VMware vSphere® vSphere Lifecycle Manager enables centralized and simplified lifecycle management for VMware ESXi hosts through the use of images and baselines.

What Is Lifecycle Management?

Lifecycle management refers to the process of installing software, maintaining it through updates and upgrades, and decommissioning it.

In the context of maintaining a vSphere environment, your clusers and hosts in particular, lifecycle management refers to tasks such as installing ESXi and firmware on new hosts, and updating or upgrading the ESXi version and firmware when required.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager General Overview

In vSphere 7.0, vSphere Lifecycle Manager encompasses the functionality that Update Manager provided in earlier vSphere releases and enhances it by adding new features and possibilities for ESXi lifecycle management at a cluster level.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager is a service that runs in vCenter Server. Upon deploying the vCenter Server appliance, the vSphere Lifecycle Manager user interface becomes automatically enabled in the HTML5-based vSphere Client.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager can work in an environment that has access to the Internet, directly or through a proxy server. It can also work in a secured network without access to the Internet. In such cases, you use the Update Manager Download Service (UMDS) to download updates to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot, or you import them manually.

Images and Baselines

With vSphere Lifecycle Manager, you manage ESXi hosts by using either baselines or images.

In earlier vSphere releases, using baselines and baseline groups for host operations, such as applying patches and software updates to a host and upgrading the ESXi version, was a functionality that was already available.

In vSphere 7.0, you can use images as an alternative way of performing ESXi host lifecycle operations. A vSphere Lifecycle Manager image represents a desired software specification to be applied to all hosts in a cluster. Software and firmware updates happen simultaneously, in a single workflow. By using images vSphere Lifecycle Manager images, you can also take advantage of new functionalities, such as image recommendations, automized firmware updates and hardware compatibility checks.

A vSphere Lifecycle Manager image is a precise description of what software, drivers, and firmware to run on a host. With this new functionality, you set up a single image and apply it to all hosts in a cluster, thus ensuring cluster-wide host image homogeneity.

Like in earlier vSphere releases, you can use vSphere Lifecycle Manager baselines and baseline groups to perform the following tasks:
  • Upgrade and patch ESXi hosts.
  • Install and update third-party software on ESXi hosts.
Starting with vSphere 7.0, you can use vSphere Lifecycle Manager images to manage hosts in clusters collectively and perform the following tasks:
  • Install a desired ESXi version on all hosts in a cluster.
  • Install and update third-party software on all ESXi hosts in a cluster.
  • Update the firmware of all ESXi hosts in a cluster.
  • Update and upgrade all ESXi hosts in a cluster collectively.
  • Check the hardware compatibility of hosts against hardware compatibility lists, such as VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) and a host and vSAN Hardware Compatibility List (vSAN HCL).

vSphere Lifecycle Manager provides you with the ability to start using images with the very creation of a cluster. If you do not set up an image during the creation of a cluster, you can switch from using vSphere Lifecycle Manager baselines to using vSphere Lifecycle Manager images at a later time.

If you switch to using images, you cannot revert to using baselines for the cluster. You can move the hosts to another cluster, which uses baselines, but you cannot change the cluster that already uses a single image for management purposes.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager and Virtual Machines

You can use vSphere Lifecycle Manager to upgrade the virtual machine hardware and VMware Tools versions of the virtual machines in your environment.