The infrastructure that supports virtual machines consists of at least two software layers, virtualization and management. In vSphere, ESXi provides the virtualization capabilities that aggregate and present the host hardware to virtual machines as a normalized set of resources. Virtual machines run on ESXi hosts that vCenter Server manages.

vCenter Server can pool the resources of multiple hosts and lets you effectively monitor and manage your data center infrastructure. You can manage resources for virtual machines, provision virtual machines, schedule tasks, collect statistics logs, create templates, and more. vCenter Server also provides vSphere vMotion™, vSphere Storage vMotion, vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), vSphere High Availability (HA), and vSphere Fault Tolerance. These services enable efficient and automated resource management and high availability for virtual machines.

The vSphere Client is the primary interface for managing vCenter Server, ESXi hosts, and virtual machines. The vSphere Client also provides console access to virtual machines.
Note: For information about running virtual machines on an isolated ESXi host, see the vSphere Single Host Management documentation.

The vSphere Client presents the organizational hierarchy of managed objects in inventory views. Inventories are the hierarchal structure used by vCenter Server or the host to organize managed objects. This hierarchy includes the monitored objects in vCenter Server.

In the vCenter Server hierarchy that you see in the vSphere Client, a data center is the top-level container of ESXi hosts, folders, clusters, resource pools, vSphere vApps, virtual machines, and so on.

Datastores are virtual representations of underlying physical storage resources. Datastores hide the idiosyncrasies of the underlying physical storage and present a uniform model for the storage resources required by virtual machines. A datastore is the storage location (for example, a physical disk or LUN on a RAID, or a SAN) for virtual machine files.

For some resources, options, or hardware to be available to virtual machines, the host must have the appropriate vSphere license. Licensing in vSphere is applicable to ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, and solutions. Licensing can be based on different criteria, depending on the specifics of each product. For details about vSphere licensing, see the vCenter Server and Host Management documentation.