Community Manager at PeerSpot (formerly IT Central Station)
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VMware ESXi or VMware Workstation?

If I use the same guest virtual machine (the same CPU,RAM,HDD) in VMware Workstation environment and in ESXI environment do these two machines have the same performance? Are there any differences/ benefits of using ESXI instead of VMware workstation?

I am interesting in only the performance side.

PeerSpot user
34 Answers
it_user156621 - PeerSpot reviewer
Network Administrator at a educational organization with 51-200 employees
Oct 26, 2014

The largest performance impact would be the overhead of the underlying operating system.

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it_user84711 - PeerSpot reviewer
User at a tech company with 51-200 employees
Oct 23, 2014

ESXi is what is called a "type 1 hypervisor": a dedicated virtualization operating system running directly on the host hardware, with full access and control to hardware resources; Player/Workstation/Server are "type 2 hypervisors": they are applications running on an underlying operating system (Windows or Linux); they have to go through it to access hardware, and this is the main reason ESX (i) is definitely better; the difference in performances is simply astounding.

it_user524055 - PeerSpot reviewer
Sr.Engineer-High Touch Technical Services at Cisco
Real User
Oct 1, 2016

Both are good

Jun 17, 2016

As many have stated, ESXi is generally better for performance. However, it's not really that simple, and depends on the workload of the vms. If you only have 1 or 2 VMs, the performance difference is negligible, and you might even find workstation faster as the host OS can do caching on the guest VMs with otherwise unused RAM. Also, the way snapshots work in the workstation it is better optimized for supporting large amounts of snapshots and switching between them. Switching can be faster in workstation, but it pauses the machines more but ESXi is designed to minimize the downtime and having large snapshots slow down the guest more than workstation does.

Chris Childerhose - PeerSpot reviewer
Lead Infrastructure Architect at ThinkON
Real User
ExpertTop 5
Apr 8, 2016

If you are looking at just the "Performance" aspect of it then you will want to go with ESXi since it is a Type 1 hypervisor and is built for the performance aspect, whereas Workstation as mentioned sits on top of Windows/Linux and is not optimized the same way.

I have done comparisons and ESXi usually outperforms Workstation in all tests.

it_user352776 - PeerSpot reviewer
IT Division at Lais s.r.l.
Dec 28, 2015

Esxi is a bare metal product so is optimized for guest's performance

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it_user271026 - PeerSpot reviewer
System Administrator at a university with 1,001-5,000 employees
Oct 14, 2015

In production environment I don't have any doubt, ESXi, the workstation works on top of Microsoft Windows.

it_user312168 - PeerSpot reviewer
Cloud architect at a tech services company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Sep 21, 2015

If we stick to the initial question: Same VM on different environnement.
ESXi is Free when Workstation not
ESXi have better performance as it's a Bare-Metal Hypervisor when Workstation need an OS to run
ESXi talks directly with hardware when Workstation is dealing first with OS
ESXi can run from a pen drive (USB for example) and can fir into the RAM where Workstation have to be properly installed and setup :)

it_user291504 - PeerSpot reviewer
Network Engineer II at a legal firm with 1,001-5,000 employees
Aug 13, 2015

From purely a performance perspective, ESXi is a better choice. The hypervisor is running directly on the hardware as opposed to running on an existing OS. ESXi has direct access to the hardware without going through a 3rd party so to speak, the performance gains are astounding.

it_user182460 - PeerSpot reviewer
User at a computer software company
Aug 3, 2015

Esxi from s dry perspective. But workstation is simpler to work with

QA Manager at Tandicorp
Real User
Top 20Leaderboard
Apr 23, 2015

The workstation are for virtualizations pc, ESX virtual infrastructure is to manage its own operating system, have virtualized servers and a centralized administration.

it_user4524 - PeerSpot reviewer
Founder & Principal Architect at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Oct 28, 2014

ESXi will give you better performance when installed on the same piece of equipment. Usually though, Workstation is installed on consumer-class equipment (laptops, desktops, etc.) while ESXi is for enterprise-grade hardware (servers). That class of hardware will usually outperform the consumer equivalent hands-down.

Like the others said, Workstation is installed on top of an operating system, which has its own overhead and baggage. ESXi IS the operating system on the hardware, and comes with much less operational overhead.

So... ESXi will almost always outperform Workstation when everything else is created equal.

it_user143286 - PeerSpot reviewer
Senior IT Consultant/Program Mgmt at Consultant
Oct 26, 2014

Depends on how ESXi is installed as a type 1 vs type 2 hypervisor

Either way the performance will be similar

Oct 24, 2014

Regarding performance only

It is a very fuzzy question because it is necessary to have
more environment info to do a fine recommendation but assuming
the basis : the condition you referred - we have to set an
identical base hardware - , NO other vm running, the related
vm is stored in the SAME physical peripheral and finally the vm
has a SERVER role .
With these conditions the ESXI will always performs better.
The only reason to choose ESXI appears if you run other vm under
the virtual environment concurrently, ESXI will always performs
better in that case. Regarding PERFORMANCE ( your question) and
with the info we have there is no other thing i can refer.
If your vm IS NO A SERVER we should analyze the application to
run there to evaluate the ESXI\Workstation comparison but
appears that has no sense cause the user interface you might
need to run.

it_user134766 - PeerSpot reviewer
DevOps Engineer & Cloud specialist with 501-1,000 employees
Oct 24, 2014

there are a lot of differences between ESX and VMware Workstation, some are these:

- Bare metal
- Free
- Needs other application to administrate (vsphere and runs on Windows)
- Server operation (if the esx host reboot the guest starts with the physical server)
- You can implement a cluster architecture using others ESX (2+) servers and vcenter (not free)

VMware Workstation:
- Runs on top of windows or linux, not server capabilities.
- You cannot using as a cluster.

So my question is what do you need to do with vmware??? if you just want to virtualizate a server to run some test, you can use vmware player, virtualbox, but if you want and have a physical server to put servers on it, use ESX.


it_user153603 - PeerSpot reviewer
User at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014

VMware workstation installs on " top of the operating system, usually WS2003
or WS2008. ESXI usually installs to " hardware" without WS2003 or

it_user149889 - PeerSpot reviewer
Engineer at F5 Networks
Oct 23, 2014

ESXI is a type 1 hypervisor used
mainly in datacenters for capacity planning and network/server
consolidation. Vmware workstation is a type 2 hypervisor
used mainly as an extensive
desktop virtualization application for use on laptops & desktops. If you
need a solution that is portable and versatile for desktops & servers,
consider Vmware workstation. However if you plan to deploy a device in a
datacenter you may want to use ESXI. I can go into more detail over the
telephone if you like.


it_user84882 - PeerSpot reviewer
Systems Analyst at a government with 1,001-5,000 employees
Oct 23, 2014

Lots of good information on this topic explaining ESXi being a Type 1/Bare metal vs VMware Workstation Type2/sit on top of OS. Let me throw some light on the use cases - if you just have one box and you want to leverage that for VM's that are for demo/training or to get a feel of things then VM Workstation is a good fit. Installing ESXi on that box would mean you would have to have another machine to connect to it via a vsphere Client - you would also need to be on the same subnet so a local switch if you are a small shop could fit the bill. For anything enterprise related, production workloads I'd recommend going the ESXi route. Mind you this is only the very first baby step towards virtualization and the first building block. Next you could have two ESXi hosts with a shared storage - a local NAS attached to them - if its a lab connect all three objects to the switch and put them on same subnet - install vcenter and viola you have yourself a good environment to spin workload in or experience the true capabilities albeit the starter ones of VMware. Good luck.

Oct 23, 2014

NO, Esxi is bare metal hypervisor (Virtual layer) which sits directly on
hardware where as VM workstation needs any operating system to work. Hence
performance of ESXi will be better than workstation. Hence all the
production environment usage ESXi.

it_user158289 - PeerSpot reviewer
Engineer at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014

If I may explain in layman terms. VMware Workstation needs an Operating system to run. Typically it would be a Windows, Linux or Mac OS. For a virtual machine to talk to your hardware (PC) it has to talk to the guest os, then the base OS (windows, linux, Mac OS) and then to hardware. There are multiple layers it has to go through before it could execute your guest os instructions. Thats why they call it Type 2 hypervisor. But when you run a vm on ESXi it uses the hypervisor directly talk to your hardware. Hence it is called Type 1 hypervisor. Unlike the previous scenario there are no multiple layers involved.

it_user8685 - PeerSpot reviewer
Infrastructure Expert at Cloud Counselage Inc. (www.cloudcounselage.com)
Oct 23, 2014

To put it simply, ESXi is a bare-metal host/OS, meant to host heavier Server VMs (production servers or virtual desktops etc.). On the other hand, VMware Workstation is based on a base OS and as the name suggests its meant for just that; client OS VMs or lighter server VMs for demonstration/training purposes. Obviously, performance of ESXi would be far better than that of a Workstation. Cheers!

it_user3405 - PeerSpot reviewer
Partner at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
Oct 23, 2014

I am in agreement with Mr. Perry, if you are looking at performance, ESXi is stripped down version of linux/unix that runs on a baremetal machine. In addition, the services that run on the ESXi server is very small in nature (VPXA, AAM, VMAP), most of the management is done at Vcenter layer so the amount of processing is offloaded where the task/response is sent to the server to process (very little overhead). In addition, since the size of the image used to install the server (ESXi) is less than 1GB (5.X), you can install it on a USB stick and boot from the USB stick (just make sure the disk's MTBF is very good). HP has embedded in their blade framework where you can install a pre-installed USB stick inside the Blade's architecture. Then connect the server to a storage system. This gives the server high-speed front end processing without having to invest into disks. The USB stick can be 32-64-128 GB drives that can be easily refreshed if an there is a problem found with the disk. If you are not using blade servers, just use the USB3 connectors on a workstation that supports their Hardware Compatibility Matrix. If you have a MAC book, then you can use thunderbolt (TB), this will give you the much added speed you are looking for, you just have to ensure from the board, to the connector is inline with best practices from MAC & Intel.

Remember, Hypervisor I is considered Citrix Xenserver and VMware ESXi, Type II is Oracle Virtual Machine, VMware Workstation where they (II) interact with an Operating system. This design sites atop of the Primary OS where the limitations of the OS are inherent with the existing underlying OS (drivers, virus, software running, to echo Mr. Perry's point earlier). Since I is an image, it is less likely to obtain viruses due to the stripped down nature and architecture of the image/OS.

I hope this helps address some of the concerns.


it_user70794 - PeerSpot reviewer
IT Administrator at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014

ESX(i) is a type 1 hypervisor, which means it would typically run on bare metal with the virtual machines running on top. VMware Workstation is a type 2 hypervisor which runs on top of a conventional operating system (windows/linux) environment. A type 2 hypervisor, like VMware Workstation provides a distinct second software layer, guest operating-systems run at the third level above the hardware. Thus ESXi utilizes the full capacity of the hardware thus performance is exponentially better.

it_user113166 - PeerSpot reviewer
Engineer at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014

The ESXI Hyipervisor is the only software running under the VM. If you are using the Workstation software you have all the other software running on the host. And Windows itself uses a lot more resources than ESX HypervisorI. So for the performance running as an ESXI VM would definitely give better.

it_user88389 - PeerSpot reviewer
Senior Engineer at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014

Michael & Raymond are spot on. Assuming the HW is identical, one running ESXi and one running VMware Workstation as an application residing on a full fledged OS, the ESXi host will provide higher performance than workstation. With the ESXi host you have removed the latency and overhead associated with the OS required to run the VMware workstation application (and other OS services).

Professor / Dedicated Systems Expert at Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Real User
Oct 23, 2014


These 2 solutions use the same hypervisor. It should not give too much difference in performance. The paid version has more features having nothing to do with performance.

Best regards


it_user156303 - PeerSpot reviewer
Director at a tech services company
Oct 23, 2014


Of course there is a difference between those two solutions.

If your are planning to have more than 1 VM, then SDDC with ESXi is the the way to transform it.

As more resource on memory and CPU you have, more VM with high performance you can have.

I hope my answer can help you.



Oct 23, 2014

As far as the performance of the two vms on vmware workstation and ESXi is concerned, definitely the performance of vm on ESXi is far better, because it uses type 1 virtualization.

The use case for vmware workstation is only testing and not running any actual servers.
because a workstation runs on a windows OS and the VM runs on top of workstation,
so the vm is actually not using the hardware resources of your PC. while in case of ESXi , the vm is directly accessing the hardware via ESXi.

it_user6699 - PeerSpot reviewer
Technical Operations Engineer at a cloud provider with 51-200 employees
Oct 23, 2014

Assuming the hardware is exactly teh same, ESXi would still perform better by leaps and bounds.

ESXi is a purpose built, bare metal hypervisor.
WMware Workstation is software built to sit on the top of an OS.

Nothing more to say, really.

it_user106698 - PeerSpot reviewer
Technical Services Department Manager with 11-50 employees
Oct 23, 2014


For sure there will be difference since on vmware workstation you will be
relying on windows operating systems which consume by itself some
resources from your hardware not like vmware ESXi kernel which it doesn't
consume much compared to windows.

I hope my answer helps you much.

Oct 23, 2014

VMWare Workstation works on an desktop machine, but ESXi works on a
server (try to run ESXi on a desktop).
With this in mind, the perfomance of ESXi is superior than a VMWare

it_user70659 - PeerSpot reviewer
Systems Analyst at a healthcare company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Oct 23, 2014

ESXi designed for server production environment; VMWare Workstation for
individual development environment.

ESXI much more refined product with extremely stable drivers/modules.

Vice President at a aerospace/defense firm with 51-200 employees
Real User
Oct 23, 2014

Two entirely different systems. Assuming you are running ESXi on a server, you have the full capability of the server hardware to run the VM. In VMware workstation, it is a program running on top of windows that then runs the VM. ESXi only a light overhead + additional memory management. Workstation depends on the desktop machine and then all the additional services running on it as a windows machine, then the overhead of the workstation, then you finally get to the VM. It would be possible to have a beefy desktop with a light batch of services run a VM faster than an overburdened or underpowered host running ESXi but my money is on the ESXi everytime.

Oct 23, 2014

Hyper-V all the way

kind regards

Julian Shaw

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