What Is VMware ESX Server And Why You Need It

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If you've ever been inside a server room of a major corporation, a large business, or a university, you know that it can be an intimidating place.

The server room is almost always extremely warm, and filled from wall to wall with expensive and space-consuming server racks.

Add to that the fact that these rooms are usually secured like bank vaults, and you have the makings of a truly interesting experience.

What is interesting about most server rooms is that each of the machines in the room is probably not being used to its fullest capacity. Even high-bandwidth servers rarely have to use a large percentage of their CPU or RAM at any given time.

This can be quite an inefficient use of resources (after all, you are powering the thing, whether it is being used or not, right?), which can cost you money. However, there is a solution to this issue.


The All - In - One Virtualized Dream Machine

With virtualization software, a single physical server can run several virtual machines simultaneously. Each of these machines believes it is running on its own dedicated hardware, as if it were separate from all the other machines.

But you probably know all that, right? You don't need a crash course on virtualization. You need an enterprise-level virtualization tool that can turn your money and space-consuming datacenter into an efficient, all-in-one virtualized dream machine.

What you need is VMware ESX Server.

But what exactly is ESX Server? How is it different from other virtualization software out there?

Well for starters, ESX Server is, as mentioned above, an enterprise level virtualization tool. It utilizes services that manage numerous virtual machines with greater reliability and efficiency than VMware's more basic Server product.

The reason for this is because ESX Server runs on "bare-metal." This essentially means that you install the ESX Server software directly into the computer, without an operating system for it to run on top of. This is illustrated in the diagram below:


VMware ESX Server
This system is managed by the VMkernel, which is based on the Linux kernel. This microkernel saves resources by eliminating the overhead of running an underlying operating system beneath the virtual machines.

The product then divides up the resources from the physical hardware and simulates multiple copies of virtual hardware for the virtual machines to use.

It even has the capability to over-commit memory, meaning the total memory of the virtual machines can safely exceed the actual physical memory of the server. This can make for increased overall memory utilization in your servers.

This is all managed by the service console, which serves as the management software for ESX Server and its "operating system."

Inside the VMware ESX Server

What VMware ESX Server Can Do For You

ESX Server is meant to be used by companies that need to streamline their server hardware as much as possible. It can also be used to perform almost instant deployment of new servers and perform maintenance on existing in-use servers without the need for downtime.

Another interesting use of ESX Server is for disaster recovery. Since ESX Server is hardware independent, the applications (and operating systems) that run on it are instantly portable.

The necessarily uniform nature of the server's hardware and ESX Server's virtual specs make deploying, maintaining, and remotely managing virtual machines extremely easy.

All of these amazing features don't come cheap. VMware ESX Server is meant to be an enterprise-level product, and it comes with an enterprise-level price tag. Add to this the fact that it requires a pretty beefy server to run at its best.

In fact, ESX Server requires special CPU hardware from Intel or AMD to run the required processor instructions efficiently. Also, you will need some kind of persistent storage solution to store all of the information on the virtual machines and their virtual hard disks.

Of course these are minor inconveniences when considering how much the cost of buying and deploying the same number of physical servers as you would use by virtualizing.

Now you can consolidate your servers and run more efficiently. Turn that server room from intimidating to just timid. With ESX Server, you really can't go wrong.

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David Davis

David Davis has authored over 50 courses for Pluralsight around enterprise data center technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and (especially) VMware vSphere. He is a partner at ActualTechMedia.com where he creates compelling enterprise technology content, moderates online events, and helps to connect some of the best-known technology companies in the industry with the end user community. With over 20 years in enterprise technology, he has served as an IT Manager, administrator, and instructor. David is an 11x VMWare vExpert, VCP, VCAP, & CCIE# 9369.