VMware vSphere Architectures Compared
vSphere ESX Architecture
In the original VMware® ESX® architecture, the virtualization kernel (referred to as the VMkernel) was augmented with a management partition known as the console operating system (COS or service console). The primary purpose of the COS was to provide a management interface into the host. Various VMware management agents were deployed in the COS, along with other infrastructure service agents (e.g. name service, time service, logging, etc). In this architecture, many customers deployed other agents from third parties to provide particular functionality, such as hardware monitoring and system management. Furthermore, individual admin users logged into the COS to run configuration and diagnostic commands and scripts.
New vSphere ESXi Architecture
In the new VMware vSphere® ESXi™ architecture, the COS has been removed and all of the VMware agents run directly on the VMkernel. Infrastructure services are provided natively through modules included with the VMkernel. Other authorized third-party modules, such as hardware drivers and hardware monitoring components, can run in VMkernel as well. Only modules that have been digitally signed by VMware are allowed on the system, creating a tightly locked-down architecture. Preventing arbitrary code from running on the VMware vSphere® host greatly improves the security of the system.
The vSphere Hypervisor Architecture
Learn how vSphere’s innovative architecture operates independently from any general-purpose operating system, offering improved security, increased reliability, and simplified management.
VSPHERE ESXI [< 150 MB]
- VMware agents run directly on VMkernel.
- Authorized third-party modules can also run in VMkernel. These provide specific functionality.
- Hardware monitoring.
- Hardware drivers.
- VMware components and third-party components updated independently.
- The “dual-image” approach lets you revert to prior image if desired.
- No arbitrary code is allowed on the system.
Comparing the Legacy and New vSphere Architectures
Comparing the previous generation ESX architecture with the new innovative ESXi architecture:
|Admin/config CLIs||COS + vCLI||PowerCLI + vCLI (enhanced)|
|Advanced Troubleshooting||COS||ESXi Shell|
|Boot from SAN||Supported||Supported|
|HW Monitoring||Third-party agents in COS||CIM providers|
|Serial Port Connectivity||Supported||Supported|
|Rapid deployment and central management of hosts via Auto Deploy||Not Supported||Supported|
|Custom image creation and management||Not Supported||Supported|
|Secure syslog||Not Supported||Supported|
|Management interface firewall||Supported||Supported|
See the KB article for a detailed comparison.