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VMware's Arm hypervisor still creeping forward, slowly

If Virtzilla's serious about multicloud, surely this gets real soon?

VMware has released another update to its hypervisor for the Arm architecture, without showing any signs it will soon be productized.

The virty giant first teased ESXi for Arm way back in 2018, and in 2020 delivered a "Fling" – Virtzilla-speak for solid but utterly unsupported code it makes available for testing and general merriment.

In the years since, the Fling has gained support for serious Arm server CPUs – such as Ampere’s Altra and Altra Max, and the HPE ProLiant RL300 that runs them. It runs on the Raspberry Pi, too, meaning millions of hobbyists can play with VMware's core hypervisor tech.

But VMware has never signalled it plans to productize the Fling – even as key partner AWS emphasized its own Arm-powered Graviton CPUs, other hyperscale clouds adopt Ampere CPUs, and Arm itself claimed to have won five percent share of all cloudy CPUs.

Virtzilla did, however, invest in its hypervisor on the Arm platform for use in SmartNICs. That work debuted along with vSphere 8 last year and is now front and center in VMware's plan to make on-prem datacenters more efficient by offloading networking and storage chores from the CPU to Arm cores in a SmartNIC.

While the Fling was occasionally upgraded, and the SmartNIC work completed, VMware ramped up its talk of the need to create a consistent management and policy experience across multiple clouds. Yet even as interest in Arm-powered clouds increased, the virty giant didn't suggest the Fling would grow up to stretch its vision of multicloud abstraction into a multi-CPU-architecture multicloud.

Version 1.13 of the ESXi on Arm Fling – which debuted on Wednesday – doesn't give any hints that leap will happen soon. The update mostly offers bug fixes – although the addition of the ability to enable high-availability clusters of Arm servers suggests more profound evolution.

But the recently released content catalog for VMware Explore – the upcoming global gabfest – makes no mention of ESXi on Arm. That may just be VMware keeping its best news out of the public eye, as is its usual practice.

Or perhaps it's still not really sure what customers want to do with ESXi on Arm. Its blog posts announcing Fling updates sign off with requests for feedback "to help us shape future releases" – including the types of workloads and use cases customers want. ®

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