This section discusses several Auto Deploy best practices an helps you understand how to set up networking, configure vSphere HA, and otherwise optimize your environment for Auto Deploy. See the VMware Knowledge Base for additional best practice information.

Auto Deploy and vSphere HA Best Practices

You can improve the availability of the virtual machines running on hosts provisioned with Auto Deploy by following best practices.

Some environments configure the hosts provisioned with Auto Deploy with a distributed switch or configure virtual machines running on the hosts with Auto Start Manager. In those environments, deploy the vCenter Server system so that its availability matches the availability of the Auto Deploy server. Several approaches are possible.

  • In a proof of concept environment, deploy thevCenter Server system and the Auto Deploy server on the same system. In all other situations, install the two servers on separate systems.

  • Deploy vCenter Server Heartbeat.

    VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat delivers high availability for vCenter Server, protecting the virtual and cloud infrastructure from application, configuration, operating system, or hardware related outages.

  • Deploy the vCenter Server system in a virtual machine. Run the vCenter Server virtual machine in a vSphere HA enabled cluster and configure the virtual machine with a vSphere HA restart priority of high. Include two or more hosts in the cluster that are not managed by Auto Deploy and pin the vCenter Server virtual machine to these hosts by using a rule (vSphere HA DRS required VM to host rule). You can set up the rule and then disable DRS if you do not wish to use DRS in the cluster. The greater the number of hosts that are not managed by Auto Deploy the greater your resilience to host failures.

    Note:

    This approach is not suitable if you use Auto Start Manager because Auto Start Manager is not supported in a cluster enabled for vSphere HA.

Auto Deploy Networking Best Practices

Prevent networking problems by following Auto Deploy networking best practices.

Auto Deploy and IPv6

Because Auto Deploy takes advantage of the iPXE infrastructure, it requires that each host has an IPv4 address. You can use those hosts in a mixed-mode deployment where each host has both an IPv4 address and an IPv6 address.

IP Address Allocation

Using DHCP reservations is recommended for address allocation. Fixed IP addresses are supported by the host customization mechanism, but providing input for each host is not recommended.

VLAN Considerations

Using Auto Deploy in environments that do not use VLANs is recommended.

If you intend to use Auto Deploy in an environment that uses VLANs, you must make sure that the hosts you want to provision can reach the DHCP server. How hosts are assigned to a VLAN depends on the setup at your site. The VLAN ID might be assigned by the switch or by the router, or you might be able to set the VLAN ID in the host's BIOS or through the host profile. Contact your network administrator to determine the steps for allowing hosts to reach the DHCP server.

Auto Deploy and VMware Tools Best Practices

When you provision hosts with Auto Deploy, you can select an image profile that includes VMware Tools, or select the smaller image associated with the image profile that does not contain VMware Tools.

You can download two image profiles from the VMware download site.

  • xxxxx-standard: An image profile that includes the VMware Tools binaries, required by the guest operating system running inside a virtual machine. The image is usually named esxi-5.0.version-xxxxx-standard.

  • xxxxx-no-tools: An image profile that does not include the VMware Tools binaries. This image profile is usually smaller, has less memory overhead, and boots faster in a PXE-boot environment. This image is usually named esxi- version-xxxxx-no-tools

Starting with vSphere 5.0 Update 1, you can deploy ESXi using either image.

  • If the network boot time is of no concern and your environment has sufficient extra memory and storage overhead, choose the image that includes VMware Tools.

  • If you find the network boot time too slow when using the standard image, or if you want to save some space on the hosts, you can use the xxxxx-no-tools image profile and place the tools binaries on shared storage.

Follow these steps if you decide to use the xxxxx-no-tools image profile.

  1. Boot an ESXi host that was not provisioned with Auto Deploy.

  2. Copy the /productLocker directory from the ESXi host to a shared storage.

  3. Change the UserVars.ProductLockerLocation variable to point to the /productLocker directory.

    1. In the vSphere Web Client, select the reference host and click the Manage tab.

    2. Select Settings and click Advanced System Settings.

    3. Filter for uservars, and select UserVars.ProductLockerLocation.

    4. Click the pen icon and edit the location so it points to the shared storage.

  4. Create a host profile from the reference host.

  5. Create an Auto Deploy rule that assigns the xxxxx-no-tools image profile and host profile from the reference host to all other hosts.

  6. Boot your target hosts with the rule so they pick up the product locker location from the reference host.

Auto Deploy Load Management Best Practice

Simultaneously booting large numbers of hosts places a significant load on the Auto Deploy server. Because Auto Deploy is a web server at its core, you can use existing web server scaling technologies to help distribute the load. For example, one or more caching reverse proxy servers can be used with Auto Deploy. The reverse proxies serve up the static files that make up the majority of an ESXi boot image. Configure the reverse proxy to cache static content and pass all requests through to the Auto Deploy server. See the VMware Technical Publications Video Using Reverse Web Proxy Servers for Auto Deploy.

Configure the hosts to boot off the reverse proxy by using multiple TFTP servers, one for each reverse proxy server. Finally, set up the DHCP server to send different hosts to different TFTP servers.

When you boot the hosts, the DHCP server sends them to different TFTP servers. Each TFTP server sends hosts to a different server, either the Auto Deploy server or a reverse proxy server, significantly reducing the load on the Auto Deploy server.

After a massive power outage, VMware recommends that you bring up the hosts on a per-cluster basis. If you bring up multiple clusters simultaneously, the Auto Deploy server might experience CPU bottlenecks. All hosts come up after a potential delay. The bottleneck is less severe if you set up the reverse proxy.

vSphere Auto Deploy Logging and Troubleshooting Best Practices

To resolve problems you encounter with vSphere Auto Deploy, use the Auto Deploy logging information from the vSphere Web Client and set up your environment to send logging information and core dumps to remote hosts.

Auto Deploy Logs

  1. In a vSphere Web Client connected to the vCenter Server system that Auto Deploy is registered with, go to the inventory list and select the vCenter Server system.

  2. Click the Manage tab, select Settings, and click Auto Deploy.

  3. Click Download Log to download the log file.

    In the Auto Deploy Settings pane, you can download TFTP Boot ZIP and Download AutoDeploy Log Files

Setting Up Syslog

Set up a remote Syslog server. See the vCenter Server and Host Management documentation for Syslog server configuration information. Configure the first host you boot to use the remote syslog server and apply that host's host profile to all other target hosts. Optionally, install and use the vSphere Syslog Collector, a vCenter Server support tool that provides a unified architecture for system logging and enables network logging and combining of logs from multiple hosts.

Setting Up ESXi Dump Collector

Hosts provisioned with Auto Deploy do not have a local disk to store core dumps on. Install ESXi Dump Collector and set up your first host so all core dumps are directed to ESXi Dump Collector, and apply the host profile from that host to all other hosts. See Configure ESXi Dump Collector with ESXCLI.

Using Auto Deploy in a Production Environment

When you move from a proof of concept setup to a production environment, take care to make the environment resilient.