Take Five With Tom Fenton

5 Free Enterprise Products

For the most part, they run on the same software stack as the paid version of their products.

If you're like me, you're interested in technology and have a small home lab set up to work with the latest technology. One of the issues I've run into, and you've likely run into as well, is figuring out what software to run on it. Cost is a factor, as you probably don't have tens of thousands of dollars to invest in running the same software you use at your day job or want to investigate.

The good news is companies are starting to see the value in offering a free version of their products; some have restrictions (non-production use, limited in capacity and so on), but for the most part they run on the same software stack as the paid version of their products.

For your consideration are five free enterprise products. All are software-based, run on commodity x86 hardware, don't require any special hardware and can be downloaded rather effortlessly (no complicated or intrusive registration forms). Some you'll want to download and use on a daily basis; others you might just want to work with for a few days to get a feel for the technology. Either way, it will be a fine investment of your time. (As a side note, many of the products noted here will not work with the free version of ESXi; many require API access, which is disabled in the free version on ESXi.)

TAKE 1
Unitrends Free Backup Software.

Installs on VMware ESXi and MIcrosoft Hyper-V from a Windows .exe file. The free version supports 1TB of backup capacity. It's fully graphically driven via an HTML5 UI. It supports daily scheduling and incremental backups. Backing up files is a good thing, but recovering them is even more important. Unitrends offers a few different ways to restore individual files and entire virtual machines (VMs), and it supports instant recovery of VMs. Available here.

TAKE 2
Nutanix Community Edition.

This is a limited-scale version (four-node, non-production) of the well-regarded Nutanix hyperconvergence software stack. You'll need to supply your own hypervisor licenses, and it has a hardware-compatibility list that includes the hardware needed to run the software. The public beta was released at the beginning of June and is available here.

TAKE 3
Nexenta NexentaStor Community Edition.

This block-and-file storage product installs on bare metal. It differs from its Enterprise Edition in that it's limited to 18TB, and doesn't support high availability, Fibre Channel or replication. Available here (registration is required).

TAKE 4
EMC ScaleIO.

Converged, scale-out shared storage software that uses direct-attached storage (DAS) on ESXi, other hypervisors or physical systems to create a pool of iSCSI storage. A minimum of three nodes is required, but it can scale to thousands of nodes. ScaleIO has a "no restrictions" license, and is free for non-production use without any restrictions on time or capacity. It has many enterprise storage features, including snapshots, encryption for data at rest, quality of service, auto-tiering and auto-balancing. Download here.

TAKE 5
VMware ESXi.

Many people don't realize that there's a free version of the VMware flagship hypervisor. Despite having some strong limitations, this enterprise-grade hypervisor is great if you want to get used to ESXi technology, or even run a few VMs. Download here.

Bonus Take:
HP Virtualization Performance Viewer (vPV). This monitoring tool allows for real-time monitoring of the OS running in your virtual datacenter. Be sure to learn more about it here.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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