Can I put the free VMware into prodution?

We are a small company. We are wondering if we can use the free version of VMware in our production mode. We just bought  a new server-grade hardware box with a hardware RAID. The idea is put VMware on it and then we will install about 3 VMs on it. Would a free version of VMware do it?

By the way, what is the difference between a pay and a free VMware in terms of its functionalities?
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

You can, but legally it is a license violation to do so.   As such, the answer is "no". As it is also a TOS violation for experts to advise how to get around licensing, then even detailing what you would lose by illegally using the software, then really not much i can or will add.

Buy a license.
Note there are virtualization product that cost less (Parallels's) for instance, or even freebies that run in LINUX that come with the O/S.   You can search for questions regarding suitability for open source virtualization products in EE and probably find answers you need about them.   They may very well be good enough for your needs.
Sebastian TalmonSystem Engineer Datacenter SolutionsCommented:
If it is just a single server, the free Version should bring you the required basic functionality (but advanced things such as the backup API are not available)

For multiple hosts or if you want to backup with Veeam or other solutions you should look at the VMware Essentials (Plus?) bundles

you could also "upgrade" the free version later by just applying a license key (no reinstall needed)
Powerful Yet Easy-to-Use Network Monitoring

Identify excessive bandwidth utilization or unexpected application traffic with SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack.

Sebastian TalmonSystem Engineer Datacenter SolutionsCommented:
@dlethe - where do you see the license violations?

the free version is fully usable also in production environments - allthough VMware has put some limitations in place to restrict the usability in "bigger" virtualization projects.

The free version also requires a license key, that could be ordered free of charge from VMware

A really nice overview over the limitations is

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Yes, it would do it.

But how are you going to back up?

Because you cannot backup VMs, on the free version using third party software.

But Approx $600 will buy you licenses! (this will get you 3 x 2 CPU licenses for ESXi Host Servers, and the Management Server vCenter Server License, so you can do templates, clones, performance monitoring, and storage of summary and performance info, e.g. longer than 24 hours!)

Also check you hardware is supported...

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists HCL here

The VMware Hardware Compatibility List is the detailed lists showing actual vendor devices that are either physically tested or are similar to the devices tested by VMware or VMware partners. Items on the list are tested with VMware products and are known to operate correctly.Devices which are not on the list may function, but will not be supported by VMware.

see my EE Articles, and install ESXi on an SD card or USB flash drive

Part 1: HOW TO: Install and Configure VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1)

Part 2: HOW TO: Connect to the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1) using the vSphere Client

or the latest and greatest - ESXi 6.0

HOW TO: Install and Configure VMware vSphere Hypervisor 6.0 (ESXi 6.0)

HOW TO: Connect to the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 6.0 (ESXi 6.0) using the vSphere Client (C# client)
Mohammed KhawajaManager - Infrastructure:  Information TechnologyCommented:
VMware ESXi can be installed in a production environment as long as you agree to the terms and conditions as well as you are fine with the constraints (i.e. no vMotion, no HA, etc.).  If you want additional features then you purchase vCenter edition that can provide you the level of features/support you need.  Just so we are clear, there are 1000s of organizations using ESXi in production.
It depends on what VMware product you are talking about. The VMware Player (free) can't be used in a production environment (nor in a company), this is a version only for personal use.

But if it is VMware ESXi (free) you are talking about, then you can use it fully in a production or business environment.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
and there are 1000s of Large Organisations using the FREE edition with no support as well!
Uni KittyCommented:
I worked for VMware for 7 years and can confirm that Andy, Rindi and Mohammed are all correct. The answer is yes you can, but you do lose access to some of the important features and 3rd party software vendor support (like back ups).
Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
I would advise on getting Essentials package as it would give you vcenter (you can use appliance and not have to pay for MS license) which would give you cloning, alerting, and APIs.  If don't have visibility at what you're infrastructure is doing you can be in some serious issues without knowing it.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
.. IN all fairness, you only wrote "the free version" of VMWARE, which i interpreted as the VMPlayer version. This absolutely can not be used  in  a commercial/company environment.  My apologies for not being specific  in my response.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
That's okay, mis-understooding, understood!!!

I read it as ESXi! (but then I'm a VMware Nerd!)
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.