By Alison / Last Updated December 2, 2022

Brief introduction to VMware vSphere

VMware vSphere is the industry’s leading server virtualization software that creates and runs full-scale virtual machines and Kubernetes instances. It consists of ESXi hypervisor, vCenter Server, and other components and technologies that work together to provide a complete infrastructure for virtualization. For comparison between vSphere, vCenter and ESXi you can refer to: VMware vSphere vs vCenter vs ESXi.

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As IT infrastructures become more complex due to the exponential growth of businesses, the number of licenses, editions, and latest features offered by VMware vSphere has increased. As a result, users may be confused by these editions.

In this article, I will provide a VMware vSphere edition comparison and introduce their main features. Before that, you may want to review the vSphere version releases.

Quick review: VMware vSphere versions releases

Starting from 2009, VMware has released 9 versions of vSphere.

VMware vSphere versions

Release date

Hypervisor

Native backup strategies

VMware vSphere 4.0

2009/05/21

ESX & ESXi

VMware Data Recovery

VMware vSphere 4.1

2010/07/13

ESX & ESXi

VMware vSphere 5.0

2011/08/24

ESXi

VMware vSphere 5.1

2012/09/10

ESXi

VMware vSphere 5.5

2013/09/22

ESXi

vSphere Data Protection

VMware vSphere 6.0

2015/03/12

ESXi

VMware vSphere 6.5

2016/11/15

ESXi

VMware vSphere 6.7

2018/04/17

ESXi

/

VMware vSphere 7.0

2020/04/02

ESXi

As you can see, VMware vSphere 7.0 is the latest version of them. And after 2 years of updates, it’s complete and stable except for releasing native VMware backup solutions. Therefore, it is recommended to update to VMware vSphere 7.0 as long as there is no special need.

VMware vSphere 7

And in this article, I will also compare vSphere editions of 7.0's main features as an example.

4 main editions of VMware vSphere 7

With the release of VMware vSphere 7.0, there have been several changes in licensing, such as the updates to per-CPU pricing model. Under the new model, 1 CPU license covers up to 32 physical cores in a single CPU. If the CPU has more than 32 cores, additional licenses (per-CPU) are required.

per-CPU license examples

When purchasing a license, you can choose between the following 4 main editions:

vSphere Essential Kit

  • All-in-one solution for small offices (up to 3 hosts with up to 2 CPUs each).
  • Server virtualization and consolidation with centralized management to reduce hardware and operating costs.
  • Simplify software upgrades, patching and firmware updates.
  • Includes vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) and vCenter Server Essentials.

vSphere Essential Plus Kit

  • Provide business continuity and always-available IT.
  • Save on IT hardware costs.
  • Improve service levels and application quality.
  • Strengthen security and data protection.
  • Includes vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi), vCenter Server Essentials. vSphere Data Protection, vSphere High Availability (HA), vSphere vMotion, Cross Switch vMotion, vSphere vShield Endpoint and vSphere Replication.

vSphere Standard

  • Entry-level solution for basic server consolidation.
  • Next-Gen Infrastructure Image Management.
  • Reduce hardware cost while accelerating application deployment.
  • Includes vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi), vSphere vMotion, vSphere High Availability (HA), vSphere vShield Endpoint and vSphere Replication.

vSphere Enterprise Plus

  • Full range of features for transforming data centers into simplified cloud infrastructures.
  • Data-at-rest encryption for virtual machine data and disks.
  • Run modern applications with the next generation of flexible, reliable IT services.
  • Includes vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi), vSphere vMotion, vSphere High Availability (HA), vSphere Trust Authority, vSphere vShield Endpoint, VM encryption and vSphere Replication.

VMware vSphere editions comparison table

After a brief introduction to the editions of vSphere 7.0, you may still need know how they differs in features in order to choose between them.

Here I provide a vSphere editions comparison table of the 4 main editions: vSphere 7 Standard vs Enterprise Plus vs Essentials vs Essentials Plus.

Features

vSphere Essentials

vSphere Essentials Plus

vSphere Standard

vSphere Enterprise Plus

vSphere Hypervisor – Provides a robust, production-proven, high-performance virtualization layer.

vSphere vMotion® – Allows live migration of VMs from one ESXi host server to another with no disruption to users or loss of service.

 

vSphere Storage vMotion – Allows movement of VM files from one data storage location to another with no disruption to users or loss of service, for example from a local data store to a shared data store.

 

Cross-vSwitch vMotion – Allows live migration of VMs from one ESXi host server to another, where the hosts exist across different virtual switches.

 

 

 

Cross-vSwitch vMotion – Allows cold migration of VMs from one ESXi host server to another, where the hosts exist across different virtual switches.

 

 

VMware vCenter® Hybrid Linked Mode – Enables unified visibility and management across on- premises vCenter and vCenter on a cloud enabled with vSphere, such as VMware Cloud™ on AWS.

 

 

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter

Server

Standard

vSphere Virtual Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) – Enables VMs to have multiple virtual CPUs.

 

 

vSphere High Availability (HA) – Automatically restarts your VMs following physical machine failure.

 

vSphere Fault Tolerance – Provides continuous availability of any application in the event of a hardware failure with no data loss or downtime; for workloads up to 8-vCPU.

 

 

2-vCPU

8-vCPU

VMware vShield Endpoint™ – Secures VMs with offloaded anti-virus and anti-malware solutions, without the need for agents inside the VM.

 

vSphere Replication™ – Enables efficient, array-agnostic replication of VM data over the LAN or WAN, and simplifies management by enabling replication at the VM level.

 

Support for 4K native storage – Enhances platform scalability by leveraging high-capacity drives; reduces CapEx.

 

 

vSphere Quick Boot™ – Skips hardware initialization steps and dramatically reduces time required for patching and upgrades.

 

vCenter High Availability – Provides native vCenter Server availability.

 

 

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter Backup and Restore – Provides native vCenter Server backup and restore.

vCenter Server for

Essentials

vCenter Server for

Essentials

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter Server Appliance™ Migration – Provides single-step migration and upgrade of existing Windows vCenter deployments to vCenter Server Appliance.

vCenter Server for

Essentials

vCenter Server for

Essentials

vCenter Server

Standard™

vCenter Server

Standard™

TPM 2.0 support and virtual TPM – Supports TPM 2.0 hardware modules and adds a virtual TPM device to shield a guest OS from operator or in-guest attacks.

FIPS 140-2 compliance and TLS 1.2 support – Provides default enhanced security compliance.

 

VM encryption – Provides data-at-rest encryption for VM data and disks.

 

 

 

Support for Microsoft virtualization-based security (VBS) – Supports Windows 10 and Windows 2016 security features, such as Credential Guard, on vSphere.

 

Per-VM Enhanced vMotion Compatibility – Allows seamless migration across different CPUs across the hybrid cloud by persisting the Enhanced vMotion Compatibility mode per VM during migrations across clusters and during power cycles.

 

 

VMware Instant Clone – Reduces provisioning times, especially beneficial for VDI applications.

 

 

Identity federation with Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) – Provides secure access and account management.

 

 

vSphere Trust Authority™ – Provides remote attestation for sensitive workloads.

 

 

 

Content Library – Provides simple and effective centralized management for VM templates, virtual appliances, ISO images and scripts.

 

 

APIs for storage awareness

 

 

Storage APIs for array integration and multipathing – Improves performance, reliability and scalability by leveraging efficient array-based operations and third-party storage vendor multipath software capabilities.

 

 

vSphere Virtual Volumes™ – Virtualizes external storage (SAN and NAS) and provides VM-aware, policy-based storage management through vCenter.

 

 

Storage policy-based management – Allows common management across storage tiers and dynamic storage class-of-service automation via a policy-driven control plane.

 

 

Next-generation infrastructure image management – Manages infrastructure images to patch, update or upgrade VMware ESXi™ clusters using a desired state model.

 

vSphere Distributed Switch™ – Centralizes provisioning, administration and monitoring by using cluster-level network aggregation.

 

 

 

Host Profiles and vSphere Auto Deploy™ – Captures host-level configuration settings and saves them as a template to configure other vSphere hosts; monitors hosts for configuration changes and automatically alerts vSphere administrators if a host falls out of compliance.

 

 

 

vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler™ (DRS) and vSphere Distributed Power Management™ (DPM) – Enables usage with business priorities by automatically load balancing across hosts; optimizes power consumption by turning off hosts during periods of reduced demand.

 

 

 

vSphere Storage DRS™ – Enables automated load balancing to look at storage characteristics to determine the best place for a given VM’s data when it is created and used over time.

 

 

 

vSphere Network I/O Control and vSphere Storage I/O Control – Prioritizes storage and network access by continuously monitoring I/O load of a storage volume and over the network, and dynamically allocating available I/O resources to VMs according to business needs.

 

 

 

Single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) support – Allows one PCI Express (PCIe) adapter to be presented as multiple separate logical devices to VMs; allows users to offload I/O processing and reduce network latency.

 

 

 

vSphere Persistent Memory™ – Leverages persistent memory to provide DRAM-like performance with flash-like prices.

 

 

 

NVIDIA GRID vGPU – Enables native 2D and 3D graphics performance for VMs; supports multiple vGPUs per VM.

 

 

 

Predictive DRS – Feature that combines the analytics of vRealize Operations Manager with the logic of vSphere. This collaboration between products allows DRS to execute predictive moves based on the predictive data sent by vRealize Operation.

 

 

 

Accelerated graphics for VMs

 

 

 

Dynamic vSphere DirectPath I/O™ – Supports vGPU and vSphere DirectPath I/O initial VM placement.

 

 

vCenter Server Profile – Provides desired-state configuration management capabilities for vCenter Server; helps users to define/validate/apply configuration for multiple vCenters.

 

 

 

vCenter Server

Standard

vCenter Server update planner – Manages the compatibility and interoperability for vCenter Server for upgrade scenarios; allows users to generate an interoperability and pre-checks report, which helps plan for upgrades.

 

 

 

vSphere Native Key Provider - A mechanism fully within vSphere to enable data-at-rest protections like vSAN Encryption, VM Encryption, and vTPM out of the box, making it a lot easier for customers to take advantage of these security features and improve overall security posture for VM environments.

How to choose a suitable vSphere edition

As you can see from the above VMware vSphere edition comparison table, vSphere 7 Enterprise Plus is the most comprehensive, but many of its unique features are not very useful for individual users or small businesses.

Therefore, if you are an individual user who want to try out vSphere basic features, vSphere Essentials or Essentials Plus will be enough. As for small or medium-sized enterprises, vSphere 7 Standard Edition will better meet the business needs. And for large organizations, the comprehensive edition of vSphere 7 Enterprise Plus can better improve productivity and business continuity.

Efficient VMware vSphere backup solution - AOMEI Cyber Backup

As you can see from the vSphere releases table, VMware no longer provides official application for image-level backups, but instead focus on refining vStorage APIs. So regardless of which vSphere 7 edition you choose, you will need to find a third-party backup software to protect your VM data.

And if you use the free VMware ESXi, your options for VM backup and restore may be limited by not supporting vStorage APIs. You may need to find a backup tool that supports the free ESXi.

Here I recommend you an easy yet professional VMware backup solution - AOMEI Cyber Backup. It supports both paid and free versions of VMware ESXi, allowing you to protect your VMware vSphere VMs in 3 simple steps.

Flexible vSphere Backup: batch backup large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server, or multiple VMs on a standalone ESXi host.
Auto Backup Schedule: you can create an automatic VM backup schedule to perform the task daily, weekly, monthly.
Restore from Any Point: capable of restoring entire VM from any backed up history versions.
Role Assignment: allows one administrator to create sub-accounts with limited privileges, effectively reduce human errors.
Supported Versions: centrally manage VMs on VMware vSphere/ESXi 6.0 and later versions

Next, I will demonstrate how to create an automatic backup task that covers multiple VMs. You can click the button below to enjoy the free trial:

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

*You can choose to install this VM backup software on either Windows or Linux system.

3 simple steps to backup multiple VMs in VMware vSphere

1. Bind Devices: Access AOMEI Cyber Backup web client, navigate to Source Device > VMware > + Add VMware Device to Add vCenter or Standalone ESXi, and then click > Bind Device.

Note: Once bound the host you do not need to repeat this step later.

Add VMware ESXi host

2. Create Backup Task: Navigate to Backup Task > + Create New Task, select the Backup Method as VMware ESXi Backup, and then set the Task NameDevice, Target, Schedule and Backup Cleanup.

Create a VMware ESXi backup task

  • Device: you can select multiple VMs from added vCenter Server or standalone ESXi host.
  • Target: back up to local path or network path. Used paths will be saved in Favorite Storage for handy selection.

Select a network path

  • Schedule: performing full, differential or incremental backup, and automate execution daily, weekly or monthly according to the frequency you specified.
  • Backup cleanup: set up a retention policy to auto delete old backup files and save your storage space.

Backup schedule type

Now you can click Start Backup and select to Add the schedule and start backup now, or Add the schedule only.

Start Backup

3. Restore VM: Click > Restore on the backup task to open a wizard, and click Select Content to specify a restore point. Click Start Restore to execute the restoration.

Restore to new location: You can choose to restore the backup from any history version, and create an identical new VM in the same or another datastore/host.

Restore to new location

Summary

If you want to choose the popular product VMware vSphere but are confused by the complexity of features and editions, this article provides a table of VMware vSphere edition comparison. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you.

In addition, after creating a virtual machine with VMware ESXi, you will need an effective solution to backup VMware ESXi VM data. AOMEI Cyber Backup definitely worth a try.