5 ways to leverage the free VMware hypervisor Key tips for working around the VMware cost barrier

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1 5 ways to leverage the free VMware Key tips for working around the VMware cost barrier

2 While a free VMware virtualization setup only provides a limited list of features and functionalities, the shortcomings may be worth the cost-savings it delivers for organizations operating on a tight IT budget. So, what complimentary products and services does VMware offer and how can you get the most from them? Inside this exclusive guide, explore essential insights on the available for unlimited business use and discover expert tips for leveraging them to build a viable virtualization infrastructure for your IT environment. Inside VMware's free A VMware enterprise-grade Tier-1 has been free since 2008, debuting as Free ESXi 3.5. Today, the free VMware is called vsphere and includes: Graphical management interface with the vsphere client; Memory over commitment and memory management techniques like memory ballooning, transparent page sharing, compression and swapping; The VMware VMFS file system; Thin provisioning of virtual machine disks; Snapshot and restore capabilities; Hardened device drivers that are VMware-certified and tested for reliability and performance; Virtual guest OS support with Microsoft OS (18 versions), Linux (54 versions), Mac OS X 10, Solaris and FreeBSD; Virtual networking; and Support for Fibre channel, iscsi and NFS shared storage. Page 1 of 6

3 VMware limits its free platform to a maximum of 8 virtual CPUs per virtual machine (VM) and 32GB physical RAM per server. Although you can run as many VMs as needed, the RAM limitation will keep you to about 10 to 12 VMs per host, depending on each VM's actual memory utilization. Enterprise-grade virtualization features commonly associated with vsphere -- vmotion and Storage vmotion, High Availability, Distributed Resource Scheduler and vsphere Data Protection -- are noticeably absent from the free. Without centralized management, it is difficult to maintain a high number of vsphere hosts at once. You can't solve this problem by purchasing vcenter; it won't work with the free version of vsphere ESXi. Third-party can help to build a more complete virtual infrastructure, keeping the $0 price tag. At minimum, a viable virtualization setup needs the, reporting to get a consolidated view of operations, performance and capacity monitoring, and an application for backup and recovery. So you have a VMware virtual infrastructure on the free vsphere platform. How many hosts do you have? How many VMs do you have? What is their configuration? Normally all of this would be found in vcenter, which you cannot use with the free VMware. However, beyond vcenter, there are some free vsphere reporting that can help. With vcenter and other expensive reporting ruled out, you likely will not have a consolidated view into the infrastructure. Try exporting data to keep more detailed tabs on the environment. RV Tools from Robware.net produces reports on vsphere hosts for free. The report data are organized into a spreadsheet with multiple tabs, each representing a different area of the virtual infrastructure. Those data are Page 2 of 6

4 easily exported to Excel. Repeat the process for multiple vsphere hosts, then consolidate the information in Excel and you'll have a complete, free virtual infrastructure inventory. Veeam One Free is a reporting and performance/capacity tool. The free edition only keeps 24 hours of performance data and does not offer capacity management. Free ESXi monitoring No With some basic vsphere reporting information coming in, it's time to determine if your free VMware virtualization infrastructure has adequate performance and capacity for the future. The VMware vsphere client can provide basic host and VM utilization information, but free third-party ESXi monitoring can help. Veeam One serves a reporting and performance monitoring function, or you can implement Dell Foglight for Virtualization Free (previously known as vkernel vops Server Explorer). Foglight provides information about your virtual infrastructure inventory, storage, virtual infrastructure changes and snapshots, with a search and reporting functionality under SearchMyVM. The free VMware PowerCLI command line interface for PowerShell commands, with the VMware Community Power Pack and the free PowerGUI tool, also delivers reporting and configuration options. PowerShell scripts can do just about anything on vsphere, and it's always totally free. Backup and recovery are always a crucial component of a data center, no matter the production virtual infrastructure's cost. With the free edition of vsphere, VMware blocks the VMware API for Data Protection (VADP), which Page 3 of 6

5 most backup solutions use. However, there are some free VM backup that use the older, pre-vadp transport method. It may be slower than a VADP-based product, but it will still work. Consider Veeam Backup and Replication Free Edition, which works with the free VMware. Veeam's free edition backs up VMs with the old filebased secure-copies (SCP) transfer method, and backups are crashconsistent. Without the VADP, Veeam Backup Free cannot use the same technology as its commercial edition, meaning you'll miss out on scheduled backup, incremental backups and replication. Trilead VM Explorer (VMX) also can back up the free vsphere, again without VADP support. Don't expect to be able to snapshot VMs or use Changed Block Tracking to reduce the backup burden on your systems. This means VM backups must be crash-consistent and you'll need to make time for full backups without the convenience of a scheduler. Thinware.net's vbackup has the same VADP-shutout limitations, but is a useful backup tool in its own right because it offers snapshot functionality. For vbackup, the company wrote their own snapshot functionality to work with vsphere. They can take snapshots of virtual machines for backup purposes, achieving zero-downtime backups. For a totally free backup product, snapshot functionality is a unique capability. While I would hate to give up image-level virtualization-style backups, perhaps the best way to perform scheduled backups in a zero-cost VMware environment would be to use native OS such as Windows Server Backup. Are the free VMware and supporting worth the limitations? If you want advanced virtualization features, you can buy the vsphere Essentials Plus Kit -- a low-cost option -- to unlock vmotion, HA, and Page 4 of 6

6 centralized management with vcenter. With vcenter and the ability to exploit VADP, you can still keep costs down by choosing from numerous free at their full functionality, such as Veeam Backup or free VMturbo Community Edition and others. Still, low-cost virtualization isn't, and the money isn't always available. Perhaps a remote location needs to virtualize some servers and company executives won't authorize any expenditures to do it. The free vsphere is a powerful Type-1 with strong memory management techniques and easy deployment. If you compare vsphere to the vsphere Essentials kit, you could save $560. Consider that the Essentials kit just supports up to three servers and two sockets for each kit. If you compare the free to vsphere Enterprise Plus at $3495 per socket and vcenter Server Standard at $4995, you could save more than $25,965 just on the initial software purchase. This calculation doesn't include the yearly service and support subscription. While the small investment in vsphere Essentials is likely to pay off for many small or medium-sized businesses, building a completely free vsphere infrastructure is possible. And you can start with free and plan to invest more once virtualization is established, to take advantage of full backup functionality and numerous additional features. Page 5 of 6

7 Free resources for technology professionals TechTarget publishes targeted technology media that address your need for information and resources for researching products, developing strategy and making cost-effective purchase decisions. Our network of technology-specific Web sites gives you access to industry experts, independent content and analysis and the Web s largest library of vendor-provided white papers, webcasts, podcasts, videos, virtual trade shows, research reports and more drawing on the rich R&D resources of technology providers to address market trends, challenges and solutions. Our live events and virtual seminars give you access to vendor neutral, expert commentary and advice on the issues and challenges you face daily. Our social community IT Knowledge Exchange allows you to share real world information in real time with peers and experts. What makes TechTarget unique? TechTarget is squarely focused on the enterprise IT space. Our team of editors and network of industry experts provide the richest, most relevant content to IT professionals and management. We leverage the immediacy of the Web, the networking and face-to-face opportunities of events and virtual events, and the ability to interact with peers all to create compelling and actionable information for enterprise IT professionals across all industries and markets. Related TechTarget Websites Page 6 of 6

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