Automation with ESXi and vSphere 5.0

With the announcement of vSphere 5.0, VMware has kept its word on only having VMware ESXi for the physical host operating system. This is the first release of vSphere with just VMware ESXi as an option.  I must admit that I was not a big fan of the concept when it was introduced as an option in the 3.x days.  I had a very slick automated process in place that was one of my pride and joys at the moment and VMware ESXi was just lagging behind in functionality compared to what I was able to do with VMware ESX.  My attitude started to change with the release of VMware ESX 4.1 as presented in an earlier post and now that vSphere 5.0 is announced I must admit that I think VMware has gone about this process of a cutover to ESXi quite well and the functionality that is presented in this release is quite impressive.

One of the first enhancements that are presented with this release is the introduction VMware VMware Image Builder using the VMware Infrastructure Bundles (VIB).  The VIB is to be considered the software packing format to be used with VMware ESXi.  This bundle answers the problem of not having the correct CIM provider and in some cases drivers that were needed for the different OEM platforms on the market. The bundle puts together the VMware ESXi base image with all the different CIM providers, plug-in components and drivers needed for each and all physical hardware platforms as well as having the ability to specify relationships with other VIBs to know what it depends on as well as what it conflicts with. At this point, the VMware Image Builder is a set of command line utilities for creating, managing image profiles and building VMware ESXi customized boot images. This initial version of VMware Image Builder is based on PowerCLI as a snap-in component bundles as part of the VMware PowerCLI tools.

The next enhancement to talk about is the VMware Auto Deploy (VAD). This is the new host deployment method that is introduced in the vSphere 5.0 release.  This enhancement is the one that I have been really waiting for to really be able to fully automate the physical host deployment taking advantage of PXE boot. The VAD works with Image Builder, vCenter Server as well as Host Profiles.  Configuration of the host is applied using an answer files, which leaves options available for easy customization and mass deployment. Prior to Auto Deploy the ESXi Image and configuration, state and log files are stored on the boot device and with VAD all information on the state of the host is stored off the host in brought into vCenter Server. The VAD can be broken into four distinct components…

 1. PXE Boot Infrastructure
a. DHCP Server
b. TFTP Server
c. Gets gPXE files from vCenter

2. Auto Deploy Server
a. Rules Engine
b. PowerCLI Snap-in
c. Web Server

3. Image Builder
a. Image Profilies
b. PowerCLI Snap-in

4. vCenter Server
a. Store Rules
b. Host Profiles
c. Answer Files

Finally, a fully deployed and supported, native mass-deployment option for ESXi.  I have been waiting a while for things to mature to this point, at least as far as the automation and deployment goes.  This presents an avenue to true on demand host creation and deployment based on alerts or performance metrics and overall resource allocation.  This is my first post on the release of vSphere 5.0 and this was what really caught my attention.  For all you automation junkies out there this should really catch your eye, as well. The vSphere 5.0 release has got me excited with what is coming now as well as the future releases.



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