VMware ESXi 5.5 Free Hypervisor breaks past 32GB RAM restriction

Posted by Paul Braren on Aug 28 2013 (updated on Aug 30 2013) in
  • ESXi
  • Memory
  • Virtualization
  • It's fair to say I've been more than a little enthusiastic about pushing the boundaries of what's possible with single, affordable, consumer level Core i7 system, with 32GB of regular DIMMs coming in at right around $200. It's really why this site was started back in June of 2011, with dawn of Intel's Z68 motherboard for my vZilla virtualization system. This little beast began life well under $1500, and equally important for 24/7 operations, burned ~100 watts when running SSDs. That's calculates to about $100-$150 USD per year for electricity cost, about 1/3 to 1/5th of a typical dual power supply Xeon, with pricier and thirstier ECC memory.

    Yeah, this gear isn't on VMware's Hardware Compatibility List means it's totally unsupported, but it's also fast and stable, especially once I added SSD cached (read and writes!) RAID controller, described here.

    Witness my enthusiasm grown, looking for ways past the 32GB boundary, as I teeter a bit more toward fanaticism over time:

    Did you notice, buried in the torrential downpour of announcements coming out of VMworld 2013, that the home lab enthusiast may have something else to be excited about with this 5.5 release, beyond the flash(y) stuff like vCache?

    VMware vSphere 5.5 Physical Host Maximums by Simon Seagrave Aug 27 2013

    For SMBs and vSphere home lab users who run the free vSphere Hypervisor, the release of 5.5 removes the 32GB physical memory limit which means (budget permitting) you could start looking at using a single ESXi/Hypervisor solution using a server crammed full of memory

    ESXi 5.5 Free Version – no more hard limit 32GB of RAM August 27 2013 by Vladan SEGET

    Free versions of ESXi were always very popular in the community. People were installing it at home as HTPCs, trying passthrough video cards, NICs directly to the VMs, providing the whole family with the benefit of virtualization and at the same time learning more about Virtualization through nested labs or so. For all those people, the fact that the PC or server has 32 Gb hard limit was always like a handicap.


    ...happy news for everyone by removing the hard limit of 32 GB of RAM with ESXi 5.5 free version. This is really a happy news for each and every IT administrators, IT enthusiasts and all users having home lab...VMware understands our concerns and now released the Free version of ESXi 5.5 with no physical RAM limit.

    With this new ESXi 5.5 free version, We can play around with the Home lab by setup a lab by running more powerful virtual machines and install and play around with our nested virtual machines.

    What's the next barrier? Well, it appears 2011's Z77 motherboard featuring 8 DIMM slots don't have an announced replacement. So now we wait see if Intel's plan is to lock enthusiasts into having to choose higher-end ECC memory/server class home build systems to get past 32GB of supported memory. Hopefully we'll know more in 2014.

    See also:

    VMware ESXi 5.1 can run Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 VMs, nice! by Paul Braren on Mon Sep 24 2012

    Looking for Z87 Motherboard supporting 128GB RAM at Tom's Hardware

    Aug 30 2013 Update:
    As pointed out by Joe Kotran here, the X79 also supports 64GB of memory.
    See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_X79

    Good point, thank you! For me though, I notice that the X79 has just 4 DIMM slots, so a 4x16GB bundle is still pretty pricey. But more important, the X79 was released in late 2011. If I'm going to replace all my Z68's mid 2011 vintage key parts (CPU, DIMMs, mobo), I really want something new, with less watt burn that what I got.