When you start a physical host that is 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.

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).

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.

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 host, the host comes up in maintenance mode. Use the host profiles interface to check the host profile compliance, and respond to the prompt to customize the host.

The host customization information is stored with the host.

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 profile 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 rules 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 create a host profile for a reference host and apply that host profile to other hosts in your environment for a consistent configuration.

Host customization

Stores information that the user provides when host profiles are applied to the host. Host customization might contain an IP address or other information that the user supplied for that host. See Host Customization in the vSphere Web Client.

Host customization was called answer file in earlier releases of Auto Deploy.