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 🙂
— 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!