Slightly confused on what I need...as I am a programmer with some admin background. The company I work for has fairly specific requirements (ie...what type of hardware is or is not allowed, etc...) and I could go ask them however I wanted to get external views on the matter.

First and foremost is the difference between ESX and vSphere, as they seem to be the same solutions with the only differences being one is a hardware solution and the other is a software based solution. Is that accurate? Do they coincide?

The goal is simple, purchase a machine in line with what the company allows from a hardware stance at the lowest cost possible. They mentioned that ESX is approved and vSphere...so could I order a machine without ESX and still make use of virtualization with vSphere? Would that cost me anything?

Wanting 4 - 8 VM's one to host an ASP.NET app, another to act as a DB server (low load), and the others for expansion. I want the simplest route to maintain these systems, as we will not have any dedicated admin person on the projects.

Sorry for what appears as a brain dump...


This is what it sounds like it is boiling down to. Should I get ESX pre-installed by the manufacturer or just go the vSphere route after the fact based on the needed specs above.

2 Answers 2


When you say EXS...I assume you are taking about ESX? If so, then they are different products.

VMWare ESX is the hypervisor which runs the actually virtualization. Think about it this way - ESX is the operating system of the host server.

vSphere is the fancy name for the latest version of VMware...but it's still basically ESX. Prior to vSphere, the product line was VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3...vSphere is the name for version 4.

So in a nutshell, both vSphere and ESX are hypervisors, or what you referred to as a "hardware solution". You don't need "both", because that's like saying you need "both" windows 2003 and windows 2008 :)

If both ESX and vSphere are approved, then you could get either.

Now, to further confuse things...in the VI 3 world, the management system was called Virtual Center - which is a management server for managing multiple ESX hosts. If you only have one host, you don't really need VCenter. In vSphere, it's called vSphere.

My guess from your brain dump is that at your company, they're saying you could provision a hardware server with ESX, but also have vSphere available for management.

  • So I could order a server from HP with nothing specific and then go the vShpere route for virtualization, is that accurate? Oct 5, 2010 at 15:38
  • Yes, in fact you can buy some models with ESXi installed already via USB/SD card - at which point you don't even need any local hard disks at all if you're going to store your VMs on some form of compatible shared storage - that's what we do.
    – Chopper3
    Oct 5, 2010 at 15:55
  • I can't use ESXi...not approved...has to be ESX. Oct 5, 2010 at 16:20
  • Yes, you can get pretty much any certified hardware and then install ESX on it. You don't have to order a special ESX type server. Oct 5, 2010 at 16:49
  • @Aaron: ESX is being discontinued (ESXi only from the next release), so that's a pretty dumb decision from your management.
    – pauska
    Oct 5, 2010 at 16:54

vSphere is a series of products, ESX and ESXi are two of the key products in the set, some products are free, others cost.

You're confused with this hardware vs. software thing, it's all software that needs to be ran on hardware, in fact there's a very specific list of supported hardware that it'll run on (HERE is a link to their hardware compatibility list).

I'd suggest you just buy a server from one of the big vendors like HP, Dell or IBM, make sure it's compatible and get some training - none of this stuff just leaps onto the box without help and planning.

That said you're on the right track, these are great products that can transform a business.

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMware_ESX At the architecture section is where I saw reference to it being a hardware solution...versus a software solution... Oct 5, 2010 at 15:24
  • That doesn't say it's a hardware device at all.
    – Chopper3
    Oct 5, 2010 at 15:54
  • So if I ordered a server and wanted to go the ESX route, I could do that after the fact, all remotely via software? Oct 5, 2010 at 16:19
  • there could be ESX or ESXi preinstalled. you can't switch from ESX to ESXi because they are absolutely different. But they work almost the same way and you probably don't notice any difference in your tasks.
    – disserman
    Oct 5, 2010 at 16:41
  • 1
    HP don't offer ESX preinstalled, while they do for ESXi
    – Chopper3
    Oct 5, 2010 at 16:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .