Taking a Fresh Look at VMware Host Profiles
vSphere 6.5 has new abilities for the profiles.
Host profiles have been a staple of VMware ESXi for many years. For the benefit of those who might not be familiar with host profiles, they're essentially configuration templates designed to ensure that VMware hosts are configured in a consistent manner. Administrators can create host profiles from a properly configured host, and then use that profile to configure any new hosts brought online.
Host profiles can also be used to guard against configuration drift. Administrators can compare ESXi hosts against a host profile to make sure the host is properly configured. If discrepancies are found, the host's settings can be automatically modified to bring the host back in line with the profile settings.
Although host profiles have existed for quite some time, VMware has revisited the feature in vSphere 6.5. One of the more useful concepts that now exists is that of a parent profile. In a large organization, it is unlikely that every VMware host will be identically configured. Even so, there are probably going to be some individual settings shared by all the organization's hosts. This is where a parent profile comes into play.
A parent host profile can be created as a tool for storing settings that need to be applied globally throughout the organization. For example, an administrator might add the root password to a parent host profile. vSphere 6.5 then allows the settings within a parent profile to be copied to one or more lower-level profiles. This means that any time a global setting, such as a root password, needs to be updated, the administrator can update the setting in one place, and then push the setting to lower-level profiles with just a few mouse clicks.
The one caveat to be aware of is that host profiles are ESXi version specific. Host profiles created on older vSphere hosts can be used with new hosts, but profiles created for new vSphere versions do not work with older hosts. As such, organizations that support multiple vSphere versions will need to be conscious of those versions when establishing parent host profiles.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.