Free ESXi and API/CLI support

I think there is a pretty good understanding on this topic, but questions still come up once in a while in VI Java API community and my inbox. Some people got errors while trying to manage free ESXi servers via API. The API support of free ESXi is limited to ready only according to a VMware KB article:

vCLI, PowerCLI, and vSphere SDk for Perl are limited to read-only access for the free vSphere Hypervisor edition. To enable full functionality of vCLI on a VMware ESXi host, the host must be licensed with vSphere Essentials, vSphere Essential Plus, vSphere Standard, vSphere Advanced, vSphere Enterprise, or vSphere Enterprise Plus.

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  1. The vSphere Hypervisor mentioned is the ESXi.
  2. It’s not limited to vCLI, PowerCLI, and vSphere SDK for Perl, but any other like VI Java API. They all built on top of vSphere SDK for Web Services, therefore have the same limitation.
  3. You can find comparisons of ESX and ESXi 4.0, 3.5.

To use full vSphere API/CLI with ESXi, you got to have a license. So if you have issue with API calls or CLI scripts, don’t forget to check your ESXi server license.

As a side story, the API was once unlocked unintentionally due to a bug fix on free ESXi 3.5 U3 as covered by Mike in his blog. Check it out here.

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  1. Keigo
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir,

    If my comment below is not suitable here, please excuse me.

    It seems that PowerCLI has limited functionality if it’s used for VM on free ESXi host.

    I faced export-vapp command ended up with 0 byte exported when making .ovf/.vmdk file on ESXi 4.0. Is it due to the same reason with license ?

    Furthermore, it successfully exported on ESX 4.0 host. However, it again exported 0 byte with ESX 4.0 host with evaluation license. Is this again due to the same reason with license ?

    I really appreciate if I can get any feedback on this.

  2. Posted April 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Keigo,

    Thanks for your comment! PowerCLI leverages the vSphere API underneath, so it inherits whatever limitation from API with license.


  3. Keigo
    Posted April 28, 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink
  4. Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Algrhit alright alright that’s exactly what I needed!

  5. Thanos
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I have a remote free ESXi 5.5 and I am interested in
    PoweringUp/Reverting/Rebooting/PoweringOff a VM.
    Do you know if these actions are considered “read-only”?
    Not interested in writing anything to server-side file system.


  6. Posted September 17, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    The power operation is considered to be “write.”

  7. Thanos
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the clarification Steve.

    Will talking to my server via SSH get things done, even if it’s the free version?
    I don’t see any other alternatives.

  8. Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I think that should be fine – but then you have to use the command line. You can probably get what you want in the end, but it would take a lot more efforts which are extra money too. With that thinking, you may want to use the extra money to buy the VMware product. As I remember, the starter edition with 1 vcenter and 6 sockets costs around $500.


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