An image that you define with vSphere Lifecycle Manager has four composing elements. When you set up and edit an image for a cluster, you select and combine those elements in such a way as to define a precise desired image that is applicable to all hosts in the cluster.

An image might consist of four elements: an ESXi version, a vendor add-on, a firmware and drivers add-on, and additional components. Spcifying an ESXi version is mandatory. Adding the other elements to an image is optional.

ESXi Base Image
The base image is an ESXi release version that contains an image of VMware ESXi Server and additional components such as drivers and adapters that are necessary to bring up a server.
Vendor Add-On
A vendor add-on is a collection of software components for the ESXi hosts that OEMs create and distribute. This vendor add-on can contain drivers, patches, and solutions.
Firmware and Drivers Add-On
The firmware and drivers add-on is a special type of vendor add-on designed to assist in the firmware update process. The firmware and drivers add-on contains firmware for a specific server type and corresponding drivers. To add a firmware and drivers add-on to your image, you must install the hardware support manager plug-in provided by the hardware vendor for the hosts in the respective cluster.
A component is the smallest discrete unit in an image. VMware and OEMs do not publish components. VMware packages components into base images. OEMs package components into vendor add-ons. However, third-party software vendors can create and publish components, for example drivers or adapters, independently. You can add such independent components to your image.
You can start using vSphere Lifecycle Manager images in two ways.
  • When you create a new cluster, you set up a single image to manage all hosts in the cluster collectively.

    In that case, you only select an ESXi base image and, optionally, a vendor add-on. You can add more elements to your image afterwards by editing the image.

  • When you switch to using a single image for a cluster that already uses baselines.

    In that case, during image set-up, you can immediately select and include any of the four elements in the image.