Proxmox vs VMware ESXi 

Virtualization has become the backbone of IT infrastructure, offering businesses the flexibility, scalability, and efficiency needed to meet the ever-changing technological demands. Choosing the right virtualisation platform is paramount as organizations seek to optimize their IT environments.

This article explores two popular virtualization solutions: Proxmox and VMware ESXi. We will examine their pros and cons to decide which is best for you.

What is Proxmox?

Proxmox is a comprehensive open-source server management platform for enterprise virtualization which combines KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor and LXC (Linux Containers) technologies on a single platform. Proxmox allows you to manage VMs, containers, and other functions with ease.

Pros of Proxmox 

  • Open Source: Proxmox is an open-source software, making it free to use. Users can view the source code and directly contribute to the project. This, thereby  promotes creativity and supports the platform’s development.
  • Ease of Use: Proxmox is easy to use. It offers a web-based management interface for central management, allowing users to manage tasks on a single dashboard. It also supports CLI (Command Line Interface) and REST API to automate tasks, enabling an easy user experience.
  • Integrated Solution: Proxmox is an integrated solution that combines two virtualization technologies, KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) and LXC (Linux Containers), offering better functionality for users.
  • Security Features: It offers several security features, like an access control list, firewalls, two-factor authentication, and backup and restore to ensure security and protect against potential threats.
  • High Availability Support: Proxmox VA HA cluster provides stable and reliable high-availability services. You can move virtual machines from one running node to another without downtime if hardware malfunctions. It also supports automatic failover, where the Proxmox VE HA Manager automatically occurs if a VM or container fails.
  • Flexible Storage Options: The storage option is flexible, giving you more options to choose from. You can store images on local devices or shared storage like NFS. There is also no limit to your storage choice.

Cons of Proxmox 

  • Complex Networking Configurations: Basic users may find configuring complex network setups like VLANs, VXLANs and QinQ difficult.
  • Steep Learning Curve: Although the platform is easy to use, it may present a barrier for users who need help understanding virtualization, command line interface, network configuration, cluster management, and other features.
  • Limited Official Support: Proxmox does not offer official support for companies needing support services, unlike commercial providers. Instead, it relies on community assistance, which may not be suitable for users needing guaranteed support response time.
  • Resource Overhead: Proxmox requires investment in hardware resources like CPU, memory and storage. Hence, the resource overhead may be high for small-scale use, so organizations must consider it before investing.
  • Hardware Compatibility: There may be hardware compatibility issues when using specific hardware resources, leading to problems with system stability. Thus, it’s crucial to check compatibility before purchasing hardware.

What is VMware ESXi?

ESXi was created for the VMware server virtualization platform, vSphere. ESXi is a bare metal type-1 hypervisor that installs directly onto your server and is controlled by a VMKernel based on the Linux kernel. It enables multiple virtual machines to run on a single server and effectively partition hardware to consolidate applications and cut costs.

Pros of VMware ESXi 

  • Excellent Performance: ESXi provides optimal performance, ensuring low overhead and high efficiency in resource utilization. This allows for efficient and effective use of resources for organizations with resource-intensive applications and high virtualization workloads.
  • Reliability: VMware ESXi is known for its reliability and stability. It doesn’t require a host operating system but installs directly onto your server, cutting overhead costs. It has a footprint of 150 MB and can accommodate apps of any size.
  • Security: It supports various security features to protect sensitive data used in virtualized environments. Security features include role-based access control (RBAC), robust encryption, and integration with security solutions like VMware NSX for network security. It also offers an extensive logging and auditing process to ensure better accountability and forensic analysis.
  • High Availability and Live Migration: vMotion, ESXi technology, supports live, uninterrupted VM migration across hosts. It also supports high availability features like restarting VMs on another host after a host failure, ensuring data protection and easy usage.
  • Advanced Management Tools: ESXi has powerful management tools like vCenter Server and vSphere Client, which provide users with comprehensive control over their virtual infrastructure and offer a user-friendly interface that simplifies tasks like VM provisioning and troubleshooting.

Cons of VMware ESXi 

  • Cost of Licencing: The free version doesn’t include advanced features like automated resource balancing and live migration, making it unsuitable for users needing such features. Users must pay licensing fees to assess advanced features and management tools, creating a barrier for small businesses and individuals.
  • Complexity for Basic Users: Setting up an ESXi virtualization environment may be complex for beginners or organizations with little to no knowledge of virtualization technology. Advanced features like networking and other virtualization concepts may require training or expertise.
  • Vendor Lock-in: Migrating virtual machines to a different hypervisor can be challenging and may require significant effort and resources. Hence, users may be locked in. Always consider the long-term effect of vendor lock-in before selecting a virtualization application.
  • Resource Overhead: Although ESXi is known for its low overhead cost, resource overhead is inevitable regarding virtualization. Overheads can affect performance, especially when working with high workloads, so organizations must carefully manage resources to reduce overhead and ensure optimal performance.
  • Hardware Compatibility: Not all hardware is compatible with ESXi, so you must ensure that your hardware fits the hypervisor to avoid compatibility issues and ensure optimal performance.

Proxmox vs VMware ESXi: Which is Best for You?

Choosing between Proxmox and ESXi is a matter of preference and use case. Both infrastructures offer high performance and security. Here’s a quick guide when selecting:

Choose Proxmox if:

  • You need free and open-source software.
  • You are a beginner or your business demands less sophistication.

Choose ESXi if:

  • You need optimal performance and low resource overhead.
  • You need official support.


Proxmox and ESXi are the most popular virtualization management platforms, and they are best known for their high performance and unique features. However, Proxmox has a higher overhead cost and doesn’t offer official support, so it may not be the best option for organizations with heavy workloads and those needing official support. ESXi provides better performance and lower overhead costs, so it’s best for organizations with heavy workloads. Its major downside is the cost of licensing.

While both Proxmox and VMware ESXi offer robust virtualization capabilities, safeguarding your virtual machines (VMs) and stored data remains paramount. Unforeseen events like hardware failure, accidental deletion, or even ransomware attacks can cripple your virtual environment. Implementing a reliable backup and recovery solution becomes essential to ensure business continuity and minimize downtime. Storware Backup and Recovery, with its compatibility with both hypervisors, stands out as a compelling option for its ease of use, scalability, and feature-rich functionality. Contact us to explore how Storware empowers you to protect your VMs and data within your virtualized infrastructure.

text written by:

Grzegorz Pytel, Presales Engineer at Storware