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Support for running ESXi/ESX as a nested virtualization solution (2009916)

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This article provides information about the support for running ESXi/ESX as a nested virtualization solution.


Customers running nested ESXi/ESX will need to obtain additional licenses for the nested ESXi/ESX. 

VMware does not support running nested ESXi/ESX servers in production environments. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • VMware ESXi/ESX running in VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion
  • VMware ESXi/ESX running in VMware ESXi/ESX
  • VMware ESXi/ESX running in other third-party hypervisor solutions
Note: One exception to this is the vSAN Witness Appliance, which is a nested ESXi installation. For more information, see the Deploying a Virtual SAN Witness Appliance section the Administering VMware Virtual SAN guide.

Environments running ESXi/ESX in a nested configuration fall outside of VMware's Support and Service Level Agreements. If you experience issues, VMware is under no obligation to acknowledge or investigate immediately or to provide a resolution. However, VMware is interested in obtaining an easily reproducible scenario for our engineers to investigate through discussions in our VMware communities Nested Virtualization forum.


VMware cannot currently assure production-grade reliability of a nested deployment and does not support this configuration.

Additional Information

VMware is aware of several constraints when running nested hypervisors in a production environment.

ESXi/ESX has strict real-time constraints that cannot always be met in a virtualized environment where the hypervisor has to share control of the physical hardware with the host operating system. This is particularly an issue with hosted products such as VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion.

Despite these constraints, it is possible to run ESXi/ESX nested in VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, and VMware vSphere. Many users have indicated that it works well when used to learn about VMware's server products. As such, VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs) and other technical professionals are encouraged to use nesting to learn about VMware's server products, experiment with server setup, conduct training, show demos, and test configurations.

Known working (however still unsupported) configurations for ESXi/ESX on VMware's hosted products are:
  • ESXi/ESX 4.0: Requires Workstation 7.0 or higher / Fusion 3.0 or higher
  • ESXi/ESX 4.1: Requires Workstation 8.0 or higher / Fusion 4.0 or higher
  • ESXi 5.0: Requires Workstation 8.0 or higher / Fusion 4.1 or higher
  • ESXi 5.1/5.5: Requires Workstation 9.0 or higher / Fusion 5.0 or higher
For more information, see the technical paper Bounding the Running time of Interrupt and Exception Forwarding in Recursive Virtualization for the x86 Architecture.

See Also

Update History

12/08/2011 - Linked directly to Nested Virtualization forum 03/03/2014- Added ESXi 5.1 and 5.5 to product list and solution. 08/25/2014 - Updated for Fusion 7.x

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