I recently came across an interesting article by Andreas Peetz which shows you how to patch an ESXi host using an image profile that is directly available on VMware's online depot within the ESXi shell. I knew that VMware had online depots for use with VUM and Auto Deploy but I was not aware of this particular method, especially directly from the host.
Disclaimer: This method assumes you can install the default ESXi Image Profile with no additional drivers or packages, else you may have connectivity issue after the upgrade. If you still need to customize the ESXi Image Profile before installation, you will still need to use something like Image Builder and then upload that to your online depot.
Note: There are many ways that you can patch/upgrade your ESXi hosts, here is another article that provides more details for command-line only methods.
Before you get started, you will need to make sure that your ESXi host has the httpClient firewall rule enabled, else you will not be able to connect to VMware's online depot. To enable this, run the following ESXCLI command:
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
Also make sure that your ESXi host can reach the following URL (you can specify a proxy if needed):
To view the available ESXi Image Profiles, run the following ESXCLI command (use the --proxy if you need to specify a proxy to reach VMware's online depot):
esxcli software sources profile list -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
If you are able to successfully connect to the online depot, you see a list of all the ESXi Image Profiles that are available to you. You will see two ESXi 5.1 Image Profiles (these were recently published), one with VMware Tools and one without VMware Tools.
Note: Before you begin, make sure you do not have any running VMs and put your host into maintenance mode.
Let's go ahead and upgrade our ESXi 5.0 Update 1 host to latest ESXi 5.1. To install the new Image Profile, run the following command:
esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-5.1.0-799733-standard
This can take a few minutes to complete depending on how fast you can pull down the Image Profile. Once it is done, you will see all the new VIBs that have been updated and you will be asked to reboot for the changes to go into effect and then you will be running ESXi 5.1! Pretty cool IMO!