What is VMware on Linux?

VMware on Linux refers to running VMware’s virtualization solutions on a Linux operating system as the host platform. Linux offers an open, customizable and low-cost alternative to using proprietary operating systems for hosting VMware products like ESXi hypervisor, vCenter management and virtual machine workloads.

What is VMware on Linux?

Overview of Running VMware on Linux

VMware virtualization solutions can be deployed on Linux in several ways:

  • Installing ESXi hypervisor on top of Linux to host and run virtual machines.
  • Running VMware management software like vCenter Server Appliance on Linux.
  • Having Linux as the guest operating system within virtual machines powered by VMware hypervisor on top of a Linux or other host OS.
  • Using Linux machine as endpoint client to access services delivered through VMware infrastructure.

So Linux can act as a platform to run VMware hypervisors and management tools as well as flexibly function as a guest OS or endpoint for virtualized workloads.

Benefits of Running VMware Solutions on Linux

Key advantages of deploying VMware technology on Linux include:

Open Source Platform

  • Linux OS like CentOS provides enterprise-ready features without software licensing costs.
  • Avoid expenses of proprietary solutions like Microsoft Windows for hosting virtual infrastructure.

Customization and Control

  • Fine tune and customize Linux for optimizing VMware services and performance as per needs.
  • More control over updates and configuration changes.

Advanced Security

  • Harden Linux platform against vulnerabilities using advanced firewalls like iptables.
  • Enable SELinux for tight access controls and enhanced security.


  • Scale VMware infrastructure across a cluster of Linux hosts seamlessly.
  • Linux supports both small scale deployments and massive installations.


  • Ensure high reliability for critical VMware management components running on resilient Linux platform.
  • Leverage clustering capabilities for failover and redundancy.


  • Linux command-line administration allows leveraging of existing sysadmin skills when managing VMware stack.

Cost Savings

  • Avoid expensive proprietary solutions for VMware. Leverage free open source Linux OS.

So Linux unlocks flexibility plus potential license cost savings when deploying VMware virtualized environments.

ESXi Hypervisor on Linux

ESXi is VMware’s bare-metal Type-1 hypervisor than can run directly on server hardware. Key aspects of ESXi on Linux:

  • Linux replaces proprietary ESXi operating system while retaining hypervisor function.
  • Provides base for hosting ESXi to instantiate and run virtual machines.
  • Offers local or remote management of ESXi and VMs via vCenter Server.
  • Delivers capabilities like live VM migration across hosts using vMotion on Linux.
  • Supports clustering features such as high availability and fault tolerance.
  • Guest VMs still remain agnostic to underlying Linux host.

So a compact Linux OS allows reaping ESXi hypervisor capabilities at lower licensing expense for medium to large environments.

Running vCenter Server on Linux

vCenter Server provides unified management and orchestration of VMware virtual infrastructure. Key aspects of running vCenter Server on Linux:

  • Available as pre-configured Linux-based vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA).
  • Delivers full management functionality for ESXi hosts, VMs and other vSphere components.
  • Web client allows configuring, monitoring and administrating VMware environment from Linux system.
  • Command line access further eases management directly using Linux shell.
  • Integrated PostgreSQL DBMS eliminates need for separate Windows-based SQL database.

So Linux offers a cost-effective platform to run the vCenter control plane for holistic lifecycle management of the VMware stack.

Using Linux as Guest OS with VMware

Linux also excels as a guest operating system within virtual machines powered by VMware’s hypervisor technology:

  • Linux VMs can run smoothly on VMware thanks to excellent driver support and optimizations like VMware Tools and paravirtualization.
  • Hypervisor provides virtualized hardware environment to Linux VMs for availing underlying physical host resources.
  • Advanced capabilities like live migration of Linux VMs across hosts, dynamic resource scaling, high availability etc.
  • Snapshots and image-level backups simplify disaster recovery of Linux virtual machines.
  • Clustered setups allow seamless failover of Linux VMs in case of host outages.

So Linux guests harness the full advantages of virtualization for availability, scalability and efficiency.

Accessing VMware Stack from Linux Endpoints

Linux PCs and laptops can act as endpoints to access services delivered through the VMware virtual infrastructure:

  • Linux users can access virtual desktops provisioned using VMware Horizon solution.
  • Can connect to Linux terminal servers and desktops running in VMware virtual machines.
  • Can leverage software-defined networking and security capabilities provided by VMware NSX technology.
  • Can consume infrastructure, platform and application services delivered by VMware private cloud.

So Linux endpoints can avail services from VMware infrastructure similar to Windows-based machines.

Key Challenges of Running VMware on Linux

However, VMware on Linux also poses some challenges:

  • Lack of official support from VMware for Linux-based hypervisors unlike ESXi on certified servers.
  • Complex installation and configuration especially for production deployments.
  • Potential stability concerns for running business-critical applications on Linux vs established Windows platforms.
  • Limited tools for troubleshooting and debugging VMware services on Linux. Rely on community forums.
  • No automated patch management and updates unlike integrated mechanisms on ESXi and vCenter Server Appliance.

So production deployments require expert skills for optimal stability and performance when adopting VMware on Linux.

Key Takeaways of VMware on Linux

  • Linux provides a low-cost and customizable substitute for proprietary solutions to run VMware hypervisors, management software and workloads.
  • Enables harnessing advanced VMware functionality like live migration, fault tolerance, high availability on Linux.
  • Linux excels as guest OS within VMs, harnessing paravirtualization and tight integration with hypervisor.
  • Delivers capabilities like automated deployment of ESXi clusters on Linux using vSphere Auto Deploy feature.
  • But lacks official support from VMware when deploying ESXi hypervisors on Linux hosts unlike certified servers.


While VMware’s industry-leading virtualization solutions officially support certified server hardware and guest operating systems only, Linux offers a compelling open source alternative for hosting VMware software like ESXi hypervisor, vCenter Server management and virtual machine workloads. Tight integration with VMware stack, abundant customization options, scalability and built-in disaster recovery capabilities make Linux a flexible and cost-effective substitute to certified hardware and operating systems for harnessing advanced VMware functionality. With expert configuration and diligent maintenance, VMware on Linux unlocks the possibilities of open source virtual infrastructure.


  1. Is it better to run VMware on Linux or Windows?
    For production deployments Windows server offers better support and stability for hosting VMware solutions. But Linux offers greater flexibility and lower costs for small to medium implementations.
  2. Can I install VMware Workstation on Linux?
    Yes, you can install VMware Workstation Pro on compatible Linux distributions like Red Hat, SUSE, Ubuntu etc. to create VMs locally similar to the Windows version.
  3. Does VMware ESXi run on Linux?
    No, VMware ESXi does not natively run on Linux. The proprietary ESXi hypervisor OS must be installed on certified server hardware.
  4. Can I run VMware player on Linux?
    Yes, VMware Player can be installed on Linux to run and manage virtual machines created using VMware virtualization products.
  5. Is VMware an operating system?
    No, VMware is not an actual operating system but a suite of virtualization software products. However, VMware ESXi can be considered a specialized hypervisor operating system.
  6. Is vCenter server Appliance Linux based?
    Yes, vCenter Server Appliance provides a pre-configured Linux-based virtual machine running Photon OS to deploy the vCenter management platform.
  7. Does VMware work on Debian?
    Yes, many VMware products like vSphere client work on Debian Linux provided dependencies like compatible kernel versions are met.
  8. What Linux distribution does VMware use?
    VMware uses a customized minimal Linux distribution called Photon OS designed for cloud-native applications as the base OS for its virtual appliances like vCenter Server.
  9. Does VMware ESXi use Linux?
    No, VMware ESXi does not use the Linux kernel. The proprietary ESXi hypervisor OS developed by VMware gets installed directly on server hardware.
  10. Can I convert VMware virtual machine to run on Linux?
    Yes, VMware virtual machines created on Windows can be converted to open virtualization formats like OVF/OVA using VMware converter to run them on Linux platforms.
  11. Will VMware work on Raspberry Pi?
    Yes, VMware Horizon Clients are available for Raspberry Pi allowing it to serve as thin client endpoint to access Windows and Linux virtual desktops running on VMware infrastructure.
  12. How well does VMware work with Ubuntu?
    Many VMware products work very well with Ubuntu and are officially supported. Tools like open-vm-tools integrate Ubuntu VMs tightly with hypervisor.
  13. Can I run VMware on Arch Linux?
    Yes, many VMware products like Workstation are compatible with Arch Linux but may require manual configuration. Consider Ubuntu for a more seamless experience.
  14. Can I install VMware on Fedora Linux?
    Yes, VMware Workstation and Fusion can be installed on Fedora but lack official support. RHEL and CentOS have better integration and stability with VMware stack.
  15. Is VMware free for Linux?
    No, while VMware provides limited free hypervisor-only ESXi version, full VMware virtualization suite requires paid licensing on Linux similar to Windows and Mac platforms.
  16. Does Proxmox use VMware?
    No, Proxmox does not use VMware internally. It is an open source platform providing KVM virtual machines and LXC containers, not based on VMware vSphere or ESXi.
  17. Can I run VMware on VirtualBox?
    No, you cannot run VMware hypervisor and virtual machines directly inside VirtualBox which is a competing solution. But VirtualBox can run as VM on VMware.
  18. Can I install VMware on RHEL?
    Yes, many VMware products like vCenter Server Appliance, vSphere Client etc. are officially supported on RHEL and CentOS distributions.
  19. Does VMware work on Debian?
    Many VMware products work on Debian but lack official support. Consider Ubuntu or RHEL for fully compatible enterprise-grade VMware experience on Linux.
  20. Is VMware a PCI device?
    VMware itself is not a hardware PCI device. But VMware ESXi exposes a paravirtual SCSI controller as PCI device to guest VMs allowing them to access virtual disks provided by hypervisor.

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