VMware vSphere Auto Deploy and the GUI fling

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As in my earlier IO Analyzer blog post, flings in VMware labs are an excellent place for very useful tools and extra’s for your VMware environment. You can find the VMware flings page at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/.

One of the flings I want to blog about is the Auto Deploy GUI. This fling is a front end graphical user interface to the Auto deploy server. The standard auto deploy proces is heavily VMware PowerCLI based. This can be a problem at some organisation where IT personnel is not yet PowerCLI/Powershell familiar. No excuse, but it can be helpful to lower prerequisite knowledge and add a GUI to the process. This way it might be easier for those organizations to accept VMware auto deploy.

Let me be clear…… this is no excuse to not learn PowerCLI. So please up your PowerCLI/Powershell skills as you will use that at a lot of places (also outside of the VMware infrastructure) and makes you life a lot easier (well, that is… after you learn it).

What is Auto Deploy?

Before you add something to a infrastructure, the Auto Deploy components should be known. vSphere Auto Deploy facilitates a infrastructure for automatic server provisioning and network deployment of the ESXi hypervisor. The deployment can be on local storage, statefull on HDD, SD or USB or stateless to the hosts ram. It works in conjunction with:

– vCenter,
– host profiles,
– TFT server,
– Auto Deploy server and Image Builder,
– a PXE boot infrastructure with a DHCP service.

These service can be installed on the vCenter host or hosted/integrated on specific services.  When using the stateless host option be sure to have a high available Auto Deploy infrastructure.

Auto Deploy and host profiles are available from the Enterprise plus Edition.


Auto Deploy server can be installed on a Windows based server, or can be used on or with the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).

Why a VCSA, when the 5.1 version with embedded database is for small deployments (maximum of 5 hosts) I hear you ask? Automation and centralized management! …And the fact the vCSA 5.5 will support a lot more hosts…..

As we need a Windows based service for the GUI and normally would need a Windows server for Update Manager, we can combine those on Windows based server.

For this blog post I’m using a 5.1 vCSA installation and Windows based server operating on Windows 2008R2 running Update Manager and Auto Depoy services (including DHCP for PXE boot).

Setting up Auto Deploy services

Here we had a choice (why always these choices…..) to use the vCSA vCenter server components together with Auto Deploy service or you a standalone Windows server for auto deploy services working together with the vCSA for vCenter services. The last makes a little more sense as the Auto Deploy GUI also needs Windows components, and so will Update Manager. If you happen to want to use auto deploy on the vCSA the service needs to be started. Like stated above I’m doing a Windows based installation in conjunction with the VCSA for vCenter services.

How the lab is build:

– VCSA5.1 downloaded and setup.
– Also downloaded the vCenter VIM installer to install Auto Deploy on the Windows host (You will also need this installer if any other vCenter service need to be on a Windows system. For example Update Manager).
– Windows 2008R2 Set up. All defaults.
– DHCP Role added to Windows 2008R2. You can setup your IPv4 scope here, but I will set it up when I’m ready for the TFTP to service. (And don’t forget other devices that offer DHCP such as your internet router, separate the traffic. I have added a LAN segment and let the W2K8R2 DHCP only serve this network. ESXi VM should be connected to this same network).
– Downloaded TFTP Server from Solarwinds (Free version at http://www.solarwinds.com/products/freetools/free_tftp_server.aspx).
– The TFTP server needs .Net Framework 3.5, and so does Auto Deploy Gui so install it to the server (Add Feature).
– Installed TFTP server on Windows 2008R2 and setup starts it. The folder c:TFTP-Root is used default.
– Install PowerCLI.
– Install Auto Deploy service. The default installer will register Auto Deploy with the VCSA.
– Setup a DHCP scope with option 66 = Boot Server Host Name to the IP of the Windows server. And add option 67 = Nothing Yet. We are gonna add the BootFile name later.
– Let’s check if the DHCP scope can serve a ESXi host. Create a VM to the DHCP served LAN segment. And start it up. DHCP is received, TFTP is looked up. And fails because it can’t find Nothing Yet. But we know DHCP is ok.


We can setup the boot image by opening the vSphere client and connecting to the vcenter. Click Auto Deploy (Administration). This will open the following screen:


Now click the download TFTP Boot Zip link and save to (and extract) to the TFTP-Root directory. You will probably need to change the file download to enabled to the IE security settings for Internet zone.

Change the DHCP option 67 to “undionly.kpxe.vmw-hardwired”. (still the PXE boot will fail because no ESXi image is yet prepared)

Setting up Auto Deploy with GUI

First we install the GUI this is really straightforward. This adds an plugin under Solutions And Application to your environment.


(This actually also has the link to download TFTP Boot zip).

Next up configuring your environment.

1. First up VMware depot, Right click and check or add VMware depot url to https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-­‐depot-­‐index.xml. (default it is in)
2. Next HA depot. Right click HA depot url. This should read http://<vchostname>/vSphere-­‐HA-­‐depot/index.xml. Else add it.
3. If you need a specific custom component (for example a Nexus VEM) you can add a zip depot.
4. This will fill up the Images in the Image Builder screen. Here you can build up your organization specific images (with specific software packages). For now I leave the defaults and move on.
5. Now we create the first deploy rule. Click the add rule and fill in the name,
6. I set it to the ESXi5.1 standard image, select where it must land (I select a host folder I created), select an host profile we skip (not yet created, if you have select your appropriate profile), in the rule set you can setup up a specific pattern (for example asset tag or vendor) very useful but not for this demo. I select apply all.

This will start up tasks to inject VIB’s to the cache. After this the rule is created.


7. Activate the newly created rule by right clicking and selecting active.

Start up the test VM created earlier (or reboot when it’s still is failing) and see if the host is added to the Auto Deploy Host folder.


Yup this time it found an image. Loading and you will notice a cache loading of ESXi next.


Received a DHCP address for the booted host. Let see if vCenter shows the host added to the correct host folder.


Success, base image and add to a vCenter managed infrastructure is done. Warning is about the unconfigured state and to non-persistant storage for the scratch partition.

What’s next?

To use your ESXi hosts in auto deployment scenario you will have to set up host profiles and add this to a deployment rule (or more if you have several environments).
Configure a host to be setup according to your environment (DNS, NTP, networking, name it….). Create a host profile from this host and fill up an answer file. Check compliancy to be sure this one’s correct.

Add this profile to the deployment Rule and voila you ESXi is deployed and setup in a profile.

– Enjoy your Auto deploy infrastructure with the Auto Deploy GUI! Be sure to learn PowerCLI another time!

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