Proxmox virtual machines (VM) are highly popular with home server aficionados, whereas VMware sits squarely at the front of the enterprise VM market. Both of these tools offer free and paid versions, but with vastly different features and support at that level. This article compares the use cases, license options, performance, and extra features for Proxmox vs. VMware.
Use cases for Proxmox vs. VMware
Proxmox and VMware are often considered equivalents, although Proxmox is open source and VMware is a proprietary enterprise option. They’re both used for cloud computing and server consolidation, but that’s where their use case similarities end.
Proxmox’s free and open source software is widely used for server isolation and software development for businesses of all sizes. It’s also a good choice for homelab builders looking to support their builds.
VMware offers a free product, but the paid licenses give businesses support and software stability for enterprise business apps and works as infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
License options for Proxmox and VMware
Proxmox is a free and open source GNU AGPL V3 software. Anyone can download and use the product free of charge. Proxmox does provide four support tiers, however. These tiers give licensees access to the enterprise repository with automatic periodic updates, the complete feature set, and access to support. The highest licensing tier includes unlimited support tickets with a 2-hour response time during business hours.
VMware offers the vSphere software as a limited free version, and a 60-day free trial download of paid licenses, but subscriptions are required after the trial period is over. There are two paid license options: Standard and Enterprise Plus. You can also add on the Tanzu Add-On to any edition to access the Tanzu for Kubernetes tool set.
Operating systems supported by Proxmox vs. VMware
Proxmox runs on the Debian GNU operating system (OS) for Linux with a customized Linux kernel. It runs kernel-based virtual machines (KVM) for virtualization and Linux containers (LXC) for containerization.
VMware runs on ESXi, the VMware bare-metal hypervisor for vSphere. As a type 1 hypervisor, the OS supports nearly any operating system on a virtualized machine, as long as the VM has the operating power to support it. That said, as a bare-metal hypervisor, installing ESXi requires updates when VMware drops support for older versions.
Proxmox vs. VMware performance
VMWare vSphere will outperform Proxmox in most cases, as it’s built for enterprise-grade computing. Proxmox provides one level of performance, while vSphere tiers computing power based on licensing. vSphere’s RAM per host scales up to twice as high as Proxmox, but licensing information does not make clear what organizations can expect for the operating levels at the Standard license.
- Proxmox offers 12TB RAM and 768 logical CPU per host.
- vSphere 7 gives you up to 24TB and 768vCPUs per Monster VM with 96 hosts per cluster
Extra features for different buying groups
Each organization has different needs, so comparing the major features and performance standards may not be enough. For example, Proxmox offers a full web-supported graphical user interface (GUI) in addition to command line input (CLI), whereas vSphere runs primarily from the terminal with CLI. It’s also possible to automate new node access to storage with Proxmox. vSphere users will need to manually create new nodes.
A major differentiator for many organizations is the inclusion of drop-in Kubernetes support in vSphere. While Proxmox does not have direct Kubernetes tools, it does have extensive forum support for adding Kubernetes containers to Proxmox VMs.
Choosing Proxmox vs. VMware
Whether to purchase Proxmox vs. VMware comes down to money and support. If your organization has the financial resources to purchase and maintain VMware licensing and can manage getting locked in to VMware on your hardware, you may benefit from the increased performance and usability. However, if you’ve got more experience or internal resources than money, your organization may benefit from the flexibility of Proxmox.