When you decide to start using VMware vSphere to run virtual machines on ESXi hosts in your environment, you need to define which license to buy and understand how to apply the ESXi license. VMware provides different editions of vSphere and vCenter for customers who deploy VMware vSphere to run VMs and build virtual environments. This blog post covers the principles of VMware ESXi licensing and explains how to install VMware licenses.
There are two main VMware licenses in VMware vSphere: vSphere licenses for ESXi hosts and licenses for vCenter Server. If you use standalone ESXi hosts, buy the needed VMware vSphere license and install it on each ESXi host. If you have multiple ESXi hosts, it is better to manage them centrally. In this case, I recommend that you install vCenter Server.
VMware vCenter Server allows you to manage ESXi hosts, create data centers that are logical structures to group ESXi hosts, create clusters, migrate virtual machines between hosts, and so on. VMware vCenter requires a separate vCenter Server license installed on your vCenter Server. A version of your vCenter Server must at least match or be higher than the highest version of an ESXi host running in your environment that you want to manage by vCenter. Older versions of vCenter Server cannot manage newer versions of ESXi. For example, you can install vCenter 7.0 to manage hosts running ESXi 6.7 and ESXi 7.0, but you cannot install vCenter Server 6.0 to manage hosts running ESXi 6.5.
After installing ESXi and vCenter, the 60-day evaluation starts for each product. The set of features available for the evaluation period is the same as that available in the highest edition of VMware vSphere for ESXi hosts and vCenter Server accordingly. Thus, the full set of all possible features is available for 60 days. It is recommended that you install a license until the evaluation period expires.
If you install a license, the countdown of the evaluation period is not terminated. You can switch the license back to the Evaluation license after installing a paid license within 60 days after product installation. For example, if you assign a license 10 days after the evaluation passes, you use the paid license for 20 days and the you can switch back to the Evaluation license. In this case, only 30 days of the Evaluation license are remaining (not 50). Temporary switching to the Evaluation license makes sense if your license (edition) for vSphere is lower than vSphere Enterprise Plus. When the evaluation period expires, you can use only a paid license.
vSphere Essential Kits are all-in-one solutions for small virtual environments that provide a license for 6 processors and 1 vCenter instance (vCenter Server for Essentials). There are two editions: vSphere Essentials Kit and vSphere Essentials Plus Kit. VMware Essential Kits are good for small organizations.
You can always pay for a higher edition of VMware vSphere. In this case, you have to deactivate the old license key and apply the new one. If you upgrade the ESXi version that starts with the same number, you can continue to use the assigned license. For example, if you upgrade ESXi 6.0 to ESXi 6.5 or ESXi 6.5 to ESXi 6.7, you can use your existing vSphere license with all provided features. If you upgrade a major ESXi version to a higher version that starts with a different number, the ESXi host starts a new 60-day evaluation period. For example, if you upgrade ESXi 6.7 to ESXi 7.0, your existing vSphere 6 license will not work on ESXi 7.0, and you have to assign a new vSphere license for this ESXi host. License keys for vSphere 5.x, 6.x, and 7.x are different.
In the navigation pane, click Manage and go to the Licensing tab. Information about the current license is displayed on this page. On the following screenshot, see information about the 60-day Evaluation license used after installing ESXi. The key for the Evaluation license is 00000-00000-00000-00000-00000. The expiration date and the set of available features for the current license are displayed.
The Assign license window opens in the web interface. Enter your license key and click Check license to check whether the license key is valid. If the license key is valid, the green icon is displayed, and the Check license button transforms into the Assign license button. Click Assign license to apply this license for this ESXi host.
Now you can see updated information about your new license for the ESXi host in the Licensing tab. On the following screenshot, you can see that the VMware vSphere 7 Standard license is assigned on this ESXi 7 host, and the appropriate list of supported features is listed for this license. Now the ESXi host is licensed for an unlimited time.
Click the Configuration tab to check information about the current license for the selected ESXi host, including supported features, license name, license key, expiration date, and the number of used CPUs.
The Assign License window opens in the web interface. If you added multiple license keys to vCenter, click Existing licenses and select a license that has unused CPUs. In my example, I will assign a new ESXi license to the vCenter server.
Enter your license key and a license name that is convenient for you, for example, License 6. If the license key is valid, the appropriate notification is displayed in the Assignment Validation section. In my case, I have a green icon and information about the product edition (VMware vSphere 6 Enterprise Plus), expiration date, and CPU capacity. Click the (i) icon to see the list of features that are supported by the current license.
The license you have added is now displayed in the list of existing licenses in VMware vSphere Client. Make sure that the needed license is selected, hit OK to assign this license to the needed ESXi host, save settings, and close this window.
This blog post has covered VMware ESXi licensing for vSphere 6 and vSphere 7. You should buy a license for the needed vSphere edition to license ESXi hosts. The ESXi license is assigned in VMware Host Client for a standalone ESXi host and in VMware vSphere Client for ESXi hosts that are managed by vCenter Server. ESXi hosts are licensed with vSphere licenses on a per-CPU basis. You can re-assign licenses that have been already assigned.
No matter which ESXi license you use, you should back up your virtual machines regularly to protect your data and be ready to recover in case of failure. Use NAKIVO Backup & Replication to back up your virtual machines running in VMware vSphere and ensure that your workloads are recoverable. The product supports all editions of VMware vSphere 7.0 except ESXi hosts using the free ESXi license (VMware vSphere Hypervisor) due to disabled VMware APIs. Download NAKIVO Backup & Replication and install the product on a Windows machine, Linux machine, VMware VM as a virtual appliance, and NAS devices to protect your data.
VMware is providing a free license for their Hypervisor product and you can get one also. All you need to do is create a free account in the Customer Connect portal. The license you will receive is 100% identical to the paid version but with some software limitations. If you already have a free license key for an older version, you can generate a new key for ESXi 7.0.
vSphere 7.0 has been released and as known from previous versions, VMware provides a free version of their Hypervisor ESXi for everyone again. The license key can be created for free at VMware's website. It has no expiration date. The binaries you will receive as "Free Hypervisor" are 100% identical to the paid version but with some software limitations.
I had the same problem with the esxi downloading in both Chrome & Firefox browsers, but once I've opened the vmware site in private/anonymous mode I easily got registered for evaluation and got a license with download links.
vSphere 8.0 has been released and as known from previous versions, VMware provides a free version of their Hypervisor ESXi. The license key can be created for free at VMware's website. It has no expiration date and the binaries you will receive as "Free Hypervisor" are 100% identical to the paid version but with some software limitations.
Adds the ability to make a call that returns multiple times (a call returning a generator). This is also based on the work in rpc-improvements + a bunch of fixes Vish and I worked through to get all the tests to pass so the code is a bit all over the place 2b1af7f3a8