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VMware just published a detailed technical overview paper about Host Profiles. As virtual infrastructures grow, configuring multiple ESX hosts in consistent way across the datacenter becomes increasingly difficult and time consuming, often resulting in configuration errors. VMware Host Profiles, introduced in vSphere 4.0, helps establish standard configurations for ESX/ESXi hosts and enables centralized
compliance monitoring and reporting against these desired host configurations. With Host Profiles, users can quickly and easily make host configuration
changes across a large population of hosts. Not only does Host Profiles help reduce operational costs, it also minimizes risk of downtime for applications/ virtual machines provisioned to misconfigured systems.This white paper describes
typical use cases for Host
Profiles and explains how you can use them to automate host
configuration and to monitor for configuration compliance. You can download the white paper here.

In vCenter Server 4.1, VMware has further enhanced Host Profiles to support additional configuration settings:

  • Administrator password configuration –With the support for administrator password configuration, users can quickly roll out administrator password changes to vSphere hosts in their deployment. As shown in the following screenshot, you have 3 options to configure administrator password: prompt user to input the password, use pre-defined password or leave the password unchanged.
Host_Profiles_admin_password
  • Active Directory Configuration – In vSphere 4.1, Host Profiles has been enhanced to support the ESX/ESXi integration with Active Directory. Using Host Profiles, users can provide all required information — the Active Directory domain name and user credentials required to join the domain — to complete Active Directory configuration for the vSphere host. The following screenshot shows how you can use a host profile for Active Directory configuration.
Host_Profiles_configure_AD
  • Physical NIC configuration using PCI device ID – Host
    Profiles now enables users to select and configure specific physical
    NICs using PCI device ID. This will simplify network configuration for
    environments in which separate physical NICs are assigned to different
    network traffic, for example, vMotion, IP-based storage and so on.
Host_Profiles_select_NIC_by_PCIID

In addition, you can now also configure the privilege settings for a user using Host
Profiles. All user privileges that you can configure from the vSphere
client can now be configured through Host Profiles.