NLVMUG2016At the Dutch VMUG UserConference two weeks ago, I presented a session together with my colleagues Dimitri on how Automation is not difficult with vRealize Automation 7.

Because we got good feedback and we’ve got the demo’s recorded, I thought I’d share this with you all.

Automation has the reputation to be complex. That’s why many people keep clear of it. But with vRealize Automation 7 automation just got a whole lot easier.

Position of vRealize Suite in VMware’s vision

vRealize Suite is VMware’s Cloud Management Platform (CMP) for virtual, physical and private, public or hybrid cloud infrastructures. VMware’s CMP is the key control layer in a SDDC to manage heterogeneous and hybrid environments.

CMP supports companies addressing cloud management requirements across day one and day two operations for compute, storage, network and application level resources. With policy-based automation, operations, and business management capabilities, it helps IT to deliver on the new business need for speed, agility, and choice while also delivering the ongoing IT need for control and efficiency.

vRealize Automation 7

So why do I need automation?

As enterprises adopt the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), IT teams will control more objects, including VMs, NSX controllers and VSAN datastores.  But how can IT teams manage these new objects and build a data center that is scalable and sustainable?  The key is to implement high degrees of automation through governance controls (i.e. setting up IaaS).

SDDC requires a new management paradigm

  • Explosive growth of SDDC objects (VMs, NSX controllers, VSAN datastores)
  • Unless workloads are provisioned, managed, and deployed with a common policy, it will be difficult to make optimal sourcing decisions and efficiently identifying root causes of problems
  • Existing manual processes for delivering applications on top of infrastructure services can often take weeks or even many months

Three main capabilities of vRealize Automation that are critical to provide agility by automating delivery of personalized services:

  1. Single solution of abstracted service models
    vRA provides the ability to create models of services. Those services are abstracted from each other within a single solution. For example application services are abstracted from infrastructure services, which are abstracted from resource pools. Think about this as layers of services, layered on top of each other, like layers of an onion. If you think about it, VMware really has always been in the business of providing abstraction.
  2. Model once – deploy Anywhere
    The power of abstracted service models is that you can treat a model the same, irrespective of where the service gets deployed.  You can model a service once, and deploy it anywhere, whether it is a dev, test or development environment or whether it is a private or a public cloud.
  3. Personalization through policies
    Even though we want to create models of abstracted services, which we can treat the same irrespective of where they get deployed, we do not want to provide each consumer with the same service. Each consumer requires a service personalized for specific business needs. vRA provides this ability through policies: Fine grained policies work in conjunction to personalize a service.

vRealize Automation 7

Automation? What does it do?

Basically, with vRealize Automation you can combine all the components in your data center and build IT services with them. It is like a huge Lego box with which you can build cars, boats, castles, spaceships, eg. Instead of Lego you now use compute, memory, storage, network, Active Directory , IP management system as your building blocks and instead of cars, boats and spaceships you now you build IT services. An IT service can be anything from a password reset to a multi-tier application, micro segmented and load balanced with NSX.

Once you have build these IT services, vRealize Automation enables you to publish these service to an Catalog on which you can control access using role based access using Active Directory integration.

When an end user consumes the IT services, vRealize Automation handles placement using the policies described above. You can have a test deployment which is provisioned in a cloud environment and a production deployment of the same application placed in your private cloud environment because of rules and legislation.

vRealize Automation 7

This sounds very complex

It may sound complex and true, vRealize Automation is a very versatile product with many, many possibilities and features. But with version 7, VMware has managed to create a product which is easier to install due to the new installation process, easier to work with due to the converged blueprint design canvas and easier to integrate with 3rd party products due to the new event broker.

It is still not a walk in the park but when you compare it to vRealize Automation 6.x and even more when you compare it to the competition it’s so much easier to get it up and running. In terms of ROI it’s way ahead of the competition.

So how complex is it? When you’re working in IT you have probably made you fair share of Vision drawings and you have done some scripting. That’s all you need to start with vRealize Automation 7. OK, for the advanced stuff you will need more in depth knowledge and experience but to start with automation and setup you basic Infrastructure-as-a-Service you’re good to go.

vRealize Automation 7

OK, that’s all talk. Please show me.

OK, I’ve already discussed the new Architecture & Installation and Federated Identity extensively in previous articles.

Let’s focus on the hands-on with vRealize Automation 7. The first big improvement is the new converged blueprint which combines both infrastructure and application blueprints. The converged blueprints are displayed in a new top level tab named ‘Design’ which shows a new modern design canvas to author any blueprints ranging from infrastructure oriented all the way to application oriented.

So the new vRealize Automation 7 delivers a new unified graphical canvas for designing machines, software components and application stacks with an underlying single unified model for both machine and application blueprints. Because of the converged blueprint design canvas it now very easy to build you IT services in a very visual way.

Let’s check it out in our first demo.

This is only infrastructure, what about applications?

This is the basis to build on. Now that we have the infrastructure part in place we can add software components. Adding the software components is the same process as with the infrastructure components, just select the Software Components Category and drag & drop the software components on the infrastructure we’ve just build.

With the software components we get an additional option which we do not have with infrastructure components and that’s is ‘dependency’. You can define a dependency between software components or between a software component and a virtual machine. Setting up a dependency means that we need to deploy a certain component (application or virtual machine) before an application can be deployed. For instance, we need to deploy our web servers before we can deploy our load balancer because the load balancer needs the IP addresses of the web servers in its configuration.

Let’s show that in our second demo.

Do I need to create every single blueprint myself?

No you don’t, the converged blueprint is now delivered in code, so it becomes a Blueprint as Code. This allows the easy import/export and modification of blueprints which enables enterprises to easily deliver a populated vRealize Automation environment with pre-created blueprints, create new tenants and pre-populate this with default blueprints, etc. The possibilities are endless and you can download blueprints from both VMware Solution Exchange and VMware Developer Center.

But a new IT service is more than just provisioning  infrastructure and applications

True, when you’ve provisioned you infrastructure and applications the IT process really starts. Components have to registered in a configuration database, IP addresses need to be reserved, back-up and monitoring needs to be setup. vRealize Automation 7 allows these additional steps to be included in the whole process to deliver true end-to-end automation. Integration with 3rd party systems can be done in two ways, by using the API or using vRealize Orchestrator. vRealize Orchestrator can be extended by adding additional product plugins making for endless possibilities.

To trigger the interaction with 3rd party systems we use the Event Broker Service which is probably one of the most impressive and powerful new features of vRealize Automation 7. The Event Broker provides an intuitive user interface for tenant- or system administrators to subscribe to events which than activate customised workflows.  You can even make the subscription conditional, so eg. start a workflow when all virtual machines with names starting with ‘TEST_’ change their power state to ‘PoweredON”.

For the demo we’ve setup iTop, a free CMDB, and we will show how to integrate with that using the Event Broker Service.

Impressive, but can I add more custom content?

Sure you can, vRealize Automation 7 did introduce the term ‘Anything-as-a-Service‘. Not only can you build custom IT Services, you can also add custom actions to the vRealize Automation GUI itself. A small example, vRealize Automation has its default actions which you can perform when you’ve deployed a blueprint like ‘power on’, ‘shutdown’, ‘take a snapshot’, etc. You can write your own integration and add custom options like ‘add to backup’ or ‘install AV agent’.

For this demo we build an integration which installs a Chef agent on a Linux virtual machine.

That shows that vRealize Automation 7 is a very powerful tool with great extensibility and support for many hypervisors and cloud solution but which is still easy to deploy and very easy to work with. I hope this takes away the ‘fear’ you had about automation and I hope I’ve shown that automation does not need to be complex and that with vRealize Automation 7, automation just got a whole lot easier.

May the force be with you ;-)