VMware vSphere is VMware's virtualization platform, which transforms data centers into aggregated computing infrastructures that include CPU, storage, and networking resources. vSphere manages these infrastructures as a unified operating environment, and provides you with the tools to administer the data centers that participate in that environment.

Overview diagram of VMware vSphere illustrating the relationship among ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, virtual machines, and vSphere Client.

The two core components of vSphere are ESXi and vCenter Server. ESXi is the virtualization platform where you create and run virtual machines and virtual appliances. vCenter Server is the service through which you manage multiple hosts connected in a network and pool host resources.

Want to know what is in the current release of vSphere? Look at the latest vSphere release notes.

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Beginning in vSphere 7.0, you can only deploy or upgrade to vCenter Server 7.0 using an appliance. The new vCenter Server appliance contains all the Platform Services Controller services from earlier releases, preserving all previous functionality, including authentication, certificate management, and licensing. All Platform Services Controller services are consolidated into vCenter Server, simplifying deployment and administration. As these services are now part of vCenter Server, they are no longer described as a part of Platform Services Controller.

vSphere 7.0 introduces vSphere Lifecycle Manager, a centralized and simplified lifecycle management mechanism for VMware ESXi 7.0 hosts. This new feature includes the functionality that Update Manager provided in previous vSphere releases. With vSphere Lifecycle Manager you can manage ESXi hosts by using images and baselines at the cluster level.

Learn how to use vSphere with Tanzu to transform vSphere into a platform for running Kubernetes workloads natively on the hypervisor layer. With this functionality, you can enable a vSphere cluster to run Kubernetes workloads by configuring it as a Supervisor Cluster. Within the Supervisor Cluster, you can create resource pools, called Supervisor Namespaces, and configure them with dedicated memory, storage, and CPU. You can directly deploy containers natively on ESXi within a Supervisor Namespace. These containers live within a special type of pod called a vSphere Pod. You can also leverage the Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Service to easily provision Kubernetes clusters that run within dedicated Supervisor Namespaces.

You can view available vCenter Server updates and upgrades and produce interoperability reports about VMware products associated with vCenter Server using Update Planner. You can also generate pre-update reports that let you make sure your system meets the minimum software and hardware requirements for a successful upgrade of vCenter Server. The report provides information about problems that might prevent the completion of a software upgrade, and actions you can take to remedy those problems.

You can use centralized license management to manage licenses for ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, vSAN clusters, and other VMware solutions. Learn how to use the VMware vSphere Client to manage licenses in your vCenter Server environment.

Learn how to configure networking for vSphere, including how to create vSphere distributed switches and vSphere standard switches, monitor networks to analyze the traffic between virtual machines (VMs) and hosts, and manage network resources. vSphere networking is one of the most critical components in your environment, as it is how your ESXi hosts and VMs communicate.

You can learn about vSphere storage to help you plan a storage strategy for your virtual data center. You can also learn how to configure and use the virtualized and software-defined storage technologies that ESXi and vCenter Server provide. vSphere supports several storage technologies for both traditional and software-defined storage environments.

Learn how to secure your environment using vSphere security features and best practices to safeguard your environment from attack. vSphere provides comprehensive, built-in security, delivering secure applications, infrastructure, data, and access.

You can provide business continuity using vCenter High Availability (vCenter HA) and vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT). vCenter HA provides failover protection against hardware and operating system outages within your virtualized IT environment. If there is a host failure, Fault Tolerance provides continuous protection for a VM.

You can use resource pools, clusters, vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), vSphere Distributed Power Management (DPM), and vSphere Storage I/O Control to manage and allocate resources for ESXi hosts and vCenter Server.

Try Our Deployment and Planning Tools

The following resources are designed to help you plan your vSphere data center deployment, and effectively manage your vSphere environment.

  • vSphere Hardware and Guest Operating System Compatibility Guides. An online reference that shows what hardware, converged systems, operating systems, third-party applications, and VMware products are compatible with a specific version of a VMware software product.
  • VMware Product Interoperability Matrices. Provides details about the compatibility of current and earlier versions of VMware vSphere components, including ESXi, vCenter Server, and other VMware products.
  • VMware Configuration Maximums. When you configure, deploy, and operate your virtual and physical equipment, you must stay at or below the maximums supported by your product. The limits presented in the Configuration Maximums tool are tested limits supported by VMware.

Access Developer and Automation Documentation

VMware {code} is a website dedicated to our developer and automation community. To learn about vSphere APIs, SDKs, and command-line interfaces, visit these VMware {code} resources:

Explore Our Videos

You can learn about deploying, managing, and administering vSphere by reading the documentation, and by watching videos on the VMware Information Experience video channel.

Learn More About vSphere

To learn about vSphere and data center virtualization, see the following resources.

  • Learn more about vSphere by visiting the vSphere Product Page.
  • Ask questions about vSphere by visiting the vSphere Community Forum. You can get help, opinions, and feedback from other VMware users by participating in the discussion forums.
  • Explore vSphere without having to install it using the VMware vSphere Hands-on Labs environment.
  • Learn about the solutions vSphere provides to help you overcome your IT challenges, and create a more efficient digital infrastructure by visiting Cloud Platform Tech Zone and vSphere White Papers and Technical Notes.
  • Read the latest products announcements, technical articles, and operations guidance from VMware on the vSphere Blog.
  • Learn about benchmarking, performance architectures, and other performance-focused topics at the blog VMware VROOM!, maintained by VMware's Performance Engineering team.
  • Visit the William Lam blog, which focuses on automation, integration, and operation of the VMware Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC). William Lam is a Staff Solutions Architect working at VMware.

Use vSphere Documentation

The vSphere documents in HTML reflect the latest vSphere update release of each major vSphere version. For example, version 7.0 contains all the updates for 7.0.x releases. All our documentation comes in PDF format, which you can access by selecting the Download PDF icon PDF download icon on any page in the HTML documentation. PDFs for previous releases of vSphere are available for download in a ZIP archive format. The archive can be found under the Archive Packages heading for each major version in the table of contents on the left.

You can create custom documentation collections, containing only the content that meets your specific information needs, using MyLibrary.