What is the difference between ESX 3 and ESX3i?

Posted on 2008-06-11
Last Modified: 2008-06-18
What is the difference between ESX 3 and ESX3i?
Question by:ENTPF
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LVL 18

Accepted Solution

larstr earned 200 total points
ID: 21764603
There are actually three different versions involved here.

ESX 3.5, ESXi Embedded and ESXi Installable. 3i was rebranded to ESXi a few weeks ago.

3.5 is the "Full" traditional version which is installed from CDROM usually onto local hard drives of a server (boot from SAN is also possible). It comes with Service Console, which is a Linux based administrative virtual machine.

ESXi is a new small-footprint hypervisor. It comes preinstalled with the server hardware "BIOS" (flash) (Embedded version) or you can install it yourself for instance on a flash drive (Installable version). Alone it needs additional software to manage it.

3.5 and ESXi have similar hardware requirements and same supported hardware vendors. ESXi does not yet have wide support on as many servers as 3.5. Details can be found in the HCL:

Comparison of the versions is available at:

LVL 11

Assisted Solution

jfields71 earned 200 total points
ID: 21770399
I think we will see more and more admins move to "i" versions.  The small footprint means less of an attack vector and less maintenance.  It can also reduce costs, as local or SAN drives are not needed for booting the ESX OS.  Dell, HP, and other major vendors have all jumped on the bandwagon.  More info about the embedded version here:
LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 21772790
Over time we will see everyone move over to the "i"-versions as the console versions will be gone (in a year or two). Currently I will however in most cases recommend that you use the full version as the remote cli is still a bit too fresh and the official hw support is also very limited.

LVL 11

Expert Comment

ID: 21781587
I would also agree with that.  We only use the full version.  It gives you a fuller pool of options and commands to use.  A larger toolbox, if you will.  The downside is the larger attack surface and more potential patches.  However, the exact best choice, as always, depends on your environment.  If you need the utmost virtual security or need to get your project off the ground fast, go with embedded.  If you can fully isolate your ESX boxes from the rest of your infrastructure, then I would go with the full version.  Hope that helps!  JF

Assisted Solution

JasonSTL739 earned 100 total points
ID: 21804436
The HUGE issue with ESXi in the field is that without the service console you can't use items such as vRanger backup software, hardware manuf. agents, etc.  That is greatly limiting the use of the "i" versions today.

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