vSphere Lifecycle Manager can consume software updates only if they are delivered in an online depot, as an offline depot, or as an installable ISO image. So, VMware, OEMs, and third-party software vendors must ship their software updates in any of these three formats.

Online Depots

An online depot is the hosted version of the software updates that VMware, OEMs, and third-party software providers ship. You access an online depot through a URL. vSphere Lifecycle Manager downloads to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot the content from the online depots that you configure it to use. vSphere Lifecycle Manager is preconfigured to download updates from the default VMware online depot. You can use the vSphere Client to access third-party online depots that contain additional components.

Synchronization is the process through which the contents of the online depots that you configure vSphere Lifecycle Manager to use get into the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot. During synchronization, only the software metadata is downloaded. The actual payloads are downloaded when they are needed, for example during staging or remediation. When you deploy vCenter Server, vSphere Lifecycle Manager synchronizes with the official VMware online depot automatically. After the initial synchronization, you can schedule a download task to run at regular intervals or you can initiate a download task manually.

The Default VMware Online Depot

The default online depot that VMware provides hosts ESXi base images, vendor add-ons, ESXi-compatible I/O device drivers certified by VMware, and async VMware Tools releases. By default, vSphere Lifecycle Manager is configured to use the official VMware online depot as a download source for software updates.

Unlike earlier vSphere releases, all software that you need to install, update, or customize the ESXi version of your hosts is available in the official VMware online depot.



Firmware updates are not hosted in the VMware depot. To perform firmware updates, you must install the hardware support manager plug-in that your hardware vendor provides. The plug-in gives you access to depots that contain the necessary firmware and related drivers updates.

In the vSphere Client, you can list additional online depots for vSphere Lifecycle Manager to download additional third-party components from, for example CIM modules. However, working with additional third-party depots and independent components is rarely necessary. In most cases, the vendor add-ons that are available in the official VMware depot provide full OEM customization for ESXi.

All software updates hosted in the official VMware online depot are also available as offline bundles, which you can download from my.vmware.com and import manually to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot.

Offline Depots

An offline depot, also called an offline bundle, is a ZIP file that you download from the Internet or copy from a media drive and you save on a local or a shared network drive. You then can import the offline bundle to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot. You can also download offline bundles from the VMware website or from the websites of third-party vendors.

In addition to distributing an offline.zip file, or offline bundle, and a custom ISO image, OEMs distribute an Add-on.zip file that contains the delta between the OEM custom image and the base image that VMware provides. For more information about OEM add-ons, see Bulletins, Components, Add-Ons, and ESXi Base Images.

Import is the operation through which the contents of an offline bundle get into the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot. During an import operation, both the software metadata and the actual payloads are downloaded into the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot.

Table 1. Software Deliverables and Corresponding Distribution Formats
Software Vendor Software Deliverable Software Distribution Format
VMware Base images
  • The default VMware online depot
  • Offline bundle
  • ISO image
OEMs Add-ons
  • The default VMware online depot
  • Offline bundle
  • Add-on ZIP file
  • ISO image
Third-party software providers Components For device drivers that are certified by VMware:
  • The default VMware online depot
  • Offline bundle
For other third-party software that is verified and certified by OEMs, for example I/O filters, CIM module:
  • An online depot
  • Offline bundle