Is VMware a tool or software?

VMware is a widely used virtualization software that allows users to create and run virtual machines on a single physical server. This allows for more efficient use of computing resources and provides additional benefits like portability and isolation. But is VMware considered a tool or actual software? Let’s take a closer look.

Is VMware a tool or software?

What is VMware?

VMware is a suite of virtualization products developed by VMware Inc. The main VMware platform includes:

  • VMware ESXi: A bare-metal hypervisor that installs directly on server hardware to create virtual machines. This is the foundation of VMware infrastructure.
  • VMware vSphere: Built on top of ESXi, vSphere includes tools for managing, provisioning, and monitoring virtual machines. This provides a central interface to manage your virtual environment.
  • VMware vCenter Server: The centralized management software for vSphere environments, providing monitoring, automation, and analytics capabilities.
  • VMware Workstation: Allows creating VMs on a single Windows or Linux PC for development and testing purposes.
  • VMware Fusion: Enables running VMs on macOS systems.
  • VMware Player: Freeware version of Workstation for Windows/Linux for non-commercial use.

So in summary, VMware provides a complete virtualization platform with hypervisors, management tools, and endpoints that allow users to consolidate server hardware and create isolated VMs.

Is VMware a Tool or Software?

Given its comprehensive capabilities, VMware is considered full-fledged virtualization software, not just a single virtualization tool. Here are some key reasons why:

Full Software Suite

As outlined above, VMware provides a range of software products and components that together enable virtual infrastructure management. It’s a complete software suite, not just an individual utility.

Requires an Operating System

The VMware hypervisors run on top of a host operating system, whether Windows Server or a Linux distribution. This demonstrates that VMware has integral dependencies on the OS and cannot function stand-alone.

Provides Platform Capabilities

VMware does a lot more than just containerize apps. The features around provisioning, resource management, HA, vMotion, DRS, etc. provide a whole platform for managing virtual workloads.

Supports Software-Defined Infrastructure

With capabilities like VSAN for storage and NSX for networking, VMware enables creating software-defined data centers programmatically managed by vSphere. This is much more than simply spinning up VMs.

Has API and Third-Party Integrations

VMware offers REST APIs and SDKs that allow automating and integrating it with third-party tools like automation frameworks, CMDBs, monitoring software, and service desks.

Includes Development Tools

Things like VMware Workstation allow developers and testers to build and debug applications locally in a VMware virtual machine. This demonstrates it provides a software development environment.

So in summary, while VMware has some individual utilities, the presence of OS dependencies, platform capabilities, ecosystem integrations, and development tools illustrate that VMware is full-fledged enterprise-grade virtualization software.

Key Benefits and Use Cases of Using VMware

Understanding that VMware is a robust software suite, what are some of the benefits it offers and common use cases?

Server Consolidation

A major use case is consolidating multiple physical servers onto a single host using virtual machines. This improves hardware utilization and allows adding/removing VM capacity quickly.

Infrastructure Provisioning

VMware simplifies provisioning virtual infrastructure resources like storage, networking, and VMs. This agility speeds application deployment.

Portability and Migration

VMs can be moved between physical hosts with no reconfiguration for portability and migration. Workloads can be shifted on-demand.

Disaster Recovery

Snapshots, replication, and backup capabilities help implement disaster recovery plans by replicating VMs offsite.

OS Support

VMware supports running many OSes like Windows, Linux, BSD, etc. in a VM, allowing consolidating mixed workloads.

Application Isolation

Critical apps can be isolated in separate VMs improving stability and security. Resource allocation can be fine-tuned per VM.

Development Environments

Developers can create disposable VMs to test code in a sandboxed environment that can be discarded easily.

Legacy App Support

Older apps requiring outdated operating systems can be containerized in a VM and run on modern infrastructure.

Infrastructure Scaling

VM infrastructure can be quickly scaled up or down by adding or removing hosts. VMs can also be dynamically load balanced.

So in summary, VMware provides software-defined infrastructure, agility, scalability, stability, and development capabilities not possible with hardware alone.

VMware Components Overview

Now that we’ve established VMware is a comprehensive software platform, let’s do a quick overview of its core components:

ESXi Hypervisor

This thin hypervisor installs directly on bare-metal server hardware providing virtualization capabilities.

vCenter Server

Central management server that coordinates infrastructure, provides monitoring/analytics, and enables automation.

vSphere Client

Administrators use this client to manage VMs, storage, networking, and other objects through vCenter.

vSphere APIs

Programmatic APIs that allow automating vSphere management and integrating with third-party tools.

VMware Tools

Utilities installed in VMs that enable features like shared folders, guest OS backup, vMotion, and Dynamic Memory.


Enables live migrating running VMs between physical hosts with no downtime.

High Availability (HA)

Restarts VMs on alternate hosts in a cluster protecting against host failures.

Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)

Load balances VMs across hosts in a cluster based on resource allocation policies.

Storage vMotion

Migrates VM storage disks between datastores without downtime. Enables storage maintenance.

This provides a high-level look at how the VMware platform is comprised of many different software components working together to enable a robust virtualization environment.

Virtual Machine Software Features

VMware also provides many software features specifically for enhancing the virtual machine experience:

  • Snapshots – Point-in-time copies of VMs for backup/restore purposes
  • vSphere Replication – Asynchronously replicates VMs between sites for DR
  • Fault Tolerance – Provides continuous availability of VMs by mirroring between hosts
  • vShield Zones – Micro-segmentation and security zones between VMs
  • Virtual GPUs – Enables GPU pass-through for VMs to run graphics intensive apps
  • Virtual Memory – Dynamically allocates memory to VMs as needed
  • Virtual Networking – Software-defined virtual switches, NICs, and firewalls

This shows that VMware provides advanced capabilities purely in software that emulate and extend beyond physical hardware.

Architectural Overview

At a high level, a VMware virtual infrastructure typically consists of:

  • vCenter Server – The centralized management layer
  • ESXi hosts – The hyperconverged infrastructure running hypervisor and VMs
  • vSAN – The software-defined storage layer that pools host disks
  • NSX – The software-defined networking layer
  • VMs – These virtual machines run apps, OSes, workloads on top
  • vRealize – Monitoring, automation, and analytics software

This full-stack architecture shows how VMware is a complete software platform comparable to an operating system for virtual infrastructure.

VMware and Container Software Differences

It’s also useful to contrast VMware with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes:

VMware Containers
Hypervisor virtualization OS-level virtualization
Hyperconverged infrastructure Decoupled infrastructure
Supports many OSes Typically hosts a single OS
Higher resource overhead More lightweight
Block storage volumes Ephemeral storage
Pre-allocated resources Burstable resources
Limited app density per host High app density
Adds hypervisor layer Runs on native OS
More isolation by default Least privilege by default

This shows while there is some overlap, VMware and containers have different architectures, ecosystems and use cases. VMware remains popular for monolithic apps.

Licensing and Support

As enterprise-grade software, VMware offers paid licenses and support subscriptions:

  • Per CPU pricing for hypervisors
  • Suite licensing for all components bundled
  • Production support subscriptions 24/7
  • Access to latest updates and patches
  • Knowledge base access and technical support

The licensing model again demonstrates VMware is sold as professional software. There are also free trials available for hands-on learning.

Community and Adoption

Given its longevity and ecosystem, VMware enjoys strong community adoption:

  • Widely used in on-premise data centers
  • Huge partner and reseller channel
  • Compatible with all major server, storage, and networking hardware
  • Well integrated with tools like vRealize, NSX, vRA, and vROps
  • Popular certification paths including VCP, VCAP, and VCIX
  • Large community forums and VMUG user groups
  • Strong brand recognition as pioneer in virtualization

The community adoption shows VMware has effectively become the operating system for on-premise data centers.


In summary:

  • VMware provides a full software suite not just a single tool
  • It has strong dependencies on the OS and hardware
  • VMware enables a software-defined infrastructure layer
  • The platform goes far beyond just spinning up VMs
  • Features like snapshots, vMotion make it more than basic virtualization
  • VMware has a well-defined architecture more akin to an OS
  • Licensing demonstrates it is an enterprise software product
  • The ecosystem adoption proves its a mature software platform

So in conclusion, VMware is definitively full-fledged virtualization systems software that provides a software-defined data center and infrastructure management platform.

Key Takeaway

  • VMware is a complete software suite providing virtualization capabilities and software-defined infrastructure management. It is not just a single virtualization tool.
  • VMware enables consolidating servers, portable workloads, easy provisioning, app isolation, and built-in DR capabilities purely through software.
  • Core components include the ESXi hypervisor, vCenter server, vSphere client, and additional software-defined modules like NSX and vSAN.
  • VMware supports robust enterprise features like vMotion, High Availability, DRS, replication, snapshots and more.
  • The licensing model, ecosystem adoption, OS dependencies, and overall architecture establish VMware as mature systems software.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is VMware a hypervisor?
A: Yes, VMware ESXi is a type 1 bare-metal hypervisor that installs directly on server hardware. But VMware is more than just the hypervisor, it is a full infrastructure management software suite.

Q: Is VMware open source?
A: No, VMware is proprietary closed source software offered by VMware, Inc. There are some open source VMware projects but the core platform is not open source.

Q: Is VMware hardware or software?
A: VMware is virtualization systems software that emulates hardware functionality through software such as vCPUs, vRAM, vNICs. But it runs on top of physical server hardware and requires an OS.

Q: Is VMware a programming language?
A: No, VMware is not a programming language. But it does provide APIs and SDKs for programmatically managing and automating VMware infrastructure using languages like Python, PowerShell, CLI, etc.

Q: Can VMware run on Mac?
Yes, VMware Fusion allows you to run VMware virtual machines on macOS. VMware software itself does not run natively on Mac but you can run macOS as a guest VM.

Q: Is VMware cloud-based?
A: VMware is mainly an on-premise virtualization platform but it can be run in public clouds via VMware Cloud on AWS/Azure/Google Cloud and works well with hybrid cloud configurations.

Q: Is VMware free?
A: There are free versions of VMware Workstation and Fusion but the enterprise-grade vSphere/vCenter suite requires paid licensing based on CPUs.

Q: Who is VMware owned by?
A: VMware is a public company traded on the NYSE under stock symbol VMW. Majority owner is Dell Technologies who acquired VMware in 2016.

Q: Is VMware Debian based?
A: No, Debian is a Linux distribution whereas VMware is virtualization software that runs on top of various OSes like RHEL, Windows, Debian, etc. But VMware appliances internally use a custom Linux OS.

Q: What’s the difference between VMware and VirtualBox?
A: VirtualBox is desktop virtualization software for PCs and developers. VMware vSphere is powerful enterprise-grade virtualization for data centers and production workloads at scale.

Q: Is VMware botnet affected?
A: VMware is sometimes targeted by botnets but is not inherently affected more than other systems software. Good security practices including patching can mitigate risks.

Q: Where are VMware logs stored?
A: Main VMware log files are stored in /var/log/vmware/ on the ESXi hosts. vCenter/appliance logs are in /var/log/vmware/vpx/. Guest VM logs are under /var/log/vmkernel.

Q: How does VMware Workstation differ from Player?
A: Workstation is full featured paid version that allows creating multiple VMs. Player is free but limited version that only runs pre-created VMs.

Q: How is VMware different from Hyper-V?
A: Both are virtualization platforms but Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hypervisor integrated with Windows Server while VMware ESXi runs on Linux. VMware has more mature capabilities around vMotion, storage, networking.

Q: What underlying OS does ESXi run on?
A: VMware ESXi runs on top of an optimized compact Linux OS called vmkernel designed specifically for the hypervisor’s needs.

Q: Can you convert VMware to Hyper-V?
A: Yes, third party tools like StarWind V2V Converter can perform format conversion between VMware VMs and Hyper-V VHDs and VHDX.

Q: Does VMware support GPU passthrough?
A: Yes, newer VMware versions support GPU passthrough using virtual GPU features like vDGA and vGPU to assign physical GPUs to VMs.


In conclusion, despite having individual utilities, VMware is unambiguously enterprise-grade systems software providing a robust software-defined infrastructure management platform. The full stack architecture, platform capabilities, OS dependencies, licensing model, and widespread adoption prove that VMware goes far beyond basic virtualization tools. VMware simplifies IT operations and cloud management through virtualization and abstraction in software. With its longevity and continued evolution, VMware has become synonymous with virtual infrastructure in the data center.

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