Now that Citrix is giving away the XenServer hypervisor for free (albeit sans advanced features), is it time for VMware to follow suit by giving away the base edition of VMware ESX as it did with ESXi?
In my open letter to VMware last month, one of my points was that VMware should give away ESX. It is the exact same hypervisor as ESXi with a few minor differences. Architecturally the main difference between the two is that ESX comes with the full service console and ESXi comes with the limited Posix-based BusyBox management console. The full service console that comes with ESX is useful for running scripts and other management functions but is not essential for VM operations and administration.
You can see from the below graphic the different editions of VMware ESX and what features come with each of them.
All of the editions allow you to use ESXi instead of ESX if you choose to do so. Currently the Foundation edition of both ESX and ESXi (which is the base version) includes a vCenter Server agent and support for Update Manager and Consolidated Backup. So why not give a base edition of ESX away for free and not include those components? If someone wants the more advanced features then they can upgrade to the other editions. Or why not take it a step further and include the vCenter agent, Update Manager and Consolidated Backup with the free version?
If VMware gave away ESX and included High Availability, VMware’s free product would be one step ahead of Citrix’s.
So how will VMware make any money if it gives away more of its products for free? First, having the aforementioned add-on features available for free would require anyone that wants to use them to purchase vCenter Server, which is necessary for them to work.
VMware can charge for users that want the vMotion/Storage vMotion and Distrubuted Resource Scheduler and Distributed Power Management features which most enterprises are going to want. It can also charge for vCenter Server which is a must have in all large environments. Additionally, VMware has many more automation and management products that it can sell, not to mention support subscriptions for all of its products.
In the increasing competitive virtualization arena, VMware needs to do more then just have a better product to attract and retain customers. Most companies are concerned about cost, and with other vendors giving away their products VMware needs to do the same thing. Giving away ESX and some basic features will help them to compete and eliminate the cost arguments that other vendors are constantly making when comparing their product to VMware’s.