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Build custom ESXi image using VMware Image Builder

In this article I will show how use VMware Image Builder to customize and create ESXi ISO images. 

VMware Image Builder is a powerful functionality within vCenter Server that enables the packaging, validation, and distribution of ESXi OS ISO/Zip software images across various platforms within an organization. Its purpose is to tackle vulnerabilities, mitigate security risks, and ensure compliance during the software image publication process. By utilizing vSphere ESXi Image Builder, administrators can effortlessly create ESXi image profiles for streamlined management through vSphere Auto Deploy. Additionally, they can easily integrate custom third-party drivers into existing image profiles, export them to ISO or bundle formats, and perform smooth upgrades as needed.

To start first I need VMware ESXi images as offline zip bundles, Which I have downloaded from customerconnect website of VMware. Downloaded image is HPE ESXi offline zip bundle.

CustomerConnect.vmware.com download VMware vsphere licence key free hpe custom image dell image build vsphere vcenter esxi offline depot bundle zip customization custom ISO install CD powercli.png

Next I need to add / Inject / slipstream few 3rd party drivers inside ESXi image. For which offline zip bundle is downloaded from the website.

Offline zip bundle vib vmware vsphere vCenter esxi firmware tool how to use image builder auto deploy hpe dell download zip.png

I have downloaded zip files I needed to proceed, Login to vCenter Server, In the vSphere Client click 3 bars on top-left side. From the pane click Auto Deploy from menu.

VMware vsphere client vCenter esxi web client inventory auto deploy policies and profiles administration tasks nsx image builder auto deploy service skyline vmware aira operations configuration for logs.png

Auto Deploy and Image Builder are disabled in my vCenter, To access full-featured auto deploy, enable both Image Builder and Auto Deploy, click button Enable Auto Deploy and Image Builder.

VMware vsphere vCenter esxi client web view updates vcenter server enable auto deploy and image builder features images esxi zip bundle software depots enable administrator@vsphere.local recent tasks.png

After enabling services in vCenter Server, Click IMPORT button on right-top side. In the Import Software Depot wizard, Type the name in my case it is related to HPE_ESXi_8.0 zip offline bundle earlier downloaded, so I chose the same name. In the File browse and open HPE ESXi 8 zip file. Click Upload button. It take software depot to import you can view the progress.

VMware vSphere vCenter esxi server virtualization new import software depots deploy rules deployed Hosts discovered script bundles configure offline zip bundles.png

You can see under Software Depots, new Image profile appear from imported ESXi offline zip bundle file. Click Import button again to upload Third party vendor drivers - VIB offline zip bundle file.

VMware vSPhere vCenter ESXi server vSphere client hpe dell esxi offline bundle software depot packages image profiles image builder auto deploy.png

Now under Software Depot you can view there are multiple depots added, one is for ESXi zip and another is drivers zip.

VMware vSphere vCenter ESXi server ui html web client vSPhere client software depots deploy rules deployed hosts discovered script bundles configure image profiles image builder.png

You will not find any image profile under Drivers offline VIB zip bundle file. But you can see that, what are the Software Packages in it. 

Next Create empty depot where we will merge and slipstream ESXi and Driver together. Click NEW button from left side. In the Custom depot, type a Name of new empty bundle and click ADD button.

VMware vSPhere vCenter ESXi server vsphere client deploy rules software depot image profiles software packages add custom depot online customization ISO.png

Make sure you selected empty custom depot in Software Depot dropdown list to proceed. Click NEW IMAGE PROFILE button. Provide a Name, Vendor details in new image profile. Click NEXT button.

VMware vSPhere vCenter ESXi vsphere client new esxi modified image iso zip bundle software depots deploy rules deployed discovered hosts script bundles configure software packages image profiles.png

In the Select Software Packages, Select Acceptance level to Partner Supported (The host acceptance level regulates which VIBs can be installed to a host), and remove redundant drivers keeping only one. for example I have highlighted same drivers from the list, There are more you will need to scroll and find in the pages to remove duplicate drivers keeping only latest one (whatever is compatible for your system). Here as an example I have qfie3 drivers both are VMware certified, one is provided by VMW and another is QLC. I will keep QLC as it is the latest one. Click NEXT button.

In the Validation Result if you see the following warning problems in the software package selection. go back and uncheck the incompatible drivers, In my case on one of the driver package, it says Packages dependencies are not fulfilled, On platform embeddedEsx VIB MEL_bootbank_mft-oem version requires esx version >= 8.0.1 but the requirement cannot be satisfied within the ImageProfile. Go back and uncheck the driver name in mentioned bold or underlined as from below screenshot as they are not compatible. 

In another example in second warning There is Package obsolete each other - On platform embeddedEsx. VIB VMware_bootbank_qinativefc_version_vmw is obsoleted by (MVL_bootbank_qinativefc_version), There are two drivers with same name uncheck one of the driver by clicking No button.

In the last, in the Overlay or non-overlay packages have the same file warning - File path of '/usr/lib/vmware/vmkmod/qinativefc' is claimed by multiple non-overlay VIBs for embeddedEsx: ('VMware_bootbank_qinativefc_version_vmw', MVL_bootbank_qinativefc_version).

Do not procced click no to Ignore these warnings and continue anyway? Solution is click NO and go back to uncheck the drivers, keeping only one version of driver or remove incompatible one.

New Image Profile vmware vsphere vCenter esxi server partner supported select software packages name version vmw dell hpe qlc but requirement cannot be satisfied within the imageprofile vib packages obsolete.png

When you go back and uncheck the warning errors drivers, click Next button, it will not show Validation result and directly go to Ready to complete page. Click Finish button.

VMware vSPhere vCenter ESXi server partner supported new image profile select software packages image builder auto deploy vmware vibs vmw mellonox.png

New image profile is ready in new ESXi software depot section. Click EXPORT link to Download Image. I am selecting ISO - Generate a bootable ISO image from the image profile.

VMware vSphere vCenter esxi server modified hpe new image profile view software packages export image profile iso zip bootable ISO new import iso zip.png

Once Image is exported, DOWNLOAD link appears. Click on it to download iso file.

VMware vSPhere vCenter ESXi image builder auto deploy software depots offline vib zip bundle esxi deploy rules deployed hosts discovered script bundles configure packages software new image software packages.png

I tested new customized ESXi ISO file on server by installing it. It is working good.

VMware vSPhere vCenter esxi release build intel CPU customize system view logs manage host image builder dcui direct console user interface customize ISO with image builder.png

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