If your business is expanding, it can easily start to outgrow its IT infrastructure. In this case, if your organization utilizes virtualization environments such as VMware vSphere, the need for new ESXi hosts will increase with infrastructure scaling. Therefore, it is likely that VMware vSphere configuration will differ across multiple hosts and this inconsistency between ESXi hosts will significantly impact the performance. Hence, it is necessary to keep the security configuration, storage configuration, networking configuration of all the host’s identical. So every host can co-exist with other ESXi hosts within the cluster and maintain the same level of security.
What is VMware Host Profile?
VMware Host Profiles are useful for standardizing the configuration across ESXi’s host and Cluster. vSphere Host Profile feature enables us to export the configuration from a master ESXi host and save it as a template of policies known as host profile that can be used to configure other ESXi hosts with the same set of policies and configuration.
However, some variables are different for every host such as hostnames, IP addresses, etc. Those variables can be customized for every host using host customization, and it can also be applied to a group of hosts using a CSV file.
VMware Host Profile – Advantages:
vSphere Host profiles eliminate manual UI-based host configuration and maintain consistency across the data center. The configuration of the reference host is captured and then uses it to configure networking, storage, security, and other settings on multiple ESXi hosts or clusters.
Using Host Profiles, the overall time required to set up and troubleshoot configurations is reduced because of the centralized configuration management and compliance check.
Creating a new Host Profile
The first step is setting up and configuring a host to use as the reference host from which the host profile is extracted.
Then, create a profile from the reference host using the Create Profile wizard. The entire configuration of the reference host including IP addressing, NFS Mounts are retrieved by vCenter Server which can be edited to further customize the policies in the host profile.
Give a name for your profile and make sure you are giving a description so that you know what it is to be used for.
Once the host profile is created, you can also find Host Profiles under Policies and Profiles in the vCenter navigation menu. The host profile reflects the settings of the host you used to create it.
You can also modify the created host profiles like:
- Copy settings
Attaching a Host Profile for Compliance Checks
After making the necessary modifications to the created host profile, it can be attached to an ESXi host or a Cluster and check for compliance with the reference host.
Generally, it is preferred to attach a host profile to a Cluster to ensure the configuration is uniform across all hosts in a cluster.
If the hosts are showing as non-compliant to the reference host’s, you need to bring them to compliance after remediating them against the host profile. If you attach the host profile to a newly installed host, it will be showing as non-compliant.
The process of applying the changes to the ESXi host or cluster as per the host policy is called remediation.
Depending upon the host profile configurations, it may require to reboot the host after remediation. It is recommended to place the host into maintenance mode before remediation. The ESXi Hosts that are part of a fully-automated vSphere DRS cluster are placed in maintenance mode at remediation.
Customizing a Host Profile
Host customization can be created when applying the host profile to the ESXi host or cluster with settings and configurations that are unique such as IP addresses, MAC addresses, and iSCSI qualified name.
With Host Profiles, you can simply specify the configuration you want instead of specifying how to do it. VMware vCenter Server will intelligently determine how to get to that desired configuration.
For example, during the configuration process, host profiles can instruct VMware vCenter Server to automatically pick up network adaptors and assign them to a particular virtual switch rather than users worrying about which network adapters need to be assigned to a virtual switch.
Exporting a Host Profile
Host Profiles can also be used for standardization across multiple vCenter Server instances. For example, some organizations might have large environments that span across many vCenter Server instances and they want to standardize a single host configuration across multiple vCenter Server environments.
It can be done by exporting the host profile in VMware Profile Format (.vpf) from one vCenter Server instance and then importing the host profile in other vCenter Server instances for use in their environments.
When a host profile is exported from a vCenter Server, the administrator and other user profile passwords are not exported because of security measures and stops exporting passwords in plain text. When importing a host profile to the vCenter Server, you will be prompted to enter values for the password.
Host Profiles is a unique and powerful feature of VMware vSphere available with enterprise plus licensing. Host profiles are useful for faster provisioning of a new host, and also reduce the human error factor by applying a predefined configuration to new hosts. Host profiles are not just limited to standardization within a single vCenter Server as it can be used across multiple vCenter Server instances in your environment. Thus, It is simple to create uniform configurations across clusters using Host Profiles, and can easily be modified to suit your requirements.