vSphere is a server virtualization software application from VMware. It debuted in 2009 as the successor to the company’s flagship VMware Infrastructure solution and serves as a complete platform for implementing and managing virtual machine (VM) infrastructure on a large scale. Sometimes referred to as a cloud operating system or virtualized data center platform, VMware vSphere enables IT departments to efficiently place application workloads on the most cost-effective compute resources available.
With the launch of VMware vSphere 5.0, the company introduced a vRAM pricing model that frustrated many existing customers, leading VMware to eventually scrape the RAM-based pricing model in favor of a per-CPU socket model that took effect with VMware vSphere 5.1. Starting in early 2014, vSphere was also bundled as part of VMware vCloud Suite.
vSphere includes the following components:
- VMware ESX/ESXi, a type 1 hypervisor that functions as the virtualization server
- VMware vCenter Server, the centralized management utility
- VMware vSphere Client, which installs and manages virtual machines through the hypervisor
- VMware Virtual Machine File System (VMFS), a high-performance cluster file management system
VMware vSphere vs. VMware Workstation
Although they are somewhat similar virtualization technologies, vSphere and Workstation are distinct software products from VMware. Fundamentally, VMware vSphere is a suite of tools that help create a robust virtualized server in the context of a virtual data center. On the other hand, VMware Workstation is a hypervisor (akin to ESXi) that runs on a much smaller scale. Workstation (or Fusion for macOS) runs on a single PC to run multiple small virtual machines with independent operating systems, so it’s intended for individual users rather than large enterprises.