ReviewsProxmox vs. VMware: Virtualization Platform Comparison

Proxmox vs. VMware: Virtualization Platform Comparison

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Proxmox vs VMware logos

As virtualization and containerization become increasingly critical for organizations, selecting the right virtual machine (VM) deployment platform is crucial. 

VMware and Proxmox are two leading choices in this regard. While both vendors offer free options, Proxmox is fully open-source and has garnered a loyal following among home server enthusiasts and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). On the other hand, VMware, as a virtualization pioneer, provides enterprise workloads with advanced features and comprehensive support.

This article provides a comprehensive comparison of Proxmox and VMware, covering aspects such as customers’ use cases, licensing, performance, and additional features. By examining these key factors, readers can make an informed decision about selecting the most appropriate virtualization solution for their needs in 2023.

Breakdown: Proxmox vs. VMware

Proxmox and VMware include many of the same core features, but they differ in some important areas as well. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two solutions.

Proxmox
VMware
Software Type
Open source license
Proprietary license
Basis
Debian Linux KVM
VMkernel
Central Management
Clustering
High Availability
Storage and Backup API
Live Migrations of VMs
Load Balancing of VMs
Kubernetes
Free Trial
Unlimited
60 days
Pricing
$110 - $1,043 / year
$578 - $5,596 / year

Proxmox Virtual Environment: Best for SMBs

Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE) is an open-source virtualization platform used to manage virtual servers. It can be used to create and manage VMs with kernel-based virtualization (KVM) or Linux Containers (LXC), and to manage storage with software-defined storage.

Proxmox VE is ideally suited for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that require IT infrastructure virtualization solutions. It has an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) that enables centralized management of VMs, network settings, storage resources, and high availability (HA) features.

With its open-source nature, Proxmox VE offers SMBs the ability to customize the platform to their specific needs while avoiding vendor lock-in.

proxmox 7.1 GUI
The Proxmox 7.1 GUI shows host CPU and memory usage, server load, and network traffic.

VMware vSphere: Best for Medium to Large Enterprises

VMware vSphere is VMware’s flagship virtualization platform. It’s a leading virtualization and cloud-based solution around the world and is ideally suited for SMBs looking for reliable IT infrastructure. vSphere offers an efficient virtualization architecture with advanced features such as high availability (HA), fault tolerance (FT), live migration, and disaster recovery, making it an ideal solution for organizations that require continuous uptime and data security.

VMware vSphere also supports different operating systems, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, and macOS, and is compatible with a vast array of applications and services. The platform can support hundreds of VMs on a single physical server, allowing businesses to optimize their IT infrastructure and decrease hardware and maintenance costs.

Its intuitive interface makes it easy to use, and its built-in security measures safeguard your virtual environment. Due to its support for universal applications, vSphere is highly scalable and capable of managing a diverse range of workloads. These features make vSphere the ideal virtualization solution for organizations that require reliability and sturdiness.

vSphere 7 dashboard
vSphere 7 includes a Grafana-style dashboard showing a multitude of admin data.

Company Backgrounds

Before diving more deeply into each solution’s featureset, understanding their backgrounds may help to illustrate what sets them apart from each other and where they both thrive.

Proxmox Server Solutions

Proxmox logo

Proxmox Server Solutions is a software development company that specializes in offering server solutions to organizations of all sizes. The company’s headquarters were established in Vienna,

Austria in 2005. Proxmox provides three fundamental technologies: Proxmox VE for virtualization, Proxmox Backup Server for backup and restoration, and Proxmox Mail Gateway for email security.

Proxmox VE, in particular, is a widely used platform for server isolation. It’s also a popular choice for individuals building home labs to support their on-premises infrastructure needs.

VMware

VMware logo

VMware is a global leader in software and virtualization technologies, with a variety of products

designed to assist businesses in enhancing their IT infrastructure, boosting security, and streamlining operations. vSphere is one of VMware’s flagship products; it’s a robust server virtualization platform that allows organizations to create virtualized environments for their applications, databases, and operating systems.

With vSphere, businesses can consolidate their physical servers into VMs, reducing hardware costs, improving efficiency, and simplifying management. Beyond server virtualization, vSphere offers enterprise-native integrations with vSAN for storage and NSX for network virtualization. vSAN provides organizations with a software-defined storage solution that simplifies storage management and eliminates the need for costly hardware-based storage arrays.

NSX, on the other hand, offers a powerful network virtualization platform that enables organizations to create virtualized network environments, improving security, and enhancing network performance. VMware also offers a range of other products, including Aria for cloud automation, Horizon for virtual desktop infrastructure, Tanzu for modern application development and Carbon Black for endpoint security, among others.

Customers and Use Cases

Proxmox and VMware are both often considered leading virtualization platforms, but they serve different use cases and customer groups. While both solutions offer features tailored for cloud computing and server consolidation, their similarities end there.

Proxmox Customers and Use Cases

Proxmox is an open-source virtualization platform that offers several enterprise-grade features, making it an attractive option for many organizations. Due to its affordability and adaptability, it is ideal for startups, home enthusiasts, and teams that would rather not invest in costly licenses.

Proxmox VE is a flexible virtualization platform that is widely used for server isolation and software development, making it an ideal option for all types of businesses. It is also a popular option for individuals seeking to build home labs to support their on-premises infrastructure requirements.

Thanks to its open source underpinnings, Proxmox VE can be tailored to a wide range of customers and use cases, including SMBs, educational institutions, and data centers.

SMBs

Proxmox VE is a cost-effective and efficient virtualization solution, especially for SMBs. Features such as live migration, HA, and backup and restore provide constant uptime and data redundancy. SMBs also benefit from the platform’s scalability and performance, which allow for efficient management of IT resources.

Educational Institutions

Proxmox VE is a reliable virtualization solution for educational institutions to support their IT infrastructure thanks to its flexibility and low cost.

Data Centers

Proxmox VE is a flexible and scalable virtualization solution for data centers to efficiently manage IT environments. The platform supports various storage types, including local, networked, and virtual storage, which provides data centers with the flexibility they need to manage their data storage needs. Furthermore, Proxmox VE’s features, such as high availability, clustering, and live migration, allow data centers to provide constant uptime and data redundancy.

VMware Customers and Use Cases

While VMware does provide a free version of vSphere, organizations seeking enterprise-grade features and support for business-critical applications and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) operations should consider investing in paid licenses. The paid licenses offer additional software stability and support that are crucial for maintaining the stability and reliability of the virtual environment.

Moreover, VMware vSphere can easily integrate with other VMware solutions like VMware vSAN for storage and VMware NSX for network virtualization, which go beyond just server virtualization. These features allow organizations to take advantage of a fully integrated virtual

infrastructure, with highly available storage and network resources, and a centralized management interface for all aspects of the virtual environment.

VMware vSphere’s broad capabilities and stellar support lend themselves to a variety of customers and use cases, including enterprises, cloud service providers, data centers, and larger educational institutions.

Enterprise Businesses

VMware vSphere is a popular choice for enterprise businesses that require a virtualization solution to manage their IT infrastructure. The platform provides businesses with a scalable and efficient solution to manage their VMs and containers. VMware vSphere’s features, such as vMotion, HA, and Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), provide businesses with constant uptime, data redundancy, and efficient resource allocation.

Service Providers

Cloud service providers and web hosting companies use VMware vSphere to offer their clients a reliable and secure virtualization solution. The platform’s features, such as multi-tenancy and resource allocation, allow service providers to efficiently manage their client’s IT resources. And its performance and scalability allow service providers to provide clients with the flexibility and efficiency they need.

Data Centers

VMware vSphere is a flexible and scalable virtualization solution for data centers that require a solution to efficiently manage their IT infrastructure. The platform provides data centers with the ability to manage large and complex IT environments, including various storage types, such as local, networked, and distributed storage. Features such as vMotion, HA, and DRS provide data centers with constant uptime and data redundancy.

Educational Institutions

Educational institutions use VMware vSphere as a reliable virtualization solution to support their IT infrastructure and reduce hardware and maintenance costs. The platform provides educational institutions with the ability to manage multiple VMs and containers on a single physical server. Features such as vMotion, HA, and DRS provide educational institutions with constant uptime and data protection.

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Pricing and Licensing

Pricing and licensing are key factors that differentiate Proxmox and VMware. Proxmox, being an open-source solution, provides organizations with the option of using it for free or adding on an optional support subscription. vSphere, on the other hand, offers a variety of licensing options for businesses of various sizes, but with a higher price.

Proxmox Pricing and Licensing

Winner: Proxmox

Proxmox is a virtualization software that operates under the GNU AGPL license and can be downloaded and used for free. However, for companies that require further support and features, such as automatic patching, remote assistance, support tickets, and access to a customer portal, Proxmox provides four subscription options: Community, Basic, Standard, and Premium.

These subscription plans offer users varying levels of support and additional features, making it simple for businesses to select the one that best meets their needs and budget.

Community
Basic
Standard
Premium
€ 105/year & CPU socket
€ 325/year & CPU socket
€ 490/year & CPU socket
€ 980/year & CPU socket

Note: Proxmox is headquartered in Austria, so all of its pricing is in Euros.

All support subscriptions for Proxmox come with access to the Proxmox VE Enterprise Repository, ensuring continuous software and security enhancements to meet the expected level of technical support. Each subscription plan is tailored to fit one CPU socket for an annual subscription fee, providing access to additional support features offered by the vendor. In general, at higher subscription levels come more support tickets, faster response times, and improved remote support.

Proxmox VE admin panel
Proxmox VE allows administrators to configure backup job details and disk images.

VMware Pricing and Licensing

VMware provides a free 60-day trial of its vSphere software, but after that organizations will have to select one of the paid subscription levels to continue using the software.

Paid licenses provide clients with access to a vast array of essential features for maintaining the stability and reliability of a virtual environment. Businesses can select from one of four bundles: Essential Kit, Essential Plus Kit, Standard, or Enterprise Plus.

Essentials Kit
Standard
Enterprise Plus
Essentials Plus Kit
Cost
$576.96
$1,394
$4,780
$5,596
Type
Perpetual license with one year support
One-year term
One-year term
Perpetual license with one year support

Note: VMware vSphere Standard and Enterprise Plus licenses are per CPU, but starting in 2020, they only cover up to 32 cores. If a processor has more cores, additional licenses need to be purchased to ensure proper coverage.

Each bundle offers a variety of features and support tiers that are tailored to meet the requirements of various types of businesses, from small to large enterprises.

vsphere sys config
Administrators can navigate the vSphere client and inspect system configurations for nodes.

Read more: Best Server Security Tools & Software for 2022

Operating Systems Support

Winner: Proxmox

Both VMware and Proxmox are broadly accessible to a large number of operating systems based on Linux, Windows, macOS, BSD, and more. Overall Proxmox’s KVM base gives it a slight edge here, but most organizations won’t have any trouble using either for all but the most specialized use cases.

Proxmox Operating System Support

Proxmox VE boasts extensive operating system support, thanks to its use of KVM in the background, which supports all operating systems that KVM supports for VMs. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of many of the most common:

  • Multiple Linux distributions, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Fedora, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, openSUSE, Gentoo, Arch Linux, and more.
  • BSD operating systems such as FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and DragonflyBSD.
  • Solaris-like operating systems, including Solaris, OpenSolaris, OpenIndiana, and Nexenta Core.
  • Most Windows versions, beginning with Windows 95 up through Windows 11.
  • macOS.
  • Android.

Currently iOS is not officially supported, though of course third parties have used the open source code to find ways around that.

VMware Operating Systems Support

ESXi, VMware’s bare-metal hypervisor, is compatible with all operating systems that can run on a VM, allowing organizations to choose the operating system with flexibility. VMware supports Windows, Ubuntu, Debian, macOS, CentOS, Red Hat, and Oracle as operating systems, among others.

However, it’s worth noting that VMware discontinues support for legacy systems of ESXi, which may require clients to update or renew their vSphere license to continue receiving support. For more information on the OS support offered by VMware vSphere, please refer to the VMware Compatibility Guide.

Performance 

Winner: VMware

In terms of performance, VMware vSphere has an edge over Proxmox. Proxmox is suitable for most virtualization tasks and is adequate for casual virtualization technicians. However, VMware’s enterprise virtualization platform provides exceptional performance.

Proxmox
VMware
Physical Memory (Max)
12TB
24TB
Hosts per Cluster (Max)
32
96

VMs per host
No limit
1024
Virtual disk size (Max)

No limit
62TB
vCPUs (Max)
768 CPUs
768 CPUs

Unlike Proxmox, vSphere offers various performance tiers based on licensing and memory that every host uses. These tiers provide clients with computing power up to twice as high as that offered by Proxmox. With vSphere 8, you can have as many as 96 hosts in a cluster.

Read more: Top Server Backup Software & Solutions 2022

Features 

Winner: VMware

Proxmox is a robust open-source solution that boasts an impressive array of features. However, when compared to VMware’s offerings for its enterprise clients, it falls short. One of the most prominent discrepancies in functionality between the two solutions is VMware’s built-in support for Kubernetes, which is available through its Tanzu container orchestration service.

Proxmox VE Features

Proxmox VE boasts an impressive range of features that make it a highly capable open-source solution for virtualization. These features include:

  • Built-in support for running containers, allowing for greater flexibility and efficiency in managing workloads.
  • Compatibility with a wide range of hardware, ensuring that Proxmox can work seamlessly with a variety of systems.
  • Supports different guest operating systems, like Linux, Windows, and other KVM/Qemu-supported systems.
  • Supports different network storage options, including iSCSI, LVM, GlusterFS, CIFS, ZFS, and CephFS. The built-in ZFS support is particularly noteworthy, as it sets Proxmox apart from other hypervisors.
  • Built-in firewall capabilities for out-of-the-box security, enabling administrators to easily control traffic.
  • A fully featured web interface that simplifies management tasks, making it easier to monitor and manage the virtual environment.
  • Availability of both CLI and API for more advanced management tasks, allowing administrators to fine-tune the virtual environment as needed.
  • Support for live migration of VMs, containers, and storage, providing greater flexibility in managing workloads.
  • Support for HA clusters without any master node.
  • Support for snapshots, VM templates, cloning, export/import, and replication, streamlining the management of VMs.
  • Support for hardware passthrough, including GPU and USB passthrough, which is particularly useful for running resource-intensive applications.
  • Built-in options for scheduling backup jobs, with the option to integrate the Proxmox Backup Server for more efficient backups.
  • Proxmox VE is available under the open-source AGPL v3 license, allowing users to use and customize all features for free.

VMware vSphere Features

VMware vSphere is a virtualization solution that offers several advanced features to meet the needs of enterprise-level clients. Some of its features include:

  • Advanced security features, including built-in encryption, role-based access control, auditing, and extensive logging.
  • Reliable and scalable, vSphere is widely used in enterprise environments.
  • HTML5-based web interface for the management of standalone ESXi hosts, and central management can be done with vCenter Server (available with a paid license).
  • Scripting and PowerCLI for automating various aspects of vSphere management like VMs and OS, network, storage, and more.
  • Enterprise-level training and certification programs.
  • Supports different guest operating systems, including Unix, Linux, and macOS.

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Bottom Line: Choosing Proxmox vs. VMware

Choosing between Proxmox and VMware depends on the specific needs and requirements of your organization. Both virtualization platforms offer a comprehensive set of features and benefits that cater to different customers and use cases. 

Proxmox is an open-source virtualization platform that provides organizations with a flexible and cost-effective virtualization solution. It is ideal for SMBs, educational institutions, and service providers. Organizations seeking a scalable and efficient virtualization solution will find Proxmox to be an excellent option due to its support for containers and clustering.

VMware vSphere, on the other hand, is a comprehensive virtualization solution that offers a robust and dependable virtualization platform to businesses. It is ideally suited for large businesses, service providers, and data centers that require a scalable and effective virtualization solution. VMware vSphere’s features, such as vMotion, HA, and DRS, provide businesses with constant uptime and data protection, making it an ideal choice for organizations with complex IT environments.

Ultimately, the best choice for your organization will come down to your own specific needs and available resources.

Explore more virtualization options in our rundown of the best server virtualization software on the market.

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