The Best VMware ESXi Alternative


The Best VMware ESXi Alternative

Table of Contents

Virtualization remains a cornerstone for businesses aiming to maximize their hardware resources efficiently. The concept of transforming one physical server into several virtual ones has revolutionized how we approach IT infrastructure.

At the heart of this transformation has been VMware ESXi, a pivotal tool enabling businesses to host multiple virtual servers on a single physical machine. For many of us, extracting maximum value from our hardware while simplifying management is a fundamental goal. VMware ESXi, facilitates this by allowing a variety of applications and services to coexist on a single server.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) existed in a free version, alongside a more feature-rich counterpart with an applied vSphere license, ESXi (previously named ESX). With Broadcom discontinuing the free ESXi vSphere Hypervisor (on 14-February-2024), businesses are now faced with the challenge of seeking alternatives to continue benefiting from license-free virtualization technologies.

This exploration is precisely what we aim to delve into in this article.

Why Consider Alternatives to VMware ESXi?

Well, the main reason you’d want to look into an ESXi alternative is the simple fact that it has no longer a free version.

In a recent article published on the VMware Knowledge Base (May 2024 Update: the article has been taken out, we removed the hyperlink), Broadcom declared the move to end the free version of VMware’s ESXi hypervisor with no “equivalent replacement product available”.

It’s undoubtedly big news for businesses that rely on this tool for virtualization.

Historically, the free ESXi version enabled smaller businesses and hobbyists to deploy and manage virtual machines for free. Especially in the early stages, this tool served as a critical learning and testing resource.
This change also goes to show that Broadcom is changing its strategy to pull in more profits. It’s shifting the focus towards larger customers who can afford the subscription-based models.

It’s a no-brainer that they’re deliberately trying to alienate smaller businesses and individual users. The move will inevitably lead to increased interest and adoption of ESXi alternatives, both open-source and commercial.

Key Features to Look for in an ESXi Alternative

So, if you’re in the market for the best ESXi alternative, what do you need to look for? Of course, it’s the features that will determine how successful or unsuccessful you are with the approach. Let us help you outline the basics before you go out into the market.


One of the primary reasons to consider alternatives is the cost associated with VMware ESXi, especially as businesses scale. Alternatives like Microsoft Hyper-V and Proxmox VE offer significant cost savings, which can be crucial for growing businesses. Hyper-V, for example, is included with Windows Server at no extra cost, providing a more budget-friendly solution with strong support for Windows workloads.

Flexibility and Scalability

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and solutions like Kubernetes are gaining traction for their scalability and flexibility. Businesses moving towards digital transformation find the “pay for what you use” model and the ability to scale services on-demand without substantial upfront capital expenditure appealing. This is a stark contrast to the traditional CapEx model associated with on-premises solutions like VMware ESXi.

Open Source and Community Support

Open-source platforms like KVM (part of Linux) and Proxmox VE offer robust community support, avoiding vendor lock-in and providing more control over your virtualization environment. These platforms come with the flexibility of customization and often include enterprise-grade features without the high cost.

Advanced Features and Security

Alternatives are not lacking in features either. For instance, Citrix Hypervisor focuses on high performance for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and Nutanix AHV offers a simplified approach to managing VMs and containers with high availability and performance optimization. These alternatives also focus on security, with features like live migration, high availability, and in the case of Hyper-V, shielded VMs for protection against unauthorized access.

Ease of Use and Management

Solutions like Oracle VirtualBox and Red Hat Virtualization offer simplicity in setup and management, which can be a significant advantage for businesses without large IT departments. They provide user-friendly interfaces and are geared towards facilitating a smooth transition from VMware, or for businesses setting up their virtualization infrastructure for the first time.

Top VMware ESXi Alternatives

So, what are the best VMware Hypervisor alternatives? Thanks to our industry experience, we’ve gathered some of the best alternatives for you to try in 2024.

Proxmox VE (Virtual Environment)

Proxmox VE is by far the best alternative to VMware ESXi in our opinion. It’s a great choice if you’re in the market for open-source solutions. It merges the capabilities of virtual machines and containers to offer a comprehensive yet straightforward management interface. Proxmox VE can import VMDK and OVF files which makes it easy for the migration.

Proxmox VE supports both KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) for VMs and LXC (Linux Containers) for containers which makes sure you get both versatility and efficiency in resource utilization. Proxmox VE is a Type-1 hypervisor.

Proxmox VE’s cluster functionalities allow for easy management of multiple servers from a single interface leading to better scalability. Its built-in backup and restore, alongside high availability features, make it an appealing choice for businesses seeking cost-effective virtualization solutions after the free version of VMware is discontinued.

Clusters on Proxmox are based on quorum votes and the cluster can be managed from any node, while on ESX the cluster managed by vCenter. The big advantage is that Proxmox VE clusters do not require an extra appliance for the cluster and its management

KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine)

If Proxmox is not tickling your fantasy, you might want to check out KVM. It transforms Linux into a type-1 (bare-metal) hypervisor that allows businesses to run multiple but isolated virtual environments! 

As it’s a part of the Linux kernel, KVM benefits from Linux’s performance, security, and stability. You’d be glad to know that it supports a wide range of guest operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. This feature makes it a flexible choice for IT environments that require diversity and adaptability. Last but not least, its open-source nature ensures cost-effectiveness and avoids vendor lock-in.

Microsoft Hyper-V

Microsoft Hyper-V is yet another solid alternative for businesses that do everything in the Windows ecosystem. Available on pretty much all Windows versions (Server, Windows 10, Windows 11 Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions), Hyper-V makes it easy to get started with virtualization for free.

Despite being free, the tool provides strong performance and integrates seamlessly with existing Windows-based infrastructure. Hyper-V’s ability to manage virtual networks and storage, alongside features like live migration and replica, offers a secure and scalable environment for enterprise virtualization needs. 

One of the best features is its graphical management tools and PowerShell integration. It makes Hyper-V accessible for both novices and experienced IT professionals.

Citrix Hypervisor (formerly XenServer)

Citrix Hypervisor is known for its strong focus on virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and application virtualization. Its services are targeted especially to businesses that prioritize these aspects. 

It offers a high degree of compatibility with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, making it an optimal choice for delivering a high-quality user experience in virtualized environments. 

Citrix Hypervisor also supports a broad range of guest operating systems and features live migration, dynamic memory control, and high availability. All of these lead to operational continuity and efficiency for your business. 

Its scalability and performance in handling graphics-intensive applications make it particularly suited for organizations with demanding graphical workloads.

Oracle VM

Oracle VM is as a go-to choice if you enterprise is deeply embedded in the Oracle ecosystem. Its a Xen-based type 1 hypervisor that excels in running Oracle applications, offering a seamless, optimized environment for both Linux and Windows guests.

Oracle VM is distinguished by its robust management tools, including Oracle VM Manager, which is a central systems destined for automation, orchestration, deployment and monitoring of virtual environments. The platform’s commitment to security and scalability makes it a reliable foundation for demanding enterprise workloads.

Moreover, Oracle VM’s strategy of offering the software for free, while providing the option for paid support, presents a flexible model.

XCP-ng (Xen Cloud Platform - New Generation)

XCP-ng is another open-source alternative to ESXi free, particularly if you are seeking a robust type 1 hypervisor without the constraints of commercial licensing. Born from the heritage of XenServer, XCP-ng is community driven.

At its core, XCP-ng relies on the Xen type 1 hypervisor technology, ensuring direct interaction with the hardware for superior performance and efficiency. This bare-metal hypervisor approach facilitates a wide range of virtualization needs, from simple applications to complex, multi-server environments.

While XCP-ng offers a solid management interface, if you are used to polished or comprehensive GUI-based management tools, you might find XCP-ng’s tools to be less intuitive or lacking in certain functionalities.

With features like live migration, high availability, and extensive hardware compatibility, XCP-ng is designed to meet the demands of many IT environments, offering a viable, cost-effective alternative. XCP-ng can be downloaded and used for free, while paid support options are available.

Comparative table

In this table, we have outlined some of the differences in the 4 alternatives of the VMware ESXi hypervisor

Feature / Alternative Proxmox VE KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) Microsoft Hyper-V Citrix Hypervisor (formerly XenServer) Oracle VM XCP-ng
Type Open-source Open-source (part of Linux kernel) Included with Windows Commercial (with a focus on VDI) Free (with paid support available) Open-source
Core Technology KVM for VMs, LXC for containers Bare-metal hypervisor Windows-based hypervisor Xen-based hypervisor Xen-based hypervisor Xen-based hypervisor
Key Features – Cluster functionalities
– Built-in backup and restore
– High availability
– Live/Online migration
– Linux networking stack, SDN
– Supports a wide range of guest OS
– Benefits from Linux’s
performance and security – Live/Online migration (with QEMU/KVM)
– Linux networking stack, SDN
– Graphical management tools
– PowerShell integration
– Live migration and replica
– Live/Online migration
– Strong VDI focus
– Live migration
– Dynamic memory control
– High availability
– Live/Online migration
– Optimized for Oracle products
– Comprehensive management with Oracle VM Manager
– Live migration
– Scalable up to 128 vCPUs per VM
– Community-driven
– High compatibility with XenServer
– Live migration
– High availability
– Open-source with commercial support options
Scalability High, easy management of multiple servers High, leverages Linux scalability High, integrates with Windows ecosystem High, especially for graphical workloads High, especially for Oracle environments High, with a focus on community support
Resource Efficiency High, supports containers for efficient utilization High, leverages Linux efficiency Good, depending on Windows infrastructure Good, optimized for VDI environments Good, optimized for running Oracle software High, inherits Xen’s efficiency
Compatibility Broad, including Windows, Linux, and more Broad, including Windows, Linux, macOS Specific to Windows environments Broad, with a focus on Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Optimized for Oracle products, but supports a broad range of OS Broad, high compatibility with XenServer environments
Ease of Use Comprehensive management interface Requires Linux knowledge User-friendly, especially for Windows users Tailored for VDI and application virtualization Integrated management with Oracle VM Manager User-friendly, with a focus on community support
Cost-effectiveness High, open-source and free High, open-source and part of Linux Free with Windows Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions Commercial, focused on enterprise solutions Free software with optional paid support Open-source with optional commercial support

How to Choose the Right ESXi Alternative for You

Well, choosing the right ESXi alternative is only possible when you understand the unique needs and how different virtualization solutions can meet them. Here’s a concise guide to making an informed decision.

  • Evaluate Compatibility: Before anything else, you must ensure that the alternative supports the operating systems and applications you plan to run. Compatibility with your existing hardware and software ecosystem minimizes disruptions during the transition.
  • Assess Features and Capabilities: Look for solutions offering the virtualization features you most need, such as live migration, high availability, and backup functionalities. Especially if you’re managing resource-intensive applications, don’t forget to look into the product’s resource efficiency.
  • Consider Scalability: Your chosen platform should grow with your business. It should be easy to add or reassign resources and manage an increasing number of virtual machines or containers.
  • Review Management and Usability: A user-friendly management interface simplifies administration tasks and reduces the learning curve for your team. If you need to train your employees, you should know that in advance.
  • Analyze Cost: You should understand the total cost of ownership of the ESXi alternative, including initial licensing, subscriptions, and any needed support services. Open-source solutions may offer cost advantages but evaluate if they meet your needs compared to paid alternatives.
  • Investigate Security Features: When choosing an alternative to ESXi,  you should look for features like secure boot, role-based access control, and network isolation capabilities.
  • Community and Vendor Support: Strong community support can be invaluable, especially for open-source solutions. Look for active forums, documentation, and third-party tools that integrate with the platform.

Transitioning from VMware ESXi to an Alternative

Transitioning from VMware ESXi to an alternative requires a structured approach to ensure a smooth shift. Here’s how our experts would recommend you to handle the transition.

  • Start with Research: Thoroughly investigate the available alternatives, focusing on compatibility, features, and community support. Make a shortlist based on your specific needs.
  • Test the Waters: Before committing, set up a test environment. This allows you to explore the new platform’s capabilities and identify any potential issues without risking your production environment. Most vendors offer a free trial so this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Plan the Migration: You should develop a detailed migration plan that includes data backup, application inventory, and network configurations. Also, ensure you have a rollback plan in case things don’t go as expected.
  • Train Your Team: Familiarize your IT staff with the new platform. Utilize available resources like online tutorials, documentation, and community forums for training purposes.
  • Execute Migration: Migrate workloads according to your plan. Start with less critical applications to gain confidence and iron out any issues before moving on to more critical ones.
  • Monitor and Optimize: After migration, monitor the new environment closely. Look for performance bottlenecks or configuration issues and adjust as necessary to optimize performance.

How Can Exeo Help You with an ESXi Alternative

Exeo, with its expertise as a managed services provider, can help businesses transition from VMware to Proxmox VE seamlessly. Along with many other cybersecurity and cloud services, we offer managed Proxmox VE services and advisory!
We want to make sure that our clients can leverage the full potential of Proxmox’s virtualization environment without the steep learning curve. Here’s how Exeo can make the transition smoother:

  • Customized Migration Strategy: We’ll assess your current VMware setup and develop a tailored migration plan that minimizes downtime and ensures data integrity.
  • Expert Implementation: With seasoned professionals, Exeo oversees the entire migration process, from initial setup and configuration to the final switchover. We’ll try our best to keep the download at the minimum.
  • Training and Support: Exeo doesn’t just leave you to figure things out post-migration. We provide comprehensive training for your IT team on Proxmox to empower them to manage the new environment effectively.
  • Optimization and Scalability: Beyond migration, Exeo offers consultancy services to optimize your Proxmox environment for peak performance and scalability.


VMware ESXi was the go-to for free virtualization for a long time. But things have changed. It’s time to accept this and look ahead. We’ve put together a list of the best ESXi alternatives. With this guide, you can find the option that suits your needs, and remember, we’re here to support you every step of the way.


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