You can configure a reference host by using the vSphere Client, ESXCLI, or host profiles.

To set up a reference host, you can use the approach that suits you best.

vSphere Client
The vSphere Client supports setup of networking, storage, security, and most other aspects of an ESXi host. Set up your environment and create a host profile from the reference host for use by vSphere Auto Deploy.
You can use ESXCLI for setup of many aspects of your host. ESXCLI is suitable for configuring many of the services in the vSphere environment. Commands include esxcli system ntp for setting up an NTP server, esxcli system syslog for setting up a syslog server, esxcli network route for adding routes and set up the default route, and esxcli system coredump for configuring ESXi Dump Collector.
Host Profiles Feature
Best practice is to set up a host with vSphere Client or ESXCLI and create a host profile from that host. You can instead use the Host Profiles feature in the vSphere Client and save that host profile.

vSphere Auto Deploy applies all common settings from the host profile to all target hosts. If you set up the host profile to prompt for user input, all hosts provisioned with that host profile come up in maintenance mode. You must reapply the host profile or reset host customizations to be prompted for the host-specific information.