You can reuse an image that you already set up for a cluster by exporting it and importing it to another cluster in the same or different vCenter Server instance. Depending on your goal, the image can be exported, distributed, and consumed in three different formats.

You can export the image of a cluster as an ISO image, ZIP file, or a JSON file.

You can import an image to a cluster that uses vSphere Lifecycle Manager images only in the JSON format.

In vSphere 8.0, the export and import operations work for clusters with hosts that have DPU devices.

ISO Image

Distributing an image created with vSphere Lifecycle Manager in an ISO format is useful when you need the image to perform clean installs of ESXi and for bootstrapping purposes, for example the kickstart workflow.

You cannot use an image exported as an ISO file with another cluster that uses vSphere Lifecycle Manager images.

ZIP File

Distributing an image created with vSphere Lifecycle Manager as an offline bundle is useful when you want to import the components that the image contains into the depot of the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager instance.

Unlike the ISO image, you cannot use a ZIP file to create upgrade baselines. You also cannot use the ZIP file to create a vSphere Lifecycle Manager image for a cluster.

JSON File

Distributing an image created with vSphere Lifecycle Manager as a JSON file is useful when you want to reuse the same image for other clusters that use images for host management.

When you distribute the JSON file to clusters in a different vCenter Server instance, you must make sure that the depot of the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager instance contains all components that the JSON file contains.

The JSON file contains only metadata and not the actual software payloads.

Which Distribution Format to Choose?

To reuse an existing image for a cluster in the same vCenter Server system, you must export the image as a JSON file and then import the JSON file to the target cluster.

However, when you want to use an existing image for a cluster in another vCenter Server instance, exporting the image as a JSON file might not be enough. You might also need to export the image as a ZIP file. At the target location, you must import the JSON file as an image to the target cluster. But you might also need to import the ZIP file to the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot to make sure that all components included in the image are available to the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager instance.

To reuse an existing cluster image for a cluster that you manage with baselines, you must export the source image as an ISO image. You must then import the ISO image into the local depot of the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager instance and use the imported ISO file to create an upgrade baseline.

Export an Image

You export an image when you want to use the same image for another cluster or standalone host in the same or in a different vCenter Server instance.

Depending on your goals, you can export an image as a JSON file, as an installable ISO image, or as an offline bundle that contains all software packages included in the image. The export format depends on your needs and goals.

For example, if you intend to use the image for a cluster or host in another vCenter Server, you must export it as a JSON file and as a ZIP file. Afterwards, you must import both the JSON file and the ZIP file to the target vCenter Server system. For information about importing updates to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot, see Import Updates to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager Depot.

Prerequisites

Verify that you have the proper privileges. See vSphere Lifecycle Manager Privileges For Using Images.

Procedure

  1. In the vSphere Client, navigate to a cluster or host that you manage with a vSphere Lifecycle Manager image.
  2. On the Updates tab, select Hosts > Image.
  3. Click the horizontal ellipsis icon and select Export.
  4. In the Export Image dialog box, select a file format, and click Export.
    You can export the image in one file format at a time.

Results

The exported file is saved on your local machine.

What to do next

Import the image to a target cluster or standalone host in the same or in a different vCenter Server instance.

Import an Image

Instead of setting up a new image manually, you can reuse an existing image by importing it to a cluster or a standalone host. Upon remediation, the imported image is applied to all hosts in the cluster or to the standalone host.

You can import an image only if it is in a JSON format. The JSON file contains only the image metadata, but not the actual software payloads. To successfully import an image to a cluster or host and apply the software specification to the hosts in the cluster or to the standalone host, all the components must specified in the image be available in the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot.

So, if you want to distribute and reuse an image across vCenter Server instances, importing the JSON file might not be enough if the components from the image are not available in the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot. In such cases, before you import the JSON file to the target cluster or host, you must first import an offline bundle that contains all components included in the image to the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot. If you try to import a JSON file to a cluster or host but the target vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot does not contain the corresponding components, the import operation fails due to validation errors.

For information about importing updates to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager depot, see Import Updates to the vSphere Lifecycle Manager Depot.

Prerequisites

Procedure

  1. In the vSphere Client, navigate to a cluster or host that you manage with a vSphere Lifecycle Manager image.
  2. On the Updates tab, select Hosts > Image.
  3. Click the horizontal ellipsis icon and select Import.
  4. In the Import Image dialog box, select a JSON file and click Next.
    • Enter a URL address to the JSON file that you want to import.
    • Browse to a JSON on your local machine.
  5. (Optional) In the Edit Image card, modify the image set-up.
    Image Element Possible Modifications
    ESXi Version From the ESXi Version drop-down menu, select a new ESXi base image.
    Vendor Addon
    • To add a vendor add-on to the image, click Select.
    • To change the version of the vendor add-on in the image or to select a new vendor add-on, click the pencil icon.
    • To remove the vendor add-on element from the image altogether, click the trash icon .
    Firmware and Drivers Addon
    • To add a firmware add-on to the image, click Select.
    • To select a new firmware add-on, click the pencil icon.
    • To remove the firmware add-on element from the image altogether, click the trash icon.

    Selecting a firmware add-on for a family of vendor servers is possible only if the respective vendor-provided hardware support manager is registered as an extension to the vCenter Server where vSphere Lifecycle Manager runs.

    Components Click Show details and view the list of additional components in the image.
    • To add components to the image, click Add Components and select components to add to the image.
    • To delete a component from the image, click the trash icon in the table with components.
    • To delete a manually added component that overrides a component in the selected vendor add-on, click the undo icon in the table with components.

      This action reverts the override.

  6. If the image contains conflicting components or unresolved dependencies, resolve the issues and retry the procedure.
  7. (Optional) To validate the image, click the Validate button.
    You validate an image to check for missing dependencies and component conflicts.
  8. Click Save.
    A compliance check task is automatically triggered. You can view compliance information in the Image Compliance card.

Results

The imported JSON file is imported and set as your new image for the target cluster or host. At that stage, nothing is installed on the hosts in the cluster or on the standalone host. The installation of software on the hosts happens during remediation.

What to do next

Remediate the hosts in the cluster or the standalone host against the new image. See Run a Remediation Pre-Check for a Cluster, a Host Within a Cluster, or a Standalone Host and Remediate a Cluster Against a Single Image.