When you decide on a life cycle management approach for the ESXi software in a VI workload domain in VMware Cloud Foundation, you consider the effort and time required for preparing the environment and performing the patch, upgrade, or update operation.

Life cycle management of ESXi is the process of performing patch updates or upgrades to the underlying ESXi operating system. In a typical ESXi environment, you perform life cycle management by using vSphere Lifecycle Manager that is running in VMware vCenter Server®. When implementing a solution with VMware Cloud Foundation, you use SDDC Manager for life cycle management where additional components are included as part of the life cycle management process.

To update and upgrade the ESXi hosts in the VI workload domain, SDDC Manager uses baseline and baseline groups or images in vSphere Lifecycle Manager. You select the life cycle management method only at domain creation.

Table 1. Methods of ESXi Life Cycle Management in a VI Workload Domain

Design Component

vSphere Lifecycle Manager Baselines and Baseline Groups (formerly known as vSphere Update Manager)

vSphere Lifecycle Manager Images

Topology Supportability

All topologies of VI workload domains are supported.

  • VMware Cloud Foundation does not support using vSphere Lifecycle Manager images with vSAN stretched clusters topology.

  • You cannot share an NSX Manager instance between VI workload domains that use different vSphere Lifecycle Manager modes.

Hardware Supportability

ESXi upgrade for all hardware listed in VMware Compatibility Guid is supported.

  • ESXi upgrade for all hardware listed in VMware Compatibility Guide is supported.

    Additionally, you can use vSphere Lifecycle Manager images for firmware upgrades for specific hardware listed in VMware Compatibility Guide.

  • You cannot use vSphere Lifecycle Manager images with clusters of ESXi hosts from different vendors.


  • SDDC Manager manages the upgrade by using baselines and baseline groups. SDDC Manager creates the required baseline and baseline group for updating the cluster. You can also perform parallel cluster upgrades.

  • A REST API is not available for baselines and baseline groups.

  • You must manually create a cluster image and make it available in SDDC Manager as well as an image specification JSON file, a cluster settings JSON file, and the ESXi ISO image for the updates.

  • You can manage images by using a REST API.


You cannot export baselines and distribute them across vCenter Server instances.

You can export an image and use it to manage other clusters in the same or in a different vCenter Server instances.


You can upgrade ESXi hosts with native or custom ESXi images. Upgrading firmware drivers of ESXi hosts is not supported.

Baselines and baseline groups list the updates you apply to the hosts but the ESXi image on the hosts might change after remediation.

You can update and upgrade ESXi hosts and hardware firmware drivers with a single combined image.

Images define the precise image to be applied to the hosts after remediation. No deviation from the defined image is possible after remediation. vSphere Lifecycle Manager does not allow solutions to push VIBs to the hosts.


Upgrading ESXi version and hardware firmware with a single combined image is not supported.

You can upgrade ESXi version and hardware firmware with a single combined image by using a vendor plug-in called Hardware Support Manager (HSM). Such a plug-in usually requires an additional license.

Table 2. Design Decisions on Life Cycle Management of the ESXi Hosts

Decision ID

Design Decision

Design Justification

Design Implication


Use SDDC Manager to perform the life cycle management of ESXi hosts in the VI workload domain cluster.

SDDC Manager has a greater awareness of the full SDDC solution and therefore handles the patch update or upgrade of the VI workload domain as a single process.

Directly performing life cycle management tasks on an ESXi host or through vCenter Server has the potential to cause issues within SDDC Manager.

The operations team must understand and be aware of the impact of performing a patch or upgrade by using SDDC Manager.