 1 hypervisors, which run on bare metal rather than through the host’s operating system. Below are a few of the features buyers must consider when evaluating virtualization solutions.

Hypervisor Considerations

  • Performance capabilities like RAM and vCPU capacity, clustering, and backups
  • Ease of use and configuration management for administrators
  • Availability that ensures business continuity and adequate load balancing
  • Cost-effectiveness, given virtualization aims to reduce existing IT expenses
  • Scalability to optimize existing hardware and build the virtual environment

Read more: Best Server Virtualization Software for 2021

Proxmox vs ESXi

ProxmoxESXi
Software TypeOpen source licenseProprietary license
BasisDebian Linux KVMVMkernel
CPUs (Max)768 CPUs768 CPUs
Physical Memory (Max)12TB16TB
Central ManagementYesYes
ClusteringYesYes
High AvailabilityYesYes
Storage and Backup APIYesYes
Live Migrations from VMsYesYes
Load Balancing of VMsYesYes
Free TrialYes (Unlimited)Yes (60-days)
PricingLow to NoneModerate to High

Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE)

The Proxmox Virtual Environment or Proxmox VE is the open-source vendor’s platform enabling kernel-based virtualization (KVM) and containerization for Linux containers (LXC). 

Based on the latest Linux kernels, Proxmox software is compatible with most servers, and complete installation takes 10 minutes. From the Proxmox VE web application’s dashboard, users can manage their virtualized entities across several node clusters. Proxmox VE comes with built-in security, automated backups for select nodes, and enterprise performance capabilities.

A look at the Proxmox VE 7.0 dashboard for repository management. Screenshot provided by Proxmox.
A look at the Proxmox VE 7.0 dashboard for repository management. Screenshot provided by Proxmox.

As open-source software, Proxmox VE is free to use, share, and modify under a GNU AGPL license, meaning there’s no mystery to the source code. Without licensing getting in the way, this can quicken the onboarding process for organizations.

Proxmox VE Features

  • Web-based user interface and CLI for simplified administrator management
  • Embedded features like firewalls, storage replication, backups, and more 
  • High availability (HA) cluster management for handling a multitude of nodes
  • Live and online migration capabilities for swift transitions that reduce downtime
  • Integration with the Proxmox Backup Server to ensure redundancy
  • Available with an open-source license or through a Proxmox enterprise SLA

Pricing for Proxmox VE

A picture showing the prices and features of the Premium, standard, Basic, and Community plans for Proxmox's client plans.

As of this writing, Proxmox subscriptions are approximately:

PremiumStandardBasicCommunity
$975 / year$488 / year$325 / year$104 / year

Read more on Enterprise Networking Planet: Red Hat Virtualization vs. Proxmox VE

VMware ESXi

The VMware virtualization suite known as vSphere includes its well-known bare-metal hypervisor, ESXi. The ESXi hypervisor was formerly known as just ESX, abbreviated from Elastic Sky X. 

This visual diagram shows how the ESXi hypervisors partition VMs controllable from the vCenter Server included with vSphere. Provided by VMware.
This visual diagram shows how the ESXi hypervisors partition VMs controllable from the vCenter Server included with vSphere.
Provided by VMware.

Through vSphere client software, users can download the free or paid version of the ESXi hypervisor. From there, administrators have enterprise-level configurability to optimize virtualized operations. The latest version, vSphere 7, integrates seamlessly with Kubernetes via VMware’s container orchestration platform (Tanzu), and supports up to four network interface cards (NIC) and IP addresses, as well as lifecycle management.

With vCenter, administrators can manage the ESXi hypervisor and the VMs under its control. Administrators can additionally execute load balancing across segments, conduct live migrations, and more. With reusable vCenter server configurations, administrators can automate the import, export, and replication of policies between different clusters.

A look at ESXi’s 7.3 update shows how administrators can analyze and tune memory bandwidth performance and usage. Provided by VMware.
A look at ESXi’s 7.3 update shows how administrators can analyze and tune memory bandwidth performance and usage. Provided by VMware.

ESXi Features

  • Built-in graphic interface available as vSphere CLI or REST-based APIs
  • Reduce downtime by suspending VMs to memory and using Quick Boot functionality
  • Embedded security features like encryption, role-based access, logging, and auditing
  • Robust out-of-the-box optimizations with varying CPU and GPU components
  • Compatible with a spectrum of applications, workloads, and configurations
  • An extensive ecosystem of product and service partners aligned with VMware
Extending its ESXi capabilities, this pane shows VMware’s hypervisor for nontraditional deployments like ARM processors. Provided by VMware.
Extending its ESXi capabilities, this pane shows VMware’s hypervisor for nontraditional deployments like ARM processors. Provided by VMware.

Pricing for ESXi

As a feature of VMware’s vSphere solution, organizations can choose between using the free edition or upgrading to one of their commercial licenses. vSphere bundles break down like the following:

EssentialsStandardEssentials PlusEnterprise Plus
$578 / year$1268 / year$5,596 / year$4,305 / year

The Essentials plan includes base server virtualization and managing including ESXi and vCenter. From there, the Essentials Plus adds vMotion, vSphere Data Protection, and High Availability. 

Standard goes above Essentials with infrastructure image management and faster application deployment that includes vShield Endpoint, vSphere Replication, and vMotion. Finally, Enterprise Plus can turn a traditional data center into a modern cloud infrastructure, with data-at-rest encryption, flexible IT services. The enterprise plan adds endpoint, replication, vSphere Trust Authority, and VM encryption.

Read more: KVM vs VMware Hypervisor Comparison 2021

Company Backgrounds

The Proxmox Logo.

Proxmox

Proxmox Server Solutions launched in Vienna, Austria, in 2005 to offer open-source software to help organizations establish and maintain business continuity. Proxmox does so through three core technologies: Proxmox VE for virtualization, Proxmox Backup Server for backup and restorations, and Proxmox Mail Gateway for email security.

The VMware Logo.

VMware

Founded in 1998, VMware is the longtime market leader in virtualization technology and the first to commercially virtualize the x86 architecture. Twenty-plus years later, the Dell vendor continues to develop software for cloud and computing, application modernization, and networking solutions while partnering with 30,000 partners globally.

Read more on Enterprise Networking Planet: Best Server Virtualization Software 2021

How to Decide on Proxmox vs ESXi

While Proxmox and ESXi get mentioned together, their hypervisors serve different organizations, system purposes, and objectives.

VMware’s vSphere has a long list of license options to meet a global audience’s needs. That said, the plethora of license types means more subscription and logistical management than with Proxmox. As an open-source vendor, Proxmox empowers organizations that want more in-house control of their virtualization efforts or capabilities without the hefty cost.

VMware’s ESXi offers advanced features, an extensive network, and enterprise resources at a high price tag; if moving quickly and not breaking the bank are the objectives, Proxmox is a considerable solution.

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