An End to ESXi Free and Perpetual Licensing

An End to ESXi Free and Perpetual Licensing

By Carlo Costanzo
Posted in Infrastructure, Virtualization
On February 16, 2024

Recent developments from Broadcom regarding VMware's offerings have sparked significant discussions within our organization and our client base. As we dive deeper into these changes, I thought I would write this blog post to discuss two recent changes that I have been asked about and their potential impacts.

The End of an Era: Discontinuation of ESXi Free

With over a decade of availability, VMware has decided to discontinue the free version of its ESXi hypervisor (versions 7.x and 8.x), marking the end of general availability for this widely used product. This move raises immediate questions about the impact on current users and the broader ecosystem.

Enterprise Customers: Minimal Impact Expected

For most enterprise customers using vSphere licensing, this change is unlikely to cause significant disruption. These organizations typically operate beyond the scope of the free ESXi version, relying on more comprehensive VMware solutions that include vCenter for managing their virtual environments.

However, the discontinuation poses a more considerable challenge for smaller clients and specific use cases. Small businesses or remote offices that have used free ESXi to manage a limited number of virtual machines (VMs) will now face a decision point: transition to a subscription-based license or explore alternative hypervisors.

The Home Lab and Grassroots Impact

Beyond the enterprise, the discontinuation of free ESXi holds significant consequences for IT professionals and enthusiasts who use VMware products in home labs. These users, often driven by a desire to learn and experiment, will now need to find alternatives. I would expect transitions to Proxmox or containerization platforms like Docker and Kubernetes to find their way into homes. This shift could influence future technology choices within professional environments, as personal familiarity and preference can play a role in the corporate decision-making processes.

Moreover, the change is likely to stir discussions in the tech community, potentially leading to negative media attention for VMware. It is essential for VMware clients and partners to stay informed about these developments, as questions and concerns may arise regarding the impact on their own operations.

A Shift to Subscription-Based Core Licensing

In tandem with discontinuing free ESXi, VMware has introduced a new licensing model focused on cores rather than processors and an end to the perpetual licensing model. This subscription-only approach requires a minimum of 16 cores per processor, pushing clients running on older, less capable hardware towards necessary upgrades. While this change may not affect many clients, given the prevalence of modern processors with at least 16 cores, it does signify a broader trend towards subscription models in the software industry.

Navigating the Transition

As we all navigate these changes, it is crucial for clients to consider the implications for their virtualization strategies. For enterprises, the shift may offer an opportunity to reassess and potentially optimize their VMware deployments. Small businesses and individual users, meanwhile, will need to weigh the benefits of transitioning to subscription licenses against the potential advantages of exploring alternative platforms.

For those affected by these developments, the transition period will require careful planning and consideration. As a trusted partner, Gotham is here to support our clients through this evolution, offering insights and guidance to ensure a smooth adjustment to the new landscape.

Hope this helps!


Carlo Costanzo

Carlo Costanzo

I am a seasoned Senior Consultant with over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing complex VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix solutions. Through my writing and contributions, I provide valuable insights into the latest technical advancements.