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VMware kills free ESXi stone dead

"Along with the termination of perpetual licensing, Broadcom has also decided to discontinue..."

free esxi killed off

In our latest edition of “VMware by Broadcom” kills off things you love, it has decided to discontinue the free ESXi hypervisor for running virtual machines and a linchpin of home labs globally for years. RIP Free Esxi. 

“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). Regrettably, there is currently no substitute product offered,” Broadcom said in a short note (KB) to customers. 

As well as being widely used by home enthusiasts, the free iteration of the hypervisor (an operating system that lets you run multiple virtual machines on one physical server) is still deployed by many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for example in branch offices who will now have to consider paying up, or swapping to an alternative like XCP-NG.

Broadcom’s move may not have surprised recent observers but still disappointed some: As one noted on X: “It does seem very short-sighted, as this was often a gateway for many using, testing the product.”

The longer-term knock-on consequences could also be felt, as one commentator put it on Reddit: “The home lab being where people get their initial skills in system administration, whatever is commonly run there is what ends up in enterprise environments because it's what your admins are most familiar with. As the homelab community moves to virtualization alternatives, there will be more employable sysadmins for those alternatives, making them more attractive…” 

(Use Proxmox! Quoth one commentor on X as the news landed, to the response from an angry sysadmin: “Once they allow snapshots and thin provisioning over iSCSI - sure! Until then I’m not going to scrap a SAN that costs 12k new and provides me with 200TB of storage…” )

The move comes three weeks after VMware clarified its portfolio rationalisation plans after a posting then deleting a KB about its plans to slash 56 standalone product SKUs, later saying the "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.”

As eG Innovations' Rachel Berry recently noted: "Sphere / ESXi is widely regarded as a gold standard in enterprise hypervisors, rock-solid and reliable – nobody ever got fired for buying ESXi. It’s one of the most widely used hypervisors used to deliver Citrix apps and desktops, with many customers preferring to pay extra rather than rely on the free Citrix Hypervisor (was and now again called XenServer) bundled with Citrix’s VDI offerings.

"Citrix customers running on vSphere are very concerned that the changes will lead to significant cost increases. There has been a lot of analyst discussion around this and evidence that this something businesses are taking extremely seriously:

  • "Broadcom’s VMware acquisition brings surprising consequences — how to prepare ( notes how the vSphere Enterprise+ changes mean that the product is now available only in a bundle with vSAN and vRealize licenses, meaning vSphere customers could see their costs double or triple as a result.
  • "At E2EVC in November 2023, an architect described how they were towards the end of a project to migrate 75k VDI users off ESXi to Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Interestingly, a project instigated by senior management’s reaction to a Broadcom quote for their renewal, quite a while before the recent press and announcements..."

See also: VMware clarifies portfolio rationalisation after deleting a post that shocked customers