What’s new in VMware ESX Server 3.5?

Just released is the latest enterprise virtualization platform from VMware – ESX Server 3.5. However, is there really anything useful in this release? Is it even deserving of a “point 5” release name or should it have just been ESX Server 3.0.3? Let’s find out…

Where are the new features in VMware ESX Server 3.5?

Today, the latest version of VMware ESX is the recently released 3.0.2 Update level 1. While the 3.0.2 U1 release notes offer a number of bug fixes, there aren’t many new features. But what does ESX 3.5 have in store for us?

Here is the feature list for VMware ESX Server 3.5:

  • Expanded Storage options and support for SATA.
  • 10GB Ethernet support & Infiniband TCP Segment Offload and Jumbo Frames
  • Hardware nested page tables
  • Paravirtualized Linux Guest operating systems
  • Support for Virtual Guests with 64GB of RAM and Physical hosts with 128GB of memory
  • VMware Storage VMotion
  • VMware Update Manager
  • VMware Distributed Power Management
  • VMware Guided Consolidation

Of course, features are only important if they apply to you and help you in some way. As everyone’s needs are different, it is difficult to say which features benefit you vs. benefiting me. However, let me share with you the two feature that I find exciting…

VMware Storage VMotion

With VMotion, you can move a Powered On virtual guest OS from one host to another with no downtime. That is amazing! However, the virtual disk must stay in place in the shared storage system (the NAS or SAN). With “Storage VMotion”, VMware takes this a step farther…

With Storage VMotion, you can move a Powered On VMware Guest virtual machine, from one ESX host AND from one ESX datastore (say one SAN to another or from one local host to a SAN) with no downtime. Now that is Absolutely Amazing! This will have to be something that I see with my own eyes. This is a feature that will be great to have as many of us use local storage as well as multiple SAN / NAS systems. To be able to move powered on guests from multiple data stores without powering them off will come in very useful!

VMware Site Recovery Manager

With Site Recovery Manager, VMware says that they can automate the entire DR recovery process. Undoubtedly, this possibility is here thanks to VMotion. VMware Site Recovery Manager guides users through the process of creating, automating, and testing disaster recovery plans for their virtual infrastructure.

VMware Update Manager

To me, this is tied with Storage VMotion for the best feature of the Virtual Infrastructure Suite 3.5. Today, applying patches is, honestly, very cumbersome and painful. You have to download them, untar them, red the readme files, determine what order to apply them in, apply them, probably reboot, and more. Oh – don’t forget about all your running VMs. VMware Update Manager sets out to solve those issues.

With Update Manager, you can automatically patch ESX hosts AND (get this) virtual guest machines!

VMware ESX 3i and new packaging

With the release of VMware ESX Server 3.5, also comes the release of VMware ESX 3i (see How will VMware ESX Server 3i Change the future of Virtualization?). 3i provides ESX without the service console and it gives you the ability to get ESX in the firmware from the major server manufacturers. For more information on 3i, see the article above.

With the release of 3.5, VMware is also changing the packaging of the ESX product line. They will not offer the following:

  • ESX 3i only – $495 for 2 processors
  • ESX Foundation (previously called “Starter”) – $995 for 2 processors – includes 3i, VCB, and Update Manager
  • ESX Standard – $2995 for 2 processors – includes all the features of Foundation plus VMware HA
  • ESX Enterprise – $5750 for 2 processors – includes VMotion, VMware Storage VMotion, and VMware DRS with Distributed Power Management (DPM)


Virtual Infrastructure & VMware ESX Server 3.5 and 3i promise to have a number of new features but they are not a revolutionary new product. In my mind, the single greatest feature is the ability to run VMware ESX Server 3i and the new VMware Update Manager. Still, no matter which of the more recent released you are running, VMware ESX is absolutely the highest performance, greatest featured virtualization OS available! So I encourage you to download and try out the new VMware ESX Server 3.5 & 3i today!