There are many great features to running VMware vSphere in the enterprise, as it provides great tools for management. VMware vSphere ESXi hosts managed by vCenter Server have a VMware host profile feature that allows you to easily align multiple hosts with a similar configuration and provide host customization. How does this work?
What is VMware Host Profile?
When you only have one or two ESXi hosts that need to be configured in the environment, VIadmins can use manual processes to configure the hosts using the vSphere Client and manually perform the configuration steps needed. They can also use remote command line commands or scripts to deploy configurations to ESXi hosts.
However, as ESXi host estates grow and become much larger, these approaches can become extremely inefficient and time-consuming. In addition, ESXi hosts, like other types of infrastructure, can be subject to configuration skew, where settings and configuration are changed over time.
VMware host profiles are a way to eliminate the need to manually configure ESXi hosts using “sneakernet” type processes and automate custom configurations for various environments to create uniform configurations.
The configuration included with a VMware Host profile may include networking configuration, SSH password, and other security configuration.
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Host profiles in VMware and consistent configuration
It allows applying the same reference host configuration to both hosts and clusters of ESXi hosts to introduce the same configuration, which is essential in a production environment to have all the configurations on all the hosts configured consistently.
If you bring in new ESXi hosts into a cluster or add them to vCenter Server, you can apply a custom VMware Host Profile and attach the configuration, including security settings, customizations, configure networking, including virtual switch configuration, and other tasks in the profile itself. Apply changes this way ensures uniform configurations.
Note. Check our post VMware Distributed Switch – The Ultimate Guide.
Requirements for VMware Host Profiles
The main requirement for VMware Host Profiles includes VMware vCenter Server and a properly functioning ESXi host that will act as the reference host.
VMware vSphere Configuration Used in This Tutorial
In the walkthrough to follow, we are demonstrating VMware vSphere Host Profiles in a simple VMware vSphere 7 environment with a three-node vSAN cluster connected to vCenter Server.
How to Create and Set Up VMware vSphere Host Profiles: Complete Walkthrough
Let’s take a look at a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create and set up VMware vSphere host profiles and use them to apply configuration changes to additional ESXi hosts.
- Create a profile, using a master ESXi host, known as the reference host
- Customize the reference VMware Host Profile
- Apply the reference host’s configuration to other hosts
- Check an ESXi host profile compliance against a VMware Host Profile
- Apply the customizations to the target host
How to create a new Host Profile
The first step is to setup and configure your reference host profiles. First, you need a host configured that can serve as the base configuration for your VMware Host Profile.
Set up and configure a reference Host Profile
The first step with VMware host profiles is to initiate the extract host profile process. With this process you choose a master ESXi host as the reference host to extract the host profile from and apply to your target ESXi host.
You can think of the reference host as the base configuration that is a starting point to build out your customizations to apply to other hosts.
For instance, you may want to add additional vSwitch port groups to the configuration template or set certain services as running or stopped in the configuration.
To create the initial host profile, login to your vCenter Server instance, navigate to the Host Profiles page under the shortcuts menu.
Click Extract Host Profile link in the Host Profiles page. Note you can also import host profiles on this screen as well. You can select a CSV file to import the settings contained in an exported VMware Host Profile.
Select host you want to use as the reference host’s configuration. Click Next.
Choose a name for the VMware Host Profile. Click Finish.
After a few moments, the new VMware Host Profile appears in the window.
Customize the reference VMware Host Profile
Now that we have extracted the reference host’s profile from the ESXi host, we can customize the reference VMware Host Profile. You can either customize the reference ESXi host beforehand or use an ESXi host as the base configuration and add customizations to the configuration.
After clicking on the VMware Host Profile created in the previous step, click the Edit Host Profile link. This will edit the existing host profile. You can also click the copy settings button to copy settings from host or copy settings from host profiles to pull specific configuration settings from a specific host. This enables further customization.
Now, we can set the host profile configuration to include any customizations to the configuration.
Below, we are clicking on the Standard Switch configuration to configure networking settings to apply to other ESXi hosts. Once the configuration is set as you want, you can Save the configuration.
Apply the reference host’s configuration to other hosts
The process of applying the reference host’s configuration to other ESXi hosts is a simple process. Navigate to the Configure screen for the individual host or at the vSphere cluster level. Clikc the Host Profiles link.
Select the VMware Host Profile you want to attach to the ESXi host configuration. Click OK.
Check an ESXi host profile compliance against a VMware Host Profile
Now, with the VMware Host Profile applied to a host, we can run a compliance check on the host against the attached host profile.
Click the Check Compliance button. You will see the interface checking compliance.
As you can see below, the interface shows after scanning the host, it is not compliant with the host profile. The noncompliant state means it needs to be remediated with the host profile with the compliance checks.
Apply the customizations to the target host
The final step to apply the VMware Host Profile to the target host is to remediate the host using the configuration settings found in the VMware Host Profile. You must validate any customizations needed for additional configuration added, such as VMkernel port IP addressing, network adapters configuration, storage settings, etc.
The host must be placed into maintenance mode before it can be remediated with the customizations. Before the remediation is applied, it will run a pre-check remediation to validate the configuration changes to be made with the VMware Host Profile to the host or cluster.
VMware Host Profiles do not overwrite important configuration such as MAC addresses on the target host or IP addresses of the management interface on the selected host.
VMware vSphere Host Profiles are a great way to apply consistent, uniform, and automated configurations to your VMware ESXi hosts running in your vSphere environment. Host Profiles are easy to configure and use and provide quick time to value for VI admins using them in their vSphere environment.