I am super excited to be able to finally share, what I think, is a really cool ESXi-Arm solution which has been an evolution of this and this. This solution also incorporates a number of automation techniques I have shared over the years when it comes to ESXi scripted installation aka Kickstart, so it was really neat to all those things get pulled into a single solution. Lastly, I also want to give huge thanks to Cyprien Laplace who threw the initial challenge my way after I had shared how to perform an ESXi-Arm scripted installation without using SD Card.
ESXi-x86 can be deployed using either a stateful or stateless installation. In the latter case, ESXi is booted over the network using the vSphere Auto Deploy feature in vCenter Server which does not require any local media for ESXi. Upon attaching itself to vCenter Server, Auto Deploy then leverages vSphere Host Profiles and its rules engine to determine which configurations or profiles should be applied to ensure the ESXi hosts are configured per their desired stated. Here is a quick video overview of how Auto Deploy and Host Profiles work.
Fundamentally, vSphere Auto Deploy and Host Profiles can also work with ESXi-Arm but today, vCenter Server would require some code modification for this to actually work.
OK, so am I teasing you with something that does not exists? Nope, but I just wanted to help set the context 🙂
The solution that I have created boots ESXi-Arm over the network in a "stateless" manner, so there is no need for an SD Card or USB device plugged into the Raspberry Pi (rPI). In addition to the ESXi-Arm files, it also includes a custom payload which runs to retrieve additional configurations which can automatically join a desired vCenter Server as well as apply further customizations of an ESXi-Arm host. As you can see, this solution behaves similar to that of vSphere Auto Deploy and Host Profiles but does not use either of these vSphere features and works with the ESXi-Arm Fling right now.
Technically speaking, these techniques can also be applied to ESXi-x86 but I will leave that to the reader for further exploration.