What type is VMware?

VMware is a virtualization software company that provides cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services. VMware’s core product is its industry-leading virtualization platform, ESXi, which allows multiple operating systems and applications to run in isolation on the same physical server. This enables more efficient use of computing resources and provides increased IT flexibility.

What type is VMware?

Virtualization technology allows abstraction and isolation of lower-level computer resources such as CPU, memory, storage and networking from the operating system. The virtualization layer sits between the hardware and the operating system and allows sharing and allocation of resources as needed.

VMware introduced the first x86 virtualization product in 1999 and has been a pioneer and leader in x86 server virtualization. VMware’s virtualization software allows multiple virtual machines, each running its own operating system and applications, to run on the same physical server. This provides benefits such as:

  • Server consolidation – ability to run multiple workloads on fewer servers leading to better hardware utilization.
  • Improved uptime – virtual machines can be migrated from one host to another with no interruption in case of host maintenance or failure.
  • Enhanced flexibility – virtual machines can be provisioned, deprovisioned and moved between hosts easily as needed.
  • Disaster recovery and backup – virtual machine state can be backed up, replicated and restored as needed.
  • Improved security – virtual machines provide isolation between workloads and increased control.

In addition to the hypervisor, VMware offers a broad portfolio of products and services for building and managing enterprise cloud environments. Some key VMware solutions include:

  • vSphere – VMware’s virtualization platform and hypervisor for virtualizing servers.
  • vCenter Server – provides centralized management and automation for vSphere environments.
  • NSX – network virtualization and security platform for data center networks.
  • vSAN – a storage virtualization platform that pools host storage into a shared data store.
  • VMware Cloud – VMware’s public cloud infrastructure offering.
  • Cloud Foundation – an integrated platform for hybrid and private cloud.

VMware supports all major operating systems including Windows, Linux, Solaris and more. Its virtualization software is widely deployed from desktops to data centers to enable efficient and flexible use of computing resources.

Technical details on VMware products

On a technical level, VMware provides Type-1 and Type-2 hypervisors as well as user-space hosted hypervisors:

  • ESXi – This is VMware’s type-1 bare-metal hypervisor that installs directly on server hardware providing virtualization services. It has a compact footprint and is purpose built for maximum performance.
  • vSphere Hypervisor – A free version of the ESXi hypervisor providing robust virtualization for smaller deployments.
  • vCenter Server – vCenter Server provides centralized management, automation and analytics for vSphere environments. It manages multiple ESXi hosts centrally.
  • Workstation Pro – A Type-2 hosted hypervisor for Windows and Linux desktops allowing multiple VMs to run as virtual machines on a single desktop or laptop.
  • Fusion – Similar Type-2 hypervisor for Mac users to run virtual machines locally.

In terms of architecture, ESXi hosts use a bare-metal architecture while vCenter Server provides a central control plane. ESXi hosts run virtual machine workloads while vCenter Server allows managing, orchestrating and monitoring the infrastructure centrally.

Key components of the VMware architecture include:

  • vSphere ESXi – The virtualization platform installed on physical servers providing compute virtualization.
  • vCenter Server – Central management for provisioning, managing, and monitoring ESXi hosts and VMs.
  • vSAN – Distributed storage platform that aggregates local storage across cluster. Provides shared data store for VMs.
  • NSX – Provides network virtualization for VMs including logical switches, routing, firewalling and security.
  • vRealize Suite – Management tools for automation, operations, log analytics, network insight and cloud management.

This architecture provides a comprehensive, scalable and resilient platform for enterprise virtualization across private and public clouds.

Benefits and use cases of VMware virtualization

Some key benefits of using VMware virtualization in an enterprise:

  • Server consolidation – Optimizes hardware usage by allowing multiple workloads to share the same servers leading to improved efficiency and lower costs.
  • Increased availability – With features like vMotion, virtual machines can be automatically restarted on another host in case of planned/unplanned downtime.
  • Disaster recovery – VM state can be replicated to DR sites and individual VMs restored as needed for quick recovery from outages.
  • Infrastructure flexibility – Virtual resources can be quickly provisioned, deprovisioned or reconfigured as needed for changing business needs.
  • Multi-cloud support – Ability to run workloads across on-prem and public cloud environments using same tools and processes.
  • Enhanced security – Hypervisor based isolation separates VMs and provides micro-segmentation capabilities.
  • Development/Test Environments – Quickly spin up replicas of production environments for testing or development purposes.
  • Desktop and application virtualization – Securely deliver desktops and apps to any device while centralizing management.
  • Hardware independence – Abstracts compute, storage and networking from underlying hardware allowing portability across platforms.

Leading industries and use cases where VMware is commonly deployed:

  • Cloud Infrastructure – Underpins many enterprise cloud environments due to scalability.
  • VDI Environments – Provides desktop and app virtualization services.
  • Software Development – Quick replication of test/dev environments.
  • Server Consolidation – Reduction of data center footprint by increasing utilization.
  • Disaster Recovery – Replication of workloads across sites for DR capabilities.
  • Virtual Desktops – Secure desktop delivery regardless of end user device.
  • Healthcare/Government – Added security and isolation for sensitive applications.

VMware deployment options

VMware virtualization solutions are highly flexible and support diverse infrastructure needs:

  • On-premises – VMware software deployed on company owned hardware. Managed in-house.
  • Hybrid Cloud – Seamless ability to extend environments to public cloud when needed.
  • VMware Cloud – VMware SaaS offering on rented infrastructure.
  • Managed Services – Solution provided by a third-party managed service provider.
  • Hosted Private Cloud – Private cloud environment hosted by a provider.

This ability to deploy across infrastructures enables “write once, run anywhere” portability of workloads. Some common on-premises deployment options include:

  • vSphere on VxRail – Pre-configured solution with vSphere running on Dell EMC VxRail HCI appliance.
  • vSAN Ready Nodes – vSphere with vSAN running on certified, pre-configured hardware from vendors.
  • Certified Servers – vSphere deployed and running on certified x86 server models from vendors like Dell, Cisco or HPE.

VMware also offers cloud solutions:

  • VMware Cloud – VMware’s global cloud platform as a service lets you quickly deploy production applications.
  • VMware Cloud on AWS – Combines vSphere, vSAN and NSX deployed on AWS bare metal infrastructure.
  • Azure VMware Solution – Lets you run VMware workloads natively on Azure infrastructure while consuming Azure services.

VMware licensing and pricing

VMware offers flexible licensing models for data center virtualization:

  • vSphere – The core vSphere platform is licensed per physical CPU socket on the server. Several vSphere editions are available based on needs – Standard, Enterprise Plus, etc.
  • vSAN – vSAN has both all-flash and hybrid disk options. It is licensed per CPU socket or per terabyte of disk capacity.
  • NSX – NSX is licensed on a per CPU socket basis and is bundled with higher vSphere licenses.
  • vRealize – Suites for cloud management, network insight, operations are licensed per CPU socket or per VM instance.

In addition there are cloud platform options:

  • VMware Cloud – Offers on-demand pricing billed hourly or monthly for actual usage. Minimum commitment required.
  • VMC on AWS – Available as hourly on-demand pricing or as 1 to 3 year reserved capacity.
  • Azure VMware Solution – Billed according to Azure consumption for compute, storage, networking.

VMware also provides desktop virtualization (Horizon), EUC, Workspace ONE and other SaaS solutions which have product specific licensing. VMware provides a Product Guide detailing licensing for all products.

Key competitors and alternatives to VMware

Some leading competitors and alternatives to VMware virtualization products include:

  • Microsoft Hyper-V – Hypervisor built into Windows Server. Lower licensing cost but fewer features than VMware.
  • Citrix Hypervisor – Free bare-metal hypervisor focused on VDI and application delivery use cases.
  • Red Hat Virtualization – Open source Linux virtualization platform derived from KVM.
  • OpenStack – Open source for building public and private clouds.
  • Docker – Container platform provides operating-system level virtualization for packaging applications.
  • Kubernetes – Container orchestration system for automating deployment and management of containerized workloads.

Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of features, performance, complexity, licensing costs etc. VMware continues to hold significant market share among enterprises running mission-critical workloads due to its rich feature set, ecosystem support, performance and reliability.


VMware has been a pioneer and leader in x86 virtualization for over 20 years. The company provides a mature, proven, high-performance virtualization platform in vSphere as well as an ecosystem of solutions for building enterprise hybrid clouds.

With benefits like increased hardware utilization, reduced costs, improved uptime and portability, VMware holds a strong presence among enterprise IT environments running business-critical applications. Given its technology leadership and continual innovation, VMware is expected to maintain its dominance as enterprises continue leveraging virtualization alongside containers and cloud platforms to power a software-defined future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What type of company is VMware?
A: VMware is a software company that provides virtualization software, cloud computing, end-user computing and other services. It is a subsidiary of Dell Technologies.

Q: What are the key differences between VMware ESXi and vSphere?
A: ESXi is the bare-metal hypervisor that is installed directly on server hardware. vSphere is the broader virtualization platform and ecosystem built around the ESXi hypervisor.

Q: Is VMware virtualization free?
A: No, VMware’s enterprise-grade hypervisors and software are paid licensed products. However, a free version called vSphere Hypervisor is available with basic features.

Q: What operating systems does VMware support?
A: VMware supports all major operating systems including Windows, Linux, Solaris and more on virtual machines. The ESXi hypervisor has a custom OS optimized for virtualization.

Q: Can I run VMware on my laptop or desktop?
A: Yes, products like VMware Workstation and Fusion allow you to run VMs locally on Windows and Mac laptops for development/testing.

Q: Does VMware support containers like Docker?
A: Yes, VMware has integrations with containers and Kubernetes orchestration in platforms like vSphere and VMC. Containers complement VMware virtualization.

Q: Is VMware built on open source?
A: While not fully open source, VMware leverages open source technologies. For example, ESXi integrates Linux kernel components like drivers and network stack.

Q: What are the most common use cases for VMware virtualization?
A: Server consolidation, VDI, disaster recovery, infrastructure flexibility, multi-cloud portability and running legacy OSes are some leading use cases.

Q: Which competitors offer similar technology to VMware?
A: Leading alternatives include Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Hypervisor, Red Hat Virtualization, OpenStack and platform virtualization like Docker and Kubernetes.

Q: Does VMware support hybrid cloud deployments?
A: Yes, VMware solutions support hybrid cloud across on-premises data centers and public clouds like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.

Q: How is VMware licensed and priced?
A: VMware uses CPU-based licensing for vSphere. Subscription or SaaS models available for some products. Support and maintenance extra.

Q: Is VMware virtualization secure?
A: Yes, VMware places strong emphasis on security within its virtualization platform and provides additional security products like NSX.

Q: What is the latest version of VMware vSphere?
A: The most current vSphere release is vSphere 7 which was launched in April 2020.

Q: Does VMware offer desktop virtualization solutions?
A: Yes, VMware Horizon provides VDI, Desktop-as-a-Service and app virtualization capabilities.

Q: What is VMware Cloud Foundation?
A: An integrated hybrid cloud platform that bundles vSphere, vSAN and NSX to deploy SDDC environments rapidly.

Q: Does VMware support network virtualization?
A: Yes, VMware NSX provides network virtualization capabilities like segmentation and micro-segmentation, load balancing, VPN, firewalling.

Q: Can I run virtual machines created in other platforms like Hyper-V on VMware?
A: In most cases yes, VMware provides migration capabilities to onboard virtual machines from other platforms. Conversion tools are available.

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