vRealize Automation 8 – Key Features and New Services

In 2019, VMware released a new version of its popular automation tool — vRealize Automation 8. Normally, you’d expect a new release of an existing product to include a lot more features than the previous versions. It’s not so with vRA 8. 

Released as an on-premises “vRealize Automation Cloud,” it came with a new codebase, but with fewer features. Earlier in 2019, VMware released Cloud Automation Services. This is a cloud-based tool that provides the same function as vRealize Automation, but it’s now in the cloud. 

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Designers built the software from scratch rather than updating vRealize Automation Services. While these two products offer similar functionality, VMware called this new tool the vRealize Automation Cloud. This is the same software that the company has released as an on-premises tool as vRealize Automation 8.

The change renders older vRA versions obsolete.

vRA 8 vs. vRA 7 – What Has Changed?

Although VMware plans to add features back, the company hasn’t officially announced anything yet. But you can expect many of the features missing in version 8 to show up in versions 8.1 and 8.2.

Some key features you’ll miss in vRA 8 include approval policies and endpoints for kernel-based VM, vCloud Director, and Hyper-V. It also limits the functionality for XaaS (Anything-as-a-Service).

There are no customer resources and no anything-as-a-service blueprint components as of yet. VMware has not released an upgrade path for moving from version 7 to version 8 of vRealize Automation. But it’s not all doom and gloom for version 7 users. The company might launch the upgrade functionality in the future.

For now, VMware only offers documentation on how to prep for future upgrades. vR8 Migration Assessment Service can help ease this process.

How to Install vRealize Automation 8

If you want to install vRA 8, you can use an ISO file that contains the Easy Installer tool. This tool will install Lifecycle Manager fast. After that, based on your input, it will deploy VMware Identity Manager and vRA. This effectively means all deployments will have an instance of Lifecycle Manager by default.

If you want, you can use an existing instance of Identity Manager. Alternatively, you can deploy vRA later from the Lifecycle Manager. Identity Manager, Lifecycle Manager, and vRA all run in their appliances. But vRA software only runs in Kubernetes pods. 

You will not need to install Kubernetes nodes by yourself. Easy Installer does this for you. You can access your whole deployment using the Kubernetes command set. It’s possible to deploy additional vRAs via nodes to create a cluster via an easy installer. This makes it easy to build a highly available deployment.

New Services and Features

While the company has removed several features from vRA 8, it has some new and updated features and services. These include:

Catalog

If you’ve used a current version of vRealize Automation, then the catalog might appear the same. It’s part of Service Broker. It allows you to set up access to blueprints and the vRealize Orchestrator workflows.

You can still access custom forms management from version 7.4 of the tool.

Cloud Assembly

This feature includes a test button that you can use to check configurations. You can use it to verify you are able to deploy blueprints with a given set of parameters. This means you don’t need to publish a blueprint and place it in the catalog when you want to deploy. You can do this directly from the intuitive design interface.

It’s now possible to save versions of your blueprints design. These saved versions of your blueprints behave like snapshots. You can always return to a previous version or even to newer saved copies. You’re also able to compare versions. You can do this graphically or via the YAML.

Cloud Accounts

Previous versions of vRA referred to Cloud Accounts as Endpoints. In vRA 8, blueprints usually contain components from cloud accounts to which vRA connects. These cloud accounts may include vCenter, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and VMware Cloud on AWS. 

It’s possible to integrate blueprints with Kubernetes. To do this, you must use Code Stream — another new vRA service. Code Stream allows you to deploy workloads in Kubernetes clusters. You maintain full control of updating and versioning. 

Events Broker

This was a key feature in vRA 7. It remains in version 8. Nonetheless, the number of event topics has reduced. Even then, most necessary events remain for when you need to trigger orchestration workflows.

To simplify event subscriptions, VMware has made it possible to script workflow conditions. Such workflow events can be simple, such as checking the username for blueprint requests. They can also be complex, such as triggering large constructions based on blueprint names or the name of a project. 

It’s now possible to use both scripts and orchestrator workflows that you enter into vRA directly. They’re called ABX (Action Based Executions). You can write ABXes in JavaScript or Python, and they can manipulate a request at runtime.

Previously, vRA users could only complete tasks, such as modifying a hostname via an orchestration workflow. Now you can do this through an ABX action.

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