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vRealize Automation 6.2 is GA

speeddialLadies and gentlemen, start your downloads!

vRealize Automation 6.2 (formerly known as vCloud Automation Center) has gone GA today. Beside the usual raft of fixes, the major focus for this release is the integration with vRealize Operations 6.0 (formerly known as vCenter Operations Manager).

Download VMware vRealize Automation 6.2

Also updated to download are:

And finally, all new and shiny is vRealize Code Stream. This, I am really looking forward to as it’s aimed at providing continuous delivery of software releases. And that could include vCO (I mean vRealize Orchestrator) workflows – something I’m doing a lot of at the moment.

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Thank you VMworld… see you next year?

As always, the highlight of any VMworld for me is the interaction with other attendees. Meeting new people, discussing technology and ideas with old friends and new is what makes it great for me.

Also great was that over €143,000 will be donated to charities by VMware as a result of people participating in vGiveback.

Once again, the VMware events team have done a great job and I thank them.

VMworld 2015 Dates

VMworld US 2015 starts on August 30th (Partner Day) in San Francisco and runs until September 3rd.

VMworld Europe 2015 starts on October 12th (Partner Day) in Barcelona and runs until October 15th.

See you next year?

A lot can happen in the 9 months or so until booking for 2015 really gets going. I hope to be there. Who knows, I might even get to present a session or two…

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vRealize Automation v6.2 Announced

So, vCAC 6.1 was finally announced at VMworld US in August and went GA in early September. Included in that release were some much needed bug fixes and enhancements in a number of key areas:

  • New consumer API
  • Improved partner support with vCO
  • Enhanced integrations with vCloud Suite (specifically ITBM)
  • NSX integration
  • Enhanced Puppet integration
  • Localised Consumer Interface in 12 languages (but crucially not British English!)
  • Bulk import tool
  • User interface configuration
  • Enhanced HA deployment

Today at VMworld Europe, VMware have announced that vRealize Automation 6.2 is coming (hopefully in Q4 this year). Besides the obvious name change of the product, this version, coming hot on the heels of 6.1, is intended as a maintenance release to fix a number of bugs. But vRealize 6.2 is also intended to introduce some new functionality to complement recently announced changes to vRealize Operations:

Integration with vROps

There are two key enhancements in this area. The first relates to the display of Health Status from vRealize Operations. These can be seen in list or item views and provide vRA users with some limited insights into the health of their virtual machines.

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The second enhancement concerns the reclamation of idle VMs. vROps can be utilised by vRA to identify any idle VMs based on configurable criteria.

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The resources used by the identified VMs can then be “reclaimed” if desired.

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CloudClient

This is a command-line interface that will be available as a separate download for use primarily by IT administrators. It will provide verb-based access to vCAC / vRA where scripting is more practical than creating API calls. I don’t know much about it yet but it would be great if it was nicely aligned with other VMware scripting utilities (for example as PowerCLI cmdlets).

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Supportability

If you do run a large, distributed vCAC installation, how much hassle is it having to collect log files from numerous locations and servers to create a support bundle in the event of an issue? In vRA 6.2, there is going to be a one-stop shop for all your support needs. With one click, you should be able to retrieve it all:

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What’s in a name?

Finally, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. The letters (or the sound of them together) C, A and C don’t really work in a lot of languages and this is a welcome name change in my opinion. Having customers emphasise the “cack” sound in vCAC is slightly off-putting when you’re trying to have a serious conversation with them. I’m not quite sold yet on the “vRealize” branding either, but that will come…

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vRealize Operations 6.0 Announced

Today at VMworld Europe, VMware have officially unveiled vRealize Operations 6.0.

This rebranding of the vCenter Operations Management Suite not only re-positions the product but it also introduces some much needed enhancements and features. Key amongst those are:

New Deployment Model

vCOps instances were not very scalable in the past. Once you reached a certain level, you’d be forced to deploy another one i.e. another “Analytics VM” and another “UI VM”. Scaling was achieved purely through the manipulation of hardware resources for the VMs.

With vRealize Ops 6.0, the analytics and UI components are combined in a single appliance (or apparently a Linux / Windows installer) that can easily be scaled by introduced another instance to the cluster. The product now includes built-in clustering capabilities, enabling very easy scaling between a small deployment and a much larger one as well as introducing resiliency to the product.

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Customisable Alert Definitions

It will be possible with vROps 6.0 to combine multiple symptoms together to define alerts. Also, scripts or vCO workflows can be assigned to these alerts to enable automated, self-healing actions.

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Dashboards and Reports

Both of these are now customisable enabling the creation of views that are tailored to an organisation’s needs.

New Management Packs

There are a number of new management packs coming for OpenStack, NSX, Amazon AWS and vCloud Air amongst others and the method for installing and configuring them has been streamlined.

Upgrades and Availability

Side-by-side migration from vCenter Operations 5.8 to vRealize Operations 6.0 will be possible. vROps is due to be generally available in Q4 2014.

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vCAC 5.2.1 Released

I missed this on Thursday. It slipped out quite quietly. However, VMware have now released version 5.2.1 of vCloud Automation Center.

Possibly the best way to view this release is as an update-rollup as it includes features and fixes introduced in each of the following Hotfixes to 5.2:

Also included are a few changes that seem to me to be aimed at closing a few gaps between 5.2 and 6.0.

As far as upgrades go, the upgrade path seems to be from 5.2 only or 5.2.1 can be installed from scratch. There are a couple of installation / upgrade gotchas to be aware of so it’s worth reading the release notes before planning an upgrade. I’ll be giving it a try in the next few days.

It’s not 100% clear if this will be the final release for vCAC in the 5.x branch. I’m thinking that it will very much depend on when VMware release a version of 6.x that supports upgrades from 5.x.

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vCHS in the UK

vCHS-in-the-UK1I was fortunate and privileged recently to be invited to the UK launch event for VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service in the UK. The first of many planned deployments in the EMEA region for VMware.

VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service became public in the US in September last year.  Swiftly afterwards, VMware announced their plans to bring the service to EMEA in 2014 and, as of Tuesday 25th February, it is generally available in Europe.

Besides being a blogger, I’m also fortunate to work for a leading VMware Partner in EMEA (Xtravirt). As we’re one of the few Hybrid Cloud certified partners (at the time of writing), I’m hoping to be working on some vCHS projects in the near future. Exciting!

Why the UK and Why now?

The feedback from EMEA customers indicated that many of them were concerned about data locality and the sovereignty of their datacenters. A Vanson Bourne survey of 200 IT decision makers conducted earlier this year on behalf of VMware indicated that:

  • 86% recognised a business need to keep data within UK borders
  • 85% said current clouds were not integrated with their own internal infrastructure
  • 81% said that they need to make public cloud as easy to manage and control as their own infrastructure

The Launch Event

The launch of the service in London was anticipated for several weeks following a beta programme that was oversubscribed ten-fold. Initially, vCHS will be available via a single UK data centre.  An additional data centre is due to come online in the 2nd quarter of this year and VMware already have plans to expand the service into more European countries.

The relative importance to VMware of this launch was perhaps best emphasized by the presence of their CEO, Pat Gelsinger, who flew in from California for it.  VMware have invested heavily in vCHS and will continue to do so as demand for public cloud services grows. Pat’s presence underlined to me the importance that VMware places on vCHS in their future.

During Pat’s talk, he gave an overview of how he and VMware see that we’re in the middle of a shift from an appliance era to one of mobile cloud. vCHS is one of the ways that VMware are using to move with that shift. He also mentioned about how he’d recently had to write a cheque for $1.5Bn for VMware’s purchase of AirWatch. I thought I’d try it out to see what it felt like…

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I guess it’d be more impressive if I actually had that money in my account! If anyone else tries this, tell me if you use Dr Evil’s voice when writing it out.

Much of the remaining time at the event was dedicated to a Q&A panel involving many of the UK / EMEA’s top brass and vCHS product managers.

vCHS Benefits – A Customer Perspective

Obviously, VMware weren’t the first to market with a public cloud offering (think Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure for instance), but a significant portion of the launch briefing was focused around how vCHS benefits existing VMware customers more than a move to a 3rd party cloud provider does.  For this, two of the service’s beta participants talked about their experiences.

Betfair’s business activities, as part of the online gaming industry, are heavily regulated within the UK. One of their IT challenges is providing the business with sufficient agility to grow and develop. However, Betfair found that the potential benefits of cloud economics are balanced against the complexity of maintaining regulatory compliance when using cloud service providers. The key differentiator that they picked out in vCHS for them was the integration with their existing virtual platform (vSphere). Being able to migrate workloads from their on-premise platform to their dedicated vCHS space and (using other parts of the vCloud Suite) presenting business users with a single interface to request and manage virtual infrastructure made their adoption of vCHS for development and testing purposes possible.

Cancer Research UK’s story is similar. Their key driver is to reduce their spend on “tin and wires” as they’re not an IT business. As a charity, regular and predictable costs are far more preferable to infrequent capital outlays for growth and hardware refreshes. Cancer Research wanted something they could just plug into and use to maximize their IT efficiency and move away from legacy systems.

Thinking about these use cases, there’s certainly clear benefits for both customers.

Use Cases

vCHS has several use cases and benefits. Key amongst the benefits is the ability to utilise existing vSphere management products and interfaces to manage your estate. Such integration is going to be a big selling point in my opinion.

As for use cases, here are just a few:

  • Use as a Disaster Recovery datacenter
  • Migrate from existing  Virtual Infrastructure and reduce your physical datacenter assets
  • SMEs could use it to host workloads that require Enterprise vSphere features and keep test and development systems in house
  • Affordable means to grow IT infrastructure without capital investement

Put another way, if you imagine an organisation with an existing virtual datacenter, their usage of it is likely to look something like this:

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  • 75 – 90% (ish) is used by running services
  • 10 – 25 % might be reserved for high availability and maintenance constraints
  • A few percent might be available to support business growth

That’s a reasonable chunk of resources that are required (and must be paid for) that don’t run any workloads under normal conditions.

Imagine though if the business had datacenter resilience requirements that necessitated a second datacenter for DR:

vchs-use-case-with-dr

The organisation has to pay for a lot more hardware and software that might never be required and that will have to kept up-to-date over time. (Of course, they could run workloads in both datacenters and fail over should DR be required but the amount of resources required wouldn’t reduce much.)

Using vCHS, such an organisation could very easily do any or all of the following:

  • Use vCHS for DR. They’d have to pay for storage used and they’d need a pretty chunky network connection but surely they have that anyway. In the evnt of needing to failover, they pay for the resource used.
  • Use vCHS to support business growth without having to invest in capital equipment.
  • Migrate their workloads to vCHS rather than refresh on-premise hardware and use multiple vCHS datacenters for resilience.

The opportunities are both interesting and exciting to me.

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vCAC 5.2 – Accidental Deletion of a non-vCAC VM

It was tempting to call this article “vCAC Ate My VM” but it’s not a useful description of what it’s actually about.

I was onsite with a customer recently when an odd bit of behaviour occurred whilst testing some out some code in the BuildingMachine stub. I’ve reproduced what happened in my home lab and while it’s a bit worrying and probably a bug, I’d hesitate to ring the alarm bells too loudly.

A bit of scene setting is required to explain this first.

  • The customer wanted to use user specified machine names. The blueprints in use have been configured to request a machine name from the person requesting a VM.
  • This name is also used for the VM’s guest OS hostname during the customization of the VM. Understandably this has to be unique within the DNS zone / network being used.
  • The vCenter being used as a vCAC endpoint is the same one that “owns” the vCAC infrastructure and many other production VMs. However vCAC has it’s own cluster to consume resources from.

The customer wanted to ensure that users couldn’t request a VM name that was already in use. vCAC does its own checking to ensure that the same name is not used with vCAC itself. However, it does not check for existing VMs in vSphere. This is why I was adding some code to the WFStubBuildingMachine workflow.

The solution that I had was a simple piece of PowerCLI that connected to the vCenter server, checked to see if the requested VM name was in use in any of the other clusters and failed the request if it was. Fairly simple and it worked. What I saw however was that the existing VM was destroyed by vCAC. Luckily it was a test one and not a production one. However, given that the vCenter server also managed non-vCAC VMs, this was a bit worrying and why I have been investigating it in my lab.

To reproduce the issue, I needed two clusters in my homelab (which I already had):

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One for management VMs and one resource cluster for vCAC to provision into.

I created a simple VM from a vSphere template called “testvm” in my MGMT cluster that would be my guinea pig. I then built a quick vCAC 5.2 server and configured my vCenter server’s “RES” cluster as a Compute Resource. With a reservation in place and a simple blueprint I was ready to test.

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Having verified that I could create VMs via vCAC with custom names successfully, I then went about customising the WFStubBuildingMachine workflow so that it would exit in a “Failed” state. Adam Bohle has a posting that explains how to accomplish this, I simplified it a bit as I didn’t need all of the logic in place, just a failure.

Using the vCAC Designer, I simply added a step to return a Failed state from WFStubBuildingMachine and sent the change back to the Model Manager.

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After another quick test, I could see that as soon as any request hit the “Building Machine” stage, it failed and vCAC would dispose of the VM. The important thing to realise is that in the lifecycle of a vCAC machine, “Building Machine” means that nothing has been created yet outside of vCAC. No cloning in vSphere has taken place. So disposing of a failed request at this stage should not really involve vCenter at all.

Now the real test…

This time I made a vCAC request for a VM called “testvm” (remember that it’s in my MGMT cluster and vCAC is set to use only my RES cluster for VMs).

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As expected, the requests fails at the “Building Machine” stage and vCAC disposes of the VM.

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Back in vCenter “testvm” is still there and running ok. This is good. As I’d hoped, vCAC doesn’t touch something that’s in another cluster.

If the “testvm” machine is moved to the RES cluster though, what then? Boom! vCAC jumps into a Disposing stage as expected but deletes the non-vCAC VM from vCenter that has the same name!

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Whilst this probably shouldn’t happen, what I was doing here wasn’t good practice anyway. The cluster that vCAC provisions into should only be used by vCAC. There should be no other VMs in there at all.

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VCAP5-DCA… Passed!

passI’m not the world’s biggest fan of exams and I’ve been putting this one off for a while. But, after Gregg Robertson volunteered me (at VMworld Europe) to pursue VCDX in 2014, I thought I ought to get it scheduled.

I took the VCAP4-DCA back in 2011 and became the 189th person to pass it. You would think then that the VCAP5 wouldn’t pose a big issue. I was concerned though that I spend more time now using tools like Word and Visio than I do mucking about in the vSphere Client. Turns out that I needn’t have worried quite so much.

Despite having manflu for four days before (and during) the exam and having a nightmare journey to get there thanks to a broken down train, I managed to have a crack at almost all tasks in the exam and came away with a score of 448 🙂

The two exam blueprint areas that I knew I was weaker in came up as tasks and I left them until the end to give them as much time as I could without jeopardising my chances on the other areas. That way I knew that if I messed them up, at least I’d given the rest of the exam a good go.

My tip for taking the exam: Before you start it, use the mini whiteboard or notepad that the exam centre give you to make a numbered list of the tasks that you’ll be doing. As you do each one, tick it if it’s finished or annotate what needs doing of finishing for each one to allow you to move through the exam without waiting for all tasks to complete as they can be slow and you can’t afford to waste time.

The worst part of the whole experience is waiting for the results. It used to be up to 10 business days (I think) when the DCA exam first came out. These days they say to allow up to 15 business days. I was expecting that there might be delays, what with Christmas coming up, but it was only 1 week. A pleasant surprise 🙂

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VMware Education Offers at VMworld Europe 2013

I popped by the certification area in hall 7 (behind the HoL) at VMworld Europe today to chat to the lovely people working in VMware’s Education team. One of my primary reasons for going there (aside from getting some badges) was to enquire about progress on the exam track for Network Virtualisation. More on that in a minute.

If you’re new to VMware certification or just getting started, there are a couple of good reasons to visit the Education Team whilst at the conference. Firstly they are offering a discount code to take a VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam if you register for it before November 15th 2013.

The VCA certification is VMware’s entry level certification and the exam can be taken online. The current availability and structure of the certification tracks can be seen below.

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If you want to take your certification further (to get your VCP5-DCV for example) you need to take a VMware course to qualify. The good news is that the required course, VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage, is available as an on-demand classroom course.

If you sign up while you’re at VMworld, you can take the course for only $499 and replay it for up to 90 days. Since the ICM course typically goes for upwards of $2000, that represents a big saving. For more details, go to the Certification area and ask for Julie.

So, what about the Network Virtualisation exams? No concrete news yet (although I got to meet John Arrasjid, @vcdx001 whilst trying to find that out) but given that NSX went GA today it’ll probably be in the next 3 -6 months.

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vCAC 6.0 Announced

vCAC 6.0 was announced in Tuesday’s General Session and it’s expected to be generally available in mid-November 2013. For me, this is the most exciting announcement to come out of VMworld Europe. It’s all about building, deploying and managing application catalogs.

VMware acquired DynamicOps in mid-2012 and managed to rebrand and launch it as vCloud Automation Center 5.1 at VMworld last year. There has since been a 5.2 release but 6.0 includes some very significant changes. Two of the biggest are:

Appliances!

vCAC installation has historically been a bit of a pig. 5.2 has its own pre-requisite checker and a number of hoops to jump through to get it up and running. Jonathan Medd even recently produced a superb PowerShell script to automate the setup of the pre-requisites.

With 6.0 however, vCAC is being partially released as a virtual appliance by being broken down into several components. The IaaS (.NET) core is still hosted on Windows but the Self-Service portal and Application Director (see below) components are virtual appliances. The portal appliance includes a full instance of vCO.

On the face of it, deploying vCAC may seem more involved but having some key functionality hosted in virtual appliances is a sensible move in my opinion.

Say Hello to Application Director

There is now going to be greater integration with (vFabric) Application Director and the latter will actually be bundled with vCAC 6.0 although it will be distributed as a separate appliance. The point of this is to allow organisations to define and build applications (blueprints) in Application Director and then manage deployment and infrastructure through vCAC.

There’s a lab available in the Hands-on-Labs that showcases the vCAC 6.0 beta. Try it out.