This is information about a new feature in vSphere 5:
Provisioning dozens or hundreds of vSphere servers can be a time consuming task, even when using Host Profiles. vSphere 5 includes a new feature called Auto Deploy that aims to massively reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy vSphere servers en masse by creating a base image and then deploying it to new hardware. This feature leverages the Image Builder feature discussed previously.
Like many provisioning technologies, Auto Deploy leverages standard PXE boot features to obtain a DHCP-provided IP address after which the host is redirected to a TFTP server which further directs the host to stream an ESXi image over the network in memory on the intended ESXi host. Once the image has been moved to RAM on the host, ESXi is booted at which point it contacts a vCenter server for further instructions which might include, for example, application of a host profile.
Auto deploy makes use of a rules engine to dictate which host will get which image. The rules engine is driven during the provisioning stage as hardware information is fed to the Auto Deploy server so that appropriate rules can be applied.
Beyond simplifying the initial deployment process, Auto Deploy has some other serious upsides, too. For example, using this service, you can eliminate the need for a host to boot from any kind of local storage. Since a full boot image is sent to the machine over the network, the host can just boot from this image and further reduce the potential for hardware failures due to moving parts (think hard drives) and makes replacing hosts a breeze since ESXi is basically abstracted from the hardware.
This is a very cool feature that can aid in improving availability and can reduce the effort it takes to patch ESXi hosts. Now, you just patch a Host Profile image and reboot your hosts and you’re done!
For information about other new vSphere 5 features, read my full article here.