You can add physical storage to your stateless ESXi, convert them to stateful ESXi hosts, and add the hosts to a cluster that you manage by an image.

Your ESXi hosts must have physical storage attached, because a cluster managed by an image does not support stateless ESXi hosts, that use a Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) boot.

To ensure that image components are installed on a physical disk of an ESXi host during a boot process, Auto Deploy verifies that a host profile is part of the PXE boot image. The host profile must contain a "System Image Cache Profile Settings" policy with configuration set to "Enable stateful installs on the host" or "Enable stateful installs to a USB disk on the host". If the attached host profile does not contain this policy or the policy’s configuration differs, then the policy is automatically configured to support a stateful installation. If a host profile is missing, a new host profile is attached to the cluster, containing only the "System Image Cache Profile Settings" policy with a configuration for a stateful installation.