VMware has quite a few editions of vSphere available. The most known are Standard, Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus. Less known are the Essentials and Essentials Plus kit for Retail and Branch Offices, usefull when centralized management is needed. This posting gives an overview of all editions available.
A table showing all vSphere editions including the features available can be downloaded here.
First time users of VMware vSphere
To stimulate the usage of VMware vSphere so called Acceleration Kits are available. These kits offering a limited number of CPU licenses are meant to get started with server virtualization. It’s pricing is attractive and offers more value to the customer tham buying the individual parts. An acceleration kit can only be purchased once.
Test and development , small offices, low budget or no demand for high availability
vSphere Hypervizor can be used here. It is the free edition of the ESXi hypervizor. It does not offer many features. It’s main purpose it to get organizations a feeling about what server virtualization is. vSphere Hypervizor can be used when no requirements on high availablity exists. vMotion, HA, Update Manager and DRS are not available. It cannot be managed using vCenter Server. It does not have the API’s available for image level backups or remote management. For example Novell PlateSpin Migrate cannot be used for P2V to a host running vSphere Hypervizor.
Small standalone offices and retail with maximum 3 hosts and no demand for high availability
vSphere Essentials Kit can be installed on max 3 hosts with 2 CPU’ s each. It offers management using vCenter Essentials. Hosts and VM’s can be updated using Update Manager. However, high availability and vMotion is not available. Also the kit does not include vCenter Server agents. The hosts cannot be managed from a central located vCenter Server Standard. Hyper-V is a better option here as it is free and does have features Live Migration and Host clustering.
Small standalone offices and retail with maximum 3 hosts with demand for high availability
vSphere Essentials Plus Kit offers HA, vMotion and backup software (Data Recovery). It can be installed on max 3 hosts with 2 CPU’s. The hosts cannot be managed from a centralized IT-department but can be using vCenter Essentials.
small branch offices and retail with maximum 3 hosts and no demand for high availability
vSphere Essentials for Retail and Branch Offices best fits for branch offices being part of an organization with centralized IT. It can be installed on max 3 hosts with 2 CPU’s. Unlike the vSphere Essentials Kits this license can be managed using vCenter Server Standard from a central location. The kit does not provide any high availability features. Mind that a starter kit needs to be purchased for 10 sites (each sites = 3 hosts max). The sites may not be located in the same building! Also support and subscription can be purchased for this kit. For a limited number of sites the Standard Edition will be more cost effective.
small branch offices and retail with maximum 3 hosts with demand for high availability
vSphere Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices best fits for branch offices and retail offices having demands for high availability and centralized management. It offers vMotion, HA and Data Recovery combined with agents for vCenter Server. Mind that a starter kit needs to be purchased for 10 sites (each sites = 3 hosts max). The sites may not be located in the same building! Also support and subscription can be purchased for this kit.
Small and medium sized organizations with demand for high availablity and/or low on budget with limited number of servers
vSphere Standard Edition offers almost all high availability features available in vSphere except Fault Tolerance. It does not have DRS and as long the host has enough resources available this is not much of a problem.
Small and medium sized organizations with demand for high availablity and security
vSphere Advanced offers Fault Tolerance (FT) as extra above the standard edition. Using FT all operations on a live virtual machine are copied to a shadow virtual machine. If the host on which the live VM runs fails, the shadow VM’s takes over. Mind faults on the application or operating system cannot be avoided by FT as the fault will be copied over. You will need two independent instances for that (clustering)
Enterprises with demand for high availability
vSphere Enterprise Edition offers DRS and Storage vMotion as one of the extra features above the Advanced Edition.
Enterprises with demand for high availability, many hosts and enterprise level applications
vSphere Enterprise Plus Edition offers the most features. It has host profiles which are usefull for deployment of many servers while making sure all hosts are configured according a baseline and policies. Storage I/O Control enables Quality of Service (QoS) for storage access while Network I/O Control does QoS for network traffic.