I’ve gotten a few questions from customers about VMware going to ESXi as their strategic direction and what this meant to VMware backup in the future.  I promised that I’d post something about this since there seems to be a lot of confusion with regard to VMware’s roadmap and strategic direction with respect to ESX and ESXi.

The core message that VMware has made concerning ESX versus ESXi may be found here (along with a succinct comparison of the two.)  A summary taken directly from this post is

  1. The functionality and performance of VMware ESX and ESXi are the same; the difference between the two hypervisors resides in their packaging architecture and operational management. VMware ESXi is the latest hypervisor architecture from VMware. It has an ultra thin footprint with no reliance on a general-purpose OS, setting a new bar for security and reliability (learn more).
  2. In the future, ESXi’s superior architecture will be the exclusive focus of VMware’s development efforts.
  3. New and existing customers are highly encouraged to deploy ESXi. Many Fortune 100 companies have already standardized on the ESXi platform.

Wikipedia has a section concerning this (although they note that a citation is needed) which reads

The Service Console is a vestigial general purpose operating system most significantly used as the bootstrap for the VMware kernel, vmkernel, and secondarily used as a management interface. Both of these Console Operating System functions are being deprecated as VMware migrates to exclusively the ’embedded’ ESX model, current version being ESXi.

So what does this mean for people who need to choose between ESX and ESXi?  It means you need to choose ESXi unless there’s a reason not to.  What would be a reason not to?  Some feature needed that is not in ESXi.  A good guide to a comparison of ESX versus ESXi in VMware 3.5 and for ESX versus ESXi in VMware 4 was just updated a few months ago by VMware.

There’s also a pretty good very recent article on ESX versus ESXi here in which some of the issues of migration to ESXi are raised from a practical perspective.

So, since this is a backup blog, what are the consequences of this?  Actually, very little.  Ensuring that your vendor has support for the vStorage API set, even if you’re using embedded virtual machine backup or using VCB, will allow you to move into the future knowing that you’ll be able to backup  not just VMware 3.5 and vSphere 4 versions but will also allow you to know that in the future you’ll be covered as well.