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VMWare - Free or Pay

We are a small shop with about 20 physical servers currently.  I use the free version of VMWare ESXi 4 on one server to run about 5 virtual servers, including a MS SQL server.  This has been a stable setup so far.

We are planning on expanding and adding about 20 to 25 new servers, but we are planning on putting them on 5 physical servers.  We have got a quote on VMWare VSphere 4 Advanced, with support, and I have to say, it is not cheap.  I understand all of the features that Advanced version has, but I am not sure that we are big enough to have to worry about them.

Has anyone used the free version in production, and if you have, how many servers?  Has the lack of advanced management tools made it more difficult?

FYI, we are a non-profit.  That's why we are considering the free version.

David
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david_griswold
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david_griswold
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nappy_dCommented:
ESXi runs great.  BUT t be honest with you, when it comes to running that many servers, you should get vSphere for management of your farm.

On any given processor per core, you should be able to get 8-10 guest OS's running.  If you had a dual quad core machine, that is upto 32 machines.

In essence, all you really need are a minimum of two physical machines with enough RAM to support them all.

Nonprofit or not, the uptime is what really counts in my mind.
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nappy_dCommented:
Oh I forgot this url if you have not seen it.  vSphere essentials may be all you need for centralized management.  http://www.vmware.com/vmwarestore/vsphere_smbpurchaseoptions.html
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Paul SolovyovskyCommented:
It depends if you have a SAN or not.  If you don't have shared storage you can get the base vSphere package which includes up to 6 processors  and vCenter and 1 yr support for $1000.  Other versions have the HA and DRS and VDR for much cheaper price point than Enterprise or Enterprise Plus.

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david_griswoldAuthor Commented:
I know we could put more VMs on our physical servers, but we are new to this and we are being cautious since we will be running SQL servers.  I would rather have room to grow than have one physical box take down half of my servers.

I see that vSphere essentials has a limit of 3 physical servers.  I wonder if I can purchase two licenses...
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david_griswoldAuthor Commented:
We are going to be running all the VMs on a SAN.  I didn't even check to see if the free version even supported that.
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Paul SolovyovskyCommented:
Take a look at Essentials Plus.  Has vCenter, HA, (but not DRS) and up to 6 processors for around $3600 with 1 year of support

All ESX/ESXi servers can connect to a SAN without issue

http://store.vmware.com/servlet/ControllerServlet?Action=DisplayPage&Env=BASE&Locale=en_US&SiteID=vmware&id=ProductDetailsPage&productID=126841300&resid=jWS3GQoBAkYAAFDGSF0AAAAy&rests=1261514457330
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nappy_dCommented:
The free version does support SANs. Also, sql is not so much a matter of the processor as much it is about the i/o performance of the disks for the read/writes.

Personally, I would tell you to put more than 5 guests per host as it is well supported per processor core.

This is something to be considered in you budget; 2 dual quad core processor boxes can handle easily 30 server guest OS's
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david_griswoldAuthor Commented:
OK, if I went with the Essentials Plus, I would have to buy two in order to install 5 servers, and I would have to split the management of those five servers over two management consoles (they are limited to three.)  I can live with that.  The other feature missing is VMotion, the ability to move VMs between physical servers without impacting users.  I have no idea how important a feature this is.  Is Vmotion worth spending $30K more?
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nappy_dCommented:
Actually, you don't have to split them over two management consoles.  You can have one management console with multiple clusters or one large cluster with all of your hosts.

Vmotion is great for live migration of the guests between the hosts for server maintenance.

While it is a nice to have, if you spare a few minutes between a shutdown and power on of the guests on different host hardware, you can spare yourself the additional money.
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david_griswoldAuthor Commented:
All great information.  So, free seems way too limited, but the Advanced is too much. I think the Essentials Plus might do it for us.

Thanks,
David
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