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February 13, 2024

VMware dumps free ESXi hypervisor

The removal of ESXi is the latest change at VMware after the cloud computing software provider was acquired by Broadcom.

By Greg Noone

VMware’s free ESXi hypervisor service has been discontinued by its owner, Broadcom. The withdrawal of the product, which afforded the user the ability to create and run multiple virtual machines (VMs) on a single computer, is the latest change to be made by the cloud computing software provider since its takeover by Broadcom last year. It follows the announcement by the latter to end VMware’s perpetual licensing model in favour of a subscription service, a decision that has proven controversial among some end users.

“Along with the termination of perpetual licensing, Broadcom has also decided to discontinue the Free ESXi Hypervisor, marking it as EOGA (End of General Availability),” said the curt explanation published by VMware on its website last night. “Regrettably, there is no substitute product offered.”

The VMware logo on its website, appearing underneath a looking glass, used to illustrate a story about ESXi.
VMware’s service model is under scrutiny again after it discontinued its free ESXi hypervisor service, a production testbed favourite. (Photo by IB Photography / Shutterstock)

VMware ESXi decision shocking but not disastrous

The discontinuation of ESXi may prove less of a concern for CIOs than many suspect, Gartner research vice president Michael Warrilow told The Register. “Given all the disruption facing VMware customers right now, many will misinterpret this move,” said Warrilow, given that the service was primarily used as a testbed for later production deployments. Others also pointed out that this was hardly the first time that a free hypervisor product had been discontinued by a major corporation. 

“For those mourning the loss of ESXi Free, a reminder Microsoft killed Hyper-V Server a couple [of] years ago,” wrote Nathan McNulty, a security solutions architect on X (formerly Twitter.) “Azure Stack HCI sales certainly didn’t go up because of it, but it’s hard to tell with numbers that low.”

Others warned that moving to open-source alternatives may be difficult. “After years of VMware, moving to Proxmox took me a couple of abandoned tries,” wrote one commentator on Reddit. “Don’t be afraid of the move, but don’t underestimate the learning curve if you are coming from a deep VM understanding.”

Turmoil among VMware user base

VMware directed users who wished to learn more about the decision to a statement the company published in January explaining the cessation of its perpetual licensing and SaaS services. “VMware Cloud Foundation and VMware vSphere Foundation, available as subscription software only, are now our two new offers,” wrote Rick Walsworth, the firm’s director of product marketing for the cloud infrastructure team. “This portfolio simplification will allow customers to extract more value from their VMware investment, and enable VMware to accelerate delivery of new innovations and ease both deployment and management for customers.”

Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware last year has proven controversial among an outspoken section of end users, who complain that the latter’s move to a subscription service model has led to unsustainable price rises. According to a recent roundtable convened by Constellation Research, while CIOs were not “surprised” by this pivot, at least one participant noted “price hikes of 100%,” while others were planning to gradually rip and replace VMware solutions if conditions did not change. 

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