Why I’m Using VMware ESXi In My Home Lab

A question came to me recently concerning my use of VMware ESXi on my home lab servers rather than Microsoft Hyper-V. I should of course acknowledge there are other options such as Linux and various other hypervisors but let’s stay on point for now.

At work I run both ESXi and Hyper-V, there are certainly features I’d like to play with on both and I need to keep my skill set up to date so I can’t really afford to miss out on one of them. That being said the issue was quickly resolved when I looked at some of the virtual appliances/simulators I wanted to test and do lab work on – many of them (at the time of writing) are still only available for VMware ESXi/Workstation. The second point that pushed me to VMware is the ability to nest Hyper-V inside ESXi but the inability to do it the other way round. As I am using two high end servers for my lab my physical hardware is limited in quantity but flush for resource. It is easy for me to deploy a Microsoft Server 2012 R2 or 2016 virtual machine on ESXi and then enable Hyper-V within this guest. This allows me to play with both hypervisors without having to rebuild my lab equipment or buy more physical kit.

I wouldn’t be surprised if over time my lab changes to suit my needs, I might perhaps sling Nutanix on and try their hypervisor ‘Acropolis’ or maybe something else, it just has to give me the maximum amount of flexibility to run anything and everything I could want.

Interestingly my original plan was always to install Microsoft Server 2016 Nano server on the bare metal and run a Windows 10 desktop on VMware workstation from my normal PC to manage everything. Maybe when some of these virtual appliances and simulators become available on Hyper-V I will give that a go.


I’d certainly be interested to hear what other people are using for home labs so feel free to drop a comment below or get in touch on Twitter @bytesizedalex

6 thoughts on “Why I’m Using VMware ESXi In My Home Lab”

  1. Hi. I am just jumping into those same waters (having migrated to ESXi just last week) and for the same reasons too. Even the devices available in both flavors seemed to be a more convoluted process to set up on Hyper-V. However, my goals were to look at the appliance(s), not compare and contrast the installation processes on Hyper-V vs. ESXi (the Cisco Nexus 1000v switch for example).

    Anyway, like badges, it has become a hobby of mine to find and collect appliances … 80% of which I will likely never find the time to look at. lol

  2. Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Anniversary edition both have the ability to do nested virtualization finally, and there are a few articles floating round on using it to run ESXi on Hyper-V.
    I’m not saying that this solves everything or means you should replace your solution with Hyper-V in the lab now, but I think the use cases where you need ESXi are slowly becoming less.
    It’s also nice to see vendors starting to support hyper-V more and more, like EMC DD VE is Hyper-V compatible now with v6.

    • Hey Ben,

      This is something I’ve been keeping an eye on, in fact I’m very tempted to rebuild using S2D and give it a play. As you say vendors are starting to build their appliances for native Hyper-V which is fantastic. Really exciting times to see the developments from all vendors – just need more time to try them all!

  3. I concur with Ben. For home use, I am retiring my ESXi system and replacing it with Hyper-V 2016. While ESXi supported my legacy workloads in the past, I no longer have this requirement. Couple this with more free features in Hyper-V compared to the similar ESXi and my decision was made.


    • This is so true – I’m keeping a close eye on a couple old appliances that I use which don’t yet have a Hyper-V equivalent but it’s becoming much easier to look at migrating. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a follow up post in the near future explaining why I moved away!

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