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I'm going to receive a Xeon Server/Workstation soon and I was thinking about installing ESXi to host some server applications that I want (ex: SVN server, Web server, media server, etc). Most of these will be headless VM's.

My question is: on top of all these headless VM's, is it possible for ESXi to have another VM that would be non-headless (so that it will output video through the VGA/DVI port)? Or are all VM's within ESXi only accessible through remote connections?

I'll be using this non-headless VM like a regular workstation: browsing, development, media, gaming maybe.

The other alternative I was thinking about is to install a very lightweight operating system and have the headless VM's running in Virtualbox.

If it is possible to have have a non-headless VM, what would be the performance compared to a regular workstation? Noticeable or not when gaming?

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ESXi is a virtualization server. It virtualizes the VGA hardware also. You can't really use the native VGA. PCI pass-though might be an option, but I don't think it works for VGA. There is no 3D acceleration either, not useful for gaming.

It sounds like you would benefit most from the VMware Workstation product. For that you run a native host (either Windows or Linux), and can run headless VMs in that. Then you can do native 3D accelleration while still having VMs. But you will probably have to shut down the VMs when running a game.

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Please google for vmware esxi directpath – peterh Dec 9 '13 at 11:37

Some people have had limited success using DirectPath I/O Passthrough with graphics cards in ESXi, of course your motherboard has to support it and not all graphics cards work so YMMV.

For things like gaming and media though, this'd not be a particularly great idea.

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You can get access to the console of any VMs that you create. The performance is not great, but it is definitely usable for routine admin tasks.

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