This document is intended to educate and instruct users and prospective users of VMware vRealize Automation and vRealize Automation Cloud products. Specifically, the guide serves to educate users on what to expect “out of the box”, what’s available on the open source market, what features & functionality will require custom code, and what solutions are offered through commercially available enterprise software providers.

Ultimately, any organization using vRealize Automation (vRA) or vRealize Automation Cloud (vRAC) has options. If the organization has an in-house software development team, they can build, support, and maintain these solutions completely on their own. If not, then the organization can leverage free or open-source solutions, which have limited support. Or the organization can deploy commercial grade enterprise software to address their specific needs within vRA or vRAC.

Regardless of which option or combination of options any organization chooses, the buyers and decision makers should be well informed prior to making any such decisions.

 

Implementing a private or hybrid cloud requires multiple systems working together under a cloud management platform (CMP). VMware currently ships two different — but related — CMP packages: the locally-installed VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) and vRealize Automation Cloud (vRAC), which is a component of the VMware Cloud Management Services suite and is cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS).

Both vRA and vRAC offer basic CMP capabilities along with frameworks to add additional functionality such as integrations with other tools and the ability to enhance the capabilities of the CMP itself.

While vRealize Automation Cloud is fairly new, many companies have chosen to implement vRealize Automation to provide cloud services for the vSphere and VMware on AWS infrastructures.

When considering a CMP, companies need to make a list of requirements that includes (1) the 3rd party infrastructure components that need to be referenced during the virtual machine lifecycle and (2) the functionality expected from the CMP during the VM lifecycle such as email notifications at the various stages.

The following table lists some of the requirements companies frequently look for in a CMP, and how those requirements may be met:

  1. In vRA or vRAC out of the box
  2. Via a free option from a vendor or open source software
  3. Through custom coding required to achieve the objective
  4. Via commercially available 3rd party software

Currently, VMware has released vRealize Automation 8, which is not an upgrade from vRealize Automation 7, but an entirely new application. Custom properties are obsolete, custom workflows must be rewritten and users are learning to get acquainted with the new software. Though there is a vRealize Automation Migration tool, not all users have their customizations and workloads ready to be migrated. Sid Smith, Principal Solution Architect at SovLabs, discusses the many things to consider before attempting to migrate in A First Look at the vRA8 Migration Assessment Tool Part 1 and Part 2. Before making the big switch to vRealize Automation 8, be sure to consider the potential gaps and limitations of the new application.


 

Free/Open Source
vRA 7.x  vRAC
 Custom code
 vRA  vRAC SovLabs
 Functionality
Set or request property values at request          
Dynamically set property values at request      
Dynamically manage property values during lifecycle        
Email user at lifecycle events            
REST calls at lifecycle events            
Modify order of provisioning events        
Call scripts throughout lifecycle            
 Custom Naming
Multiple naming standards          
Decimal Sequencing          
Dynamic (templated) naming        
Naming validated against vCenter, vRealize Automation, DNS        
Custom naming for more than VMs        
 Active Directory
Statically assign OU        
Dynamically assign OU        
Dynamically provision OU        
 Script execution
Execute script after provisioning          
Execute script and any stage of provisioning            
 vSphere
Select clusters for deployments          
Statically assign VM properties          
Statically set vSphere folder          
Dynamically assign vSphere folder during provisioning        
Dynamically assign VM properties            
Create DRS rules            
Policy-based vSphere snapshot management            
Notification schedule for snapshot management            
 NSX
Place VMs on NSX networks          
Dynamically assign NSX tags during provisioning          
 IPAM/DNS
Assign IP address from a pool           
Work with 3rd party IPAM and DNS providers          
Validate IP availability          
Dynamically determine network          
Infoblox          
SolarWinds          
Bluecat          
Men and Mice          
Microsoft          
BT Diamond          
 F5 BIG-IP
Quickly create complex load balancer blueprints        
Dynamically set networks           
Dynamically provision VIP/Pool          
 Ansible Tower
Dynamic inventory in vRA and Tower            
Dynamically assign job templates            
Using CM Framework            
Without requiring vRA Enterprise            
Ansible (not tower) playbook execution          
Day 2 Actions          
 Puppet Enterprise
Utilize Puppet Enterprise from within vRA    
vRA 7.5 and 7.6 support    
Create Puppet configuration in vRA    
 Red Hat Satellite
Driving Red Hat Satellite from vRA    
Create software-defined Red Hat Satellite configs directly in vRA    
 Service Now
Access vRA objects from SNOW           
Batch replication of vRA items in SNOW          
Customizable vRA/SNOW integration          
SNOW-native control for vRA          
 Cohesity Integration
End user-available backup/restore out of the box          
vRO plugin for Cohesity            
Managed in vRA          
 Veeam Integration
End user-available backups and restores            
Managed in vRA            
 Rubrik Integration
End user-available backups and restores          
Managed in vRA          
Fully supported          

 


Functionality

While many of the sections below are specific and self-explanatory, this section is more of a catch-all for utilities and features that meet many use cases, or that many CMP admins might just find useful.

Service catalogs provide a selection of items for end users to choose from and request.  From virtual machine blueprints to applications deployable on existing virtual machines, a good service catalog should allow users to find what they need quickly and accurately.  This also reduces the administrative overhead needed to manage and maintain a catalog. However, many companies find their catalogs bloated with “blueprint sprawl.”

Blueprint sprawl is usually caused by static settings on a blueprint.   Any items or value statically set on a blueprint (such as which network to place VMs on) means a new blueprint is needed if that value changes.  The more blueprint values the administrator sets statically means the more unique blueprints the admin has to maintain. Conversely, the more dynamic a blueprint item is, the fewer blueprint items will be needed.

Fewer blueprint items requires less administrative overhead to manage.  Fewer blueprint items also makes resource catalogs simpler for end users to find what they need. While vRA and vRAC are both good at static values and have some logic in place for dynamic values, additional functionality may be required to drive dynamic manipulation of values.

SovLabs Modules introduce several ways to create dynamic blueprints and fight the sprawl including bulk finding, adding and modifying custom properties across blueprints the ability to create global custom properties using dynamic elements in your custom properties.  SovLabs modules can also allow you to set multiple values from a single request input.

When you configure vRealize Automation System Notification Events, you can receive automatic notifications for several types of events, such as the successful completion of a catalog request or a required approval.

Users and administrators often want notification of lifecycle events like provisioning.  The added capability of dynamic API calls for lifecycle events are also useful for working with monitoring tools or triggering other actions.

Many CMP admins need to change the order of certain lifecycle processes or to call scripts at different stages of the lifecycle and have those scripts run without agents on any machine in the environment. Each of these needs requires custom coding to function in the VMware CMPs.

If you are using SovLabs Modules, you can easily make custom emails for vRealize Automation notifications.

 

Custom naming

Both vRA and vRAC have some naming functionality for deployed virtual machines; however, administrators may want additional functionalities. Some of those naming functionalities might include:

  • Multiple naming components
  • Multiple sequences
  • Sequences other than decimal
  • Reclaiming/reusing names
  • Naming other created objects such as F5 VIPs and pools
  • Validation using vRA, DNS and vCenter that the hostname is not in use

You can read about how SovLabs modules can help creating custom naming sequences in our three-part blog series “Harness the Power of vRA.

 

Active Directory

While vRA can assign a VM to an organizational unit (OU), a dynamic organization might need the OU to be created during provisioning (with a custom name). Or the organization might need the VM to be moved between OUs at the end of provisioning. For example, one might move a VM from a less-restrictive “build” OU to the final OU.  At deprovisioning, the OU can be removed if empty.

You can see a video on our Active Directory module in action on YouTube.

 

vSphere

Since vRealize Automation is used primarily to manage vSphere virtual machines, there may be many aspects of vSphere to manage during the virtual machine lifecycle. While all admins would want to ensure VMs are placed on the proper cluster, some admins may want to create Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) rules to ensure VMs remain on the correct host(s). CMP admins may also want to set tags on the VMs (either static tags or dynamically chosen or created tags) and dynamically assign the proper folder in the vSphere environment.

Chip Zoller has a blog post on using SovLabs Modules to automate vSphere Tagging here.

 

NSX

Along with vSphere virtual machine options, virtual machines may need to be tagged for NSX (virtual networking and security software) and be deployed onto NSX virtual networks.

 

IPAM/DNS

If your environment is using an IP Address Management (IPAM) server, or if the deployed machines are required to have DNS records, the CMP will require IPAM and DNS integration.  Free resources exist for Solarwinds and Infoblox; however, other vendors’ solutions will require custom code. You may also require custom IPAM/DNS integration code if you require additional features like custom naming integration, your IPAM and DNS are from different providers, or you require production-level support availability.

You can find a whitepaper covering SolarWinds IPAM/DNS and vRA here and a general whitepaper on the advantages of integrating IPAM/DNS with vRA here.  There are also YouTube videos covering integrating vRA with Bluecat, Men and Mice, Microsoft, and SolarWinds IPAM/DNS solutions.

F5 Big-IP

Integration with F5 BIG IP — the physical appliances or the virtual edition deployed locally or on VMConAWS — will require custom coding.

Read more about the SovLabs solutions for F5 BIG-IP here or view a video on using F5 BIG-IP with vRA here.

 

Ansible Tower

An environment leveraging Ansible Tower for deployments will require custom coding to integrate with the provisioning or Day 2 functionality of a CMP.  A recent community effort was announced that leverages Ansible playbooks (not Tower) from within vRAC using scripts called from vRAC and executed on an Ansible Control Host. however, that effort currently has no dynamic capabilities or official support from Red Hat Ansible.  Since scripts can be called from vRA, that capability can be achieved in vRA if needed.

View the 2018 VMworld session with Delta Airlines, Ansible and SovLabs here or read a short recap of it on our blog site.

SovLabs also recently presented a webinar with Ansible which you can view here.

 

Puppet

Puppet offers a free plug-in for vRO, which can integrate with vRealize Automation with additional custom code.  Support for this integration is best-effort and apparently has not been tested since vRA 7.3. Support for newer versions and functionality such as creating Puppet configurations from vRA will require additional custom coding.

 

Satellite

CMP integration with Red Hat Satellite will require custom coding.

 

Service Now

Leveraging ServiceNow is possible with vRealize Automation, if batch replication is all that is required.  Additional functionality such as native ServiceNOW control of vRA objects will require custom coding.

Read up on integrating ServiceNow with vRA here or checkout this recent blog post on some of the latest enhancements for the SovLabs Module for ServiceNow.  You can also view a video of the ServiceNow integration on Youtube.

 

Backup Providers

Currently both Cohesity and Rubrik have limited-functionality vRO plugins available; however, additional custom work is required for vRA integration and support for that customization is questionable.  Additional functionality or integration with VEEAM will require custom coding.

The SovLabs blog site has articles on creating self-service backup and recovery using Veeam, Rubrik and Cohesity. We have also posted videos on YouTube covering the Veeam, Rubrik and Cohesity integrations.

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