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VMware's vSphere Essentials Kits for Retail and Branch Offices were the company's previous offerings for remote office virtualization before it introduced vSphere Remote Office Branch Office (ROBO) Standard and Advanced Editions at VMworld 2014.
The basic vSphere Essentials kit provided only the vSphere hypervisor, while the Essentials Plus kit included a much broader array of features -- such as vSphere High Availability (HA), vMotion, vSphere Data Protection, vSphere Replication, vShield Endpoint and five licenses for vCenter Server Essentials.
By comparison, both current editions of vSphere ROBO include the Plus feature set, as well as vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) and Storage vMotion. However, vCenter Server Essentials has been removed from the ROBO packs. Users that already have vCenter Server Standard 5.5 Update 2 or later can manage ROBO editions, or purchase vCenter Server Standard separately to manage both the organization's data center and the remote sites with a single administrative tool.
The number and distribution of VM licenses has also changed dramatically from the earlier ROBO kit offerings. VMware's vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus kits had a limit of up to three ESXi host systems per remote site, but the new vSphere ROBO offering allows up to 25 VM licenses per site -- and those licenses can be distributed among multiple remote sites. Sites that require more than 25 VMs should deploy comprehensive versions of vSphere, such as vSphere Standard, Enterprise or Enterprise Plus.
Ultimately, VMware's vSphere ROBO Standard and Advanced offerings are designed to replace the legacy vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus kits. Customers can convert Essentials kits to ROBO packs by requesting a service ticket through the VMware service portal.
Find out how the VMware ROBO editions differ
Complete VMworld 2014 recap