Libvirt vs vSphere Management Agent: A Quick Comparison

Libvirt is an open source project for managing almost all hypervisors and containers. It’s implemented in C and can be exposed through different language bindings.

There are both server (a.k.a daemon or agent) and client. If you are familiar with VMware vSphere (I assume you are if you read my blog), the server is very much like the hostd running on the ESXi side. The client is like the VI Java API that can be used for remote management.

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Before comparing the libvirt and VMware, it’s important to understand the terminology differences between two worlds as shown in the following table. Coming from VMware world, I was wondering why a virtual machine is called a domain. But really, a term is a term. Once you know what it stands for or refers to, move on. At the end of the day, there is no “right” but familiar name and any debate can go days leading to no result.

Table: Comparison between Libvirt and VMware vSphere

  Libvirt vSphere
Terminologies Node



Virtual Machine

Hypervisors KVM/QEMU, XEN, LXC, OpenVZ, User Mode Linux, VirtualBox, VMware(ESX/GSX/

Player/Workstation), Microsoft Hyper-V, IBM PowerVM, Parallels

Components libvirtd, libvirt hostd agent on ESXi
Protocol RPC Web Services (SOAP)
Security SSH, TLS, SASL Https, SSH
Ports 16514 (TLS), 22(SSH), 16509 (TCP) 443 for https, 80 for http
Language bindings C#, Java, OCaml, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby All languages that supports SOAP
Features Limited and open (you can migrate Domain to another hypervisor) Comprehensive and restrictive (i.e., vMotion API is not publicly available on ESXi)
Object model No, but can be easily built Yes in doc, but missing in WSDL and needs to be recovered in language binding like vijava API
CLIs Virsh RCLI, PowerCLI, Perl CLI, etc.
Client platforms Linux, Windows (limited) All OSes (Linux, Windows, MacOS, etc.)

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    My company has created products like vSearch ("Super vCenter"), vijavaNG APIs, EAM APIs, ICE tool. We also help clients with virtualization and cloud computing on customized development, training. Should you, or someone you know, need these products and services, please feel free to contact me: steve __AT__

    Me: Steve Jin, VMware vExpert who authored the VMware VI and vSphere SDK by Prentice Hall, and created the de factor open source vSphere Java API while working at VMware engineering. Companies like Cisco, EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell, VMware, are among the users of the API and other tools I developed for their products, internal IT orchestration, and test automation.