When you start a physical host set up for Auto Deploy, Auto Deploy uses a PXE boot infrastructure in conjunction with vSphere host profiles to provision and customize that host. No state is stored on the host itself, instead, the Auto Deploy server manages state information for each host.

Auto Deploy stores the information for the ESXi hosts to be provisioned in different locations. Information about the location of image profiles and host profiles is initially specified in the rules that map machines to image profiles and host profiles. When a host boots for the first time, the vCenter Server system creates a corresponding host object and stores the information in the database.

Auto Deploy Stores Information for Deployment

Information Type


Source of State Information

Image state

Executable software to run on an ESXi host.

Image profile, created with Image Builder PowerCLI.

Configuration state

Configurable settings that determine how the host is configured, for example, virtual switches and their settings, driver settings, boot parameters, and so on.

Host profile, created by using the host profile UI. Often comes from a template host.

Dynamic state

Runtime state that is generated by the running software, for example, generated private keys or runtime databases.

Stored in host memory and lost during reboot.

Virtual machine state

Virtual machines stored on a host and virtual machine autostart information (subsequent boots only).

Managed by vCenter Server system by default.

If the virtual machine is in a vSphere HA cluster, deployment works even if the vCenter Server is unavailable because Auto Deploy retains the virtual machine information.

If the virtual machine is not in a vSphere HA cluster, vCenter Server must be available to supply virtual machine information to Auto Deploy.

User input

State that is based on user input, for example, an IP address that the user provides when the system starts up, cannot automatically be included in the host profile.

Custom information is stored in an answer file. You can create a host profile that requires user input for certain values.

When Auto Deploy applies a host profile that requires an answer to a newly-provisioned host, the host comes up in maintenance mode. You can right-click the host and select Update Answer File to be prompted for the information.

The answer file information is stored with the host. Each host has one answer file that can include multiple user input items.

The Auto Deploy infrastructure consists of several components.

vSphere Auto Deploy Architecture
VIBs and image profiles, the rule engine, and the Auto Deploy Server are the main components of Auto Deploy

Auto Deploy server

Serves images and host profiles to ESXi hosts. The Auto Deploy server is at the heart of the Auto Deploy infrastructure.

Auto Deploy rules engine

Tells the Auto Deploy server which image and which host profile to serve to which host. Administrators use the Auto Deploy PowerCLI to define the rules that assign image profiles and host profiles to hosts.

Image profiles

Define the set of VIBs to boot ESXi hosts with.

VMware and VMware partners make image profiles and VIBs available in public depots. Use the Image Builder PowerCLI to examine the depot and the Auto Deploy rule engine to specify which image profile to assign to which host.

VMware customers can create a custom image profile based on the public image profiles and VIBs in the depot and apply that image profile to the host.

Host profiles

Define machine-specific configuration such as networking or storage setup. Administrators create host profiles by using the host profile UI. You can export an individual host's host profile and use the host profile to reprovision that host. You can export the host profile of a template host and use the template profile for other hosts.

Answer files

Store information that the user provides when host profiles are applied to the host. The answer file might contain an IP address or other information that the user supplied for that host. One answer file can exist for each host. See Customizing Hosts with Answer Files.