As organizations increasingly rely on virtualization and containerization, Proxmox and VMware are two notable selections for deploying virtual machines (VM). Though both vendors offer free options, Proxmox is fully open source and a favorite for home server aficionados. The virtualization pioneer, VMware, sits squarely at the front of the VM industry, offering advanced features and support for enterprise workloads.
This article pits Proxmox vs VMware when it comes to customers, licensing, performance, and additional features. Read on to learn more, compare, and find the right virtualization solution in 2022.
Breakdown: Proxmox vs VMware
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What Is Proxmox Virtual Environment?
The Proxmox Virtual Environment (VE) is a virtual server management platform offering kernel-based virtualization (KVM), Linux Containers (LXC), and software-defined storage. The open-source virtualization solution provides a web-based GUI for centrally managing instances, network and node policies, storage resources, and high availability functionality.
What Is VMware vSphere?
VMware vSphere is the vendor’s flagship virtualization and cloud platform offering industry-leading performance, scalability, flexible APIs, and more to organizations and production environments with hybrid infrastructure. vSphere comes with a user-friendly interface, embedded security, scalability, and support for universal applications.
Customers and Use Cases
Proxmox and VMware get mentioned frequently as top virtualization solutions, but the two vendors speak to different customer groups and use cases. Both offer capabilities designed for cloud computing and server consolidation, but that’s where their use case similarities end.
Proxmox Customers and Use Cases
Considering it’s an open-source virtualization solution, Proxmox offers a handful of enterprise features, in turn making it a popular choice for at-home enthusiasts, startups, and organizations and teams that don’t want to commit to an expensive license.
Proxmox VE is widely used for server isolation and software development for businesses of all sizes, and is a hard-to-beat choice for home-lab builders looking to support their budding on-premises infrastructure.
VMware Customers and Use Cases
Though VMware offers a free version of vSphere, paid licenses do give organizations the support and software stability for enterprise business applications and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) operations.
Beyond just server virtualization, vSphere offers organizations enterprise-native integrations with vSAN for storage and NSX for network virtualization. Use cases extend to cognitive computing, distributed operations, big data, and high-performance computing (HPC). Enterprise organizations down to individual teams can benefit from the vendor’s capabilities.
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Pricing and Licensing
The pricing and licensing options for Proxmox and VMware are perhaps the two vendors’ most significant distinctions. Because Proxmox is an open-source solution, organizations could pay nothing or add on an optional support subscription. Alternatively, vSphere has many options for a range of different-sized companies, but licenses are costly.
Proxmox Pricing and Licensing
Proxmox is free and open-source software under the GNU AGPL license; anyone can download and use the virtualization software free of charge. For organizations looking for additional support and features like access to a customer portal, automatic periodic patching, support tickets, and remote support, Proxmox offers four subscription options: Community, Basic, Standard, and Premium.
All support subscriptions come with access to the Proxmox VE Enterprise Repository to ensure ongoing software and security enhancements and meet the expected level of technical support. Each plan fits one CPU socket for an annual subscription to the vendor’s added support features.
VMware Pricing and Licensing
A limited free version of vSphere software is available, but VMware’s value proposition lies in its paid subscription licenses with extensive feature options. Clients can start a 60-day free trial download of a paid license, after which the possibilities include four bundle types: Essential, Standard, Enterprise Plus, and Essentials Plus.
Each license entitles clients to an annual subscription per CPU socket and a stack of features. vSphere Standard and Enterprise Plus remain two of the most popular plans, with the vendor promoting adding its Operations Management software for increased visibility and control.
Operating Systems Support
For organizations in need of operating system (OS) support flexibility, VMware is the safe choice with near-universal OS support, including Windows, macOS, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Oracle, and Red Hat.
Proxmox Operating System Support
Proxmox VE runs on the Debian GNU operating system for Linux with a customized Linux kernel. Proxmox’s solutions offer virtualization through kernel-based virtual machines (KVM) and containerization through Linux containers (LXC).
VMware Operating Systems Support
As a bare-metal (Type 1) hypervisor, VMware’s ESXi is compatible with all operating systems that a virtual machine can serve. Like other enterprise solutions, VMware drops support for legacy systems of ESXi, meaning clients will have to update or renew their vSphere license.
Between Proxmox and VMware, it’s hard to beat the performance offerings from the enterprise virtualization giant. For casual virtualization technicians, Proxmox more than does the job.
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Whereas Proxmox only offers one tier for performance, vSphere offers clients computing power based on licensing and RAM per host up to twice as high as Proxmox. With vSphere 7’s Monster VM, clients can support as many as 96 hosts in a cluster.
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Proxmox offers an impressive number of features for an open-source solution, but it pales compared to some of the advanced features VMware releases for its global enterprise clients. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in capabilities between the two solutions is VMware’s native support for Kubernetes through its Tanzu container orchestration service.
Proxmox VE Features
- Central management via web-based GUI or CLI with Unix shell or Windows Powershell
- Administrative controls for backups, live migrations, SD-storage, and high availability
- Synchronize configuration files with a database-driven file system (pmxcfs)
- Integrate third-party tools with RESTful API using JSON for primary data format
- Deploy cluster-wide tasks and maintenance with multi-master policies
- Integrated full backups and incremental backups for single-file and live-restores
- Built-in firewalls with controls for macros, security groups, aliases, and IP sets
- Store VM images on local storage like LVM or ZFS, or shared storage like NFS or iSCSI
- Default policy settings for multi-node high availability cluster management
- Bridge networking model allowing up to 4094 bridges per host and supporting IPv6
VMware vSphere Features
- Manage virtual instances across a hybrid infrastructure with HTML 5 vSphere client
- High capacity storage and support for VM-aware, policy-driven, and 4K native storage
- Share data center resources, secure endpoints, and ensure uptime and fault tolerance
- Easy migration and provisioning of hybrid workloads via enhanced vMotion compatibility
- Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) service integration allows for on-premises K8s clusters
- Backups and restoration with REST APIs and vCenter Server Appliance backups
- Hybrid linked mode with an embedded service controller for linking multiple vCenters
- Boot features like single reboots and quick boot, and hot or cold migrations
- Enhance vGPUs and lifecycle management of GPU workloads for the NVIDIA GRID
- Security policies supporting Trusted Platform Module 2.0, virtual TPM, and FIPS 140-2
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Proxmox Server Solutions
Proxmox Server Solutions started in 2005 as an open-source software developer for business continuity solutions. The Vienna, Austria-based company offers three core technologies: Proxmox VE for virtualization, Proxmox Backup Server for backup and restorations, and Proxmox Mail Gateway for email security.
VMware was the first organization to virtualize the x86 architecture commercially. Entering its third decade atop the virtualization industry, the Dell-acquired vendor continues to pioneer software for cloud computing, networking solutions, and application modernization, while partnering with near-universal enterprise and IT organizations.
Choosing Proxmox vs VMware
Proxmox and VMware offer strong virtualization capabilities, but couldn’t be more different concerning licensing and cost, support, and enterprise functionality.
Organizations with the financial resources to invest in and maintain VMware infrastructure will benefit from larger teams’ increased performance and usability. Add in native support for Kubernetes and container orchestration tools, and it’s clear why VMware holds a competitive advantage.
Proxmox, alternatively, is a quality choice for individuals and teams not able or willing to obtain a VMware license. Without the heavy investment, organizations with the right technical staff can take advantage of the flexibility provided by Proxmox’s virtualization platform.