During the closing of the VMworld Europe Keynote on Tuesday, Ray O'Farrell (CTO of VMware) had one more "tiny" surprise for our CEO, Pat Gelsinger 😉 He handed him a tiny little device called the Raspberry Pi (rPI) which was running a prototype version of ESXi! This was completely unexpected even for VMware Employees, especially as we had just announced our ESXi on ARM initiative at VMworld US. You can watch the keynote replay here starting at 1:37:15.
As you can imagine, this created a TON of excitement and buzz at the VMworld but it also sparked some interesting conversations on why VMware would even do this? Was this just a marketing gimmick or was there something more significant in showing that ESXi could run on a rPI?
Interested in @VMware #ESXi on @Arm? Want to understand the VMware Edge vision? See Alex and Regis at the Virtualization at the Edge booth, in the #IoT and Edge Zone at #VMworld2018 in Barcelona! pic.twitter.com/qGO3AO76JD
— It's an Arm world (virtualized) (@WhatAintInside) November 6, 2018
Instead of me telling you about it, why not hear it directly from some of the Engineers who are currently working on the project. On Tuesday, Chris Wolf and Daniel Beveridge had a breakout session at VMware Europe - CTO3509BE Edge: Automation, Analytics, and Real-Time Business and you watch the recording here.
UPDATE (10/09/19)- For those wondering if ESXi on ARM works on the latest rPI 4. Before you ask if this is generally available, the answer is no 🙂
BOOM! #ESXionARM running on the latest @Raspberry_Pi 4 and not just that but with actual working and all being managed by vCenter Server! Nice work to the team
— William Lam (@lamw) October 9, 2019
UPDATE (01/18/19) - Check out this episode of the VirtuallySpeaking Podcast where Andrei and I talk about the ESXi on ARM project at VMware
UPDATE (11/11/18) - For those on Twitter and wish to get the latest updates directly from VMware folks working on both ESXi on ARM/rPI, I have created ESXi on ARM Twitter List which you can subscribed to. In addition, there were also a ton of useful tidbits that were shared by a number of VMware folks which I thought would be useful to aggregate into a Twitter Moment which can be found here, definitely some great info and more background on the project and where we see it potentially going.
Note: Eric Sloof also did a nice video interview here with Alex who was one of the Engineers at the VMware OCTO Booth demo'ing a live setup of ESXi on rPI. They also had ESXi running on other ARM platforms like Marvell MACCHIATObin and SolidRun ClearCloud 8K Edge Gateway. If you are still at VMworld, I highly recommend you visit the OCTO booth (IoT Edge Section) to have a chat with either Alex or Regis.
There were lots of great conversations happening on Twitter regarding ESXi on rPI. One of my favorite reply was from Dominik which actually reminded me of the perfect quote "Big things have small beginnings" from the movie Prometheus.
Launch a space program and fly to the moon?
— Dominik Zorgnotti (@vDominikZ) November 7, 2018
Remember, it was not that long ago that people thought Virtualization would never take off and questioned why you would ever want to virtualize? 😀
I am actually most excited for the use cases that our customers and partners will have once they understand that they can literally re-define what a typical ESXi host can and should look like both from a form factor standpoint as well as what is possible with new compute and power constraints. If you are interested in sharing your feedback and have use cases for ESXi on ARM, feel free to leave a comment and I can connect you with the Product Manager for the ESXi on ARM initiative.
Here are just a few of the use cases that we have heard from our customers so far:
We see a number or Arm use cases with IoT gateway virtualization being a big one. The ability to add resiliency and isolation have come up in conversations with a number of customers and partners. Low cost resilient Arm at the edge is a key potential differentiator for us.
— Chris Wolf (@cswolf) November 6, 2018
Regarding #ESXpi specifically, we do see the resiliency use case as interesting, even for some small single purpose VMs running a Linux micro kernel. Regardless, the larger effort to slim the ESXi footprint will benefit all edge use cases.
— Chris Wolf (@cswolf) November 6, 2018
One use case that I think is worth exploring is a cheap vSAN Witness Appliance (which today can run as a VM or on bare-metal). We have a number of customers who manage a large number of vSAN ROBO sites (5-10K+) and being able to reduce the cost of the infrastructure is something these customers are always thinking about. For those that do not think an rPI can ever be feasible, there are plenty of other ARM systems that have 4GB+ memory that can also be used. Just think of the possibilities!
vSAN Witness would be awesome use case! https://t.co/YyY7lrIxRk
— William Lam (@lamw) November 6, 2018
Lastly, I had a number of folks ask me about joining the ESXi on ARM Beta or where to download the ISO for ESXi on ARM. Unfortunately, there are no plans at the moment. The ESXi on ARM project is still in development but who knows ... maybe I might be able to convince the team to make it available if there is a strong demand from the community? 😉 Leave a comment if you are interested!
Andreas Cederlund says
I'll add one more use case - SDWAN scenarios with NSX. Setting up L2/L3 connections to customer sites with NSX, or expanding data centers easily would be a great use case for running on ARM. For remote offices that don't need any local servers, an RPi in combination with fan-less switch would be an excellent offering.
Maybe the next step could even be having ESXi run on the Open Networking switches from multiple vendors - now THAT would really take things to the next level!
Michael Ryom (@MichaelRyom) says
+1 nsx and sdwan 👍
NSX is precisely what popped into my head the moment I saw ESXi running on a Pi. Really looking forward to it.
Ariel Sanchez Mora says
I think there is strong demand for this. Lots of us already have raspberry Pi's running Linux and we find it to be an "almost there" desktop replacement.
If VMware releases an ARM beta program and related HCL, I'm sure the #vCommunity will get those newer/more capable ARM microservers and it will be a very exciting time. Maybe even run ESXi on a cel phone!
ARM = more efficient computing. Combine it with NSX and 5G bandwidths, and this is the future.
I'd love to see a lightweight vCenter come from this tech. Multiple, cheap and redundant vCenters and vSAN witnesses running on a network freeing up resources on your hosts.
Daniel B says
Definitely interested in the beta if there'll be one 🙂
Literally as soon as I can get my hands on this software I'm buying 4+pis for homelab use and studying for VCAP. Nested esxi is awesome, but a nuc with 32 GB ram is expensive and easy to overload with vcsa+esxi cluster
Stefan Jagger says
I think this might be a movement of some sort towards IoT and smart devices at home. Or maybe it's a vmware phone! 🙂
Aruna Lakmal says
Richard Hughes says
There are many boards in the budget ARM world with better processors and more ram. I have been looking at doing a KVM cluster with the RockChip64. https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=7147
Richard Hughes says
YES ! Count me in on an ARM Beta! Check out my ARM podcast http://podnutz.com/category/minipc/
Get. Me. The. Download. Link. Thank. You. Got. 40. Of. Them. Pesky. Raspberries. 🙂 well in fact more than 40 but those make up the cluster. Would love to get an ESXi farm built out of that.
A big issue with IoT devices is that manufacturers abandon them and they end up vulnerable. I would rather have commodity ARM hardware, and run whatever software as a VM or container. Then capex would be the initial deployment. No need to redeploy 100s of edge devices because company XYZ dropped support for the hardware.
Great news, I would expect a future collaboration with HPE and their lineup of ARM based servers (Moonshot).
Dave Markham says
William - I have so many incredible use case where an arm ESXi would be a dream come true. Please, count me in as another interested party in looking at any early beta (or even alpha)!
Count me in. Eagerly awaiting for a beta.
Noah Shelton says
This would be wonderful to staging training , learning environments for automation, large scale clusters, etc.
kevin golding says
i saw this on the IOT Booth as i was leaving, VMworld EUR on Thursday. i was googling very quickly.. i think there are a ton of use-case most of which are mentioned above. not least to say a cheap lab in my house.
but some great ideas above, SD-WAN in a tiny branch, Money changing machines or MicroATM, most IOT requirements.
Sean Chapman says
Yes Yes Yes!!! Beta please! Super excited for this! I love the direction you guys are going in. Pushing the datacenter to the edge. Was super bummed it's still in project phase. Keep pushing a release please!
Yes please I'd be very much interested in the Beta
Michael Munno says
Yes please, I would really like to be a part of this beta!
Tommy Bee says
Hello Wiliam, is there any news? Also intrested in, regards from Czech Republic:))
Andrew Reynolds says
What makes me excited with this is the potential applications in the SCADA and IoT space. Security in an industrial environment is a real challenge. and having ESXi on ARM devices (and lower power machines) could bring the following benefits to the industrial environment:
- The ability to vMotion PLCs controlling mission critical workloads, allowing power to be cut to electrical boards on production lines without bringing the line fully down
- The ability to use NSX at the edge - bringing a level of security to the SCADA environment that it hasnt seen before, without causing major issues
- enhanced ability and flexibility to backup / restore IoT and SCADA devices (Snapshotting a PLC prior to updating its software or making a programming change would be game changing)
These are just a few cases I can think of off the top of my head, I cant wait to get my hands on an ARM build to test out a few test cases
Kevin Golding says
I think you have hit the nail on the head. While SCADA systems do some critical tasks, not all manufacturers have included functions around those you mentioned, and flexibility isn’t great. Tiny clouds everywhere (fog like) would be an awesome industry. Otherwise we stuck with doing it on lots of NUCS 🙂
Count me in, just ordered the new pi, now waiting for the release of ESXi on ARM!
Dany Bradet says
Count me in too, i'm running Pi for a while now!
Very interested in this as a vSan witness for small office 2 node clusters.
Adam Powell says
I’m also interested in the beta as I have been working on this myself
Mattias Nordlund says
We are developing software (Firewall VNF) for the Edge, currently for KVM on ARM, and would be very inters test in coming in contact with you guys about having it run on ESXi for ARM also.
Ulrich Hilmer says
Pi 4 is out - 1-4GB RAM, USB-C, 1Gbps Ethernet .. so very interested in Beta to test ESXi on this machine
Adding a comment to indicate interest in helping test ESXi on ARM (specifically the new Pi 4)
Me too, very exiting to test ESXi-ARM beta on RB PI 4 cluster 🙂
Been looking for the image... Very interested
I'm interested too! Have two Pi 4B and three Pi 3B+. Testing ESXi-ARM beta on a cluster made of them would be very exciting!
Richard Hughes says
I have a pair of 4GB Pi 4s & wolud love to test ESXi on them!
matt dunlop says
we have been wanting to put it on our pi for a while now we have the new pi 4 i think it would work great.
also we have a few odroids that we would like to test also.
very exiting to test ESXi-ARM beta on RB PI 4 RB Pi3+ and Nano Fire cluster
I am very interested to try ESXi on raspberry, i need try to do some projects over this platform
Chad Steele says
Very interested, have a 6 node cluster that I would love to run as a lab in my cubicle at work. Work in GSS Infra support so having a real operational lab is essential.
Still not sure if you'll release ESXi for ARM Beta? You definitely need to do this sooner rather than later !!!
James G. says
We need ESXi or Docker . . . I prefer the former . . .
I am going to test this out, but is it possible or feasible to deploy a tiny VCSA 6.7 or 7.0 on a Pi 4? Given in a home lab environment, you would only have a few (3 to 6) ESX host. But given Pi4 are locked in at 8GB, will see what happen
William Lam says
No, you can NOT run x86 on Arm 🙂
For vCenter Server, you will still need x86 infrastructure but after that, it can manage ESXi-Arm hosts
Oops, fair point. As VCSA is always like a chicken or the egg when deploying a green field ESX environment, a simple/cheap/compact VCSA would be cool. Thank you for your speedy response