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vCAC 6.1 Removes VM NICs when a description is changed

Maybe my google foo is broken, but I couldn’t see any mention of this in VMware’s KB library. I’m trying to find out if it’s also an issue in vRA 6.2 too.

Edit 14/05/2015: I’m reliably informed that this is fixed in 6.2.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, I was demonstrating how it was possible to change the description of a VM in vCAC via the “Edit” resource action and how it would also result in the vCenter VM being updated.

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So, with the description added, I hit Submit. The description is added to the Virtual Machine in vCAC and also vCenter. I then went to to demonstrate a custom action that executes a vRO workflow and was surprised when it failed and complained about the identity of the network being used.

A brief bit of head-scratching later, and I discovered that vCAC believed the VM to have no network interface:

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The VM’s properties confirmed, that as far as vCAC was concerned, this VM was not connected to any network! However, looking at vCenter, the story was very different:

 

For anyone familiar with vCAC, the solution is easy. And, in fact, vCAC will fix the issue itself in under 24 hours. Forcing vCAC to refresh the vCenter inventory clears up the discrepancy:

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Clearly an odd “feature” of the vCAC portal and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it but for using the same VM for a particular resource action that needed the VM’s network properties.

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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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VMworld Europe 2014 – Looking forward…

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It’s October now and it means that VMworld Europe 2014 is right around the corner.

I’ll be attending in Barcelona for what will be my 4th VMworld. It will be the first time that I’ve ever attended under a full conference pass rather than just as a blogger. However, I don’t expect the experience to be hugely different. Perhaps in the general sessions the view will be slightly different but that’s about it.

My employer, Xtravirt, is sending a number of my colleagues along with me to VMworld this year. Whilst we’re all very different people working on different projects, we generally have fairly complementary skillsets and a passion for what we do.

Speaking just for myself, I’m really looking forward to VMworld. Like my children’s birthdays, each VMworld is “the best one ever”. It’s not the announcements, the sessions, the labs or even the free t-shirts that make that happen for me though – it’s the people. Not that I’m knocking the other bits but I love chatting to partners, customers, vendors and pretty much anyone that I bump into.

I’ve planned a few sessions to attend. Mostly they’re focussed around Automation and SDDC as they’re my areas of interest. Ultimately I may have to cancel my registration for a few of them (and catch up with the recordings online later) to make time to speak with everyone that I want to.

Among the partners and vendors that I’ll be targeting are:

I’ll also be calling at the VMUG stand for sure. And of course VMware themselves to learn a bit about some of the upcoming developments and meet up with some key employees who will be around to discuss vCloud Automation Center, vCenter Orchestrator and VMware NSX.

Add to all of that the vBrownBag TechTalks (the schedule will be announced soon), numerous parties, the hands-on-labs and catching up with fellow VMware community members in the Community lounge, I imagine that there won’t be a moment to spare.

That said, if you want to stop for a chat then I’m all for it and so are any of the Xtravirt team.

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vCAC 6.1 goes GA

Ping! It’s baked and out of the oven at last. vCAC 6.1 has hit a download server near you.

I’ve been waiting for this for a while now, so what’s new? From my perspective some of the most interesting new bits are:

  • Tighter Puppet integration
  • Enhanced support for NSX (including the use of NSX / vCNS workflows as actions in the vCAC Advanced Service Designer) – I need to try this out!
  • vCenter Orchestrator plugin enabled scripting of entities including Catalog, Approvals, Entitlements, Advanced Service Designer etc (I’ve wanted this for a while now)
  • vCAC support for Windows Server 2012 SP1 R2 (.NET 4.5.1)

But there’s plenty more (see the Release Notes).

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vCO “Plugin” for NSX

If you’re starting to get your hands dirty with NSX and want to automate some operations using vCenter Orchestrator (vCO), there’s now a plugin for it that’s been released into the community by Christophe Decanini (who writes on the vCOTeam blog and works for VMware).

It’s not a traditional plugin for vCenter Orchestrator in the same way that there are plugins for vCenter / vCAC / Infoblox etc. Instead it’s built on the Dynamic Types plugin that was launched with version 5.5 Update 1 of vCO.

The goal of the plugin is to create the ability to offer NSX “as-a-service” operations as catalog items within vCAC. The creation and manipulation of security groups and policies along with the ability to associate VMs with these objects can all be offered as options for users to select within the vCAC catalog using this plugin.

If you’re not using vCAC then the plugin could still be used within your own workflows.

The plugin was released on the VMware Communities site yesterday.

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Pluralsight launch their first vCAC course

If you’re lucky enough to have a Pluralsight subscription already, then you will already have access to this course. If not, maybe it could be an incentive to get one if you have an interest in vCAC (vCloud Automation Center).

Yesterday, online training provider Pluralsight launched their first course aimed at vCAC entitled “Introduction to VMware vCloud Automation Center (vCAC)“. The course is authored by Brian Tobia, who has produced a number of other courses for Pluralsight as well.

As the name of the course suggests, it’s intended as an introduction to vCAC. If you’re at all familiar with vCAC, it’s not the simplest of products to get to grips with. There are a lot of components to it and it’s undergoing a period of intensive development and change at present. That might make you wonder how long this course will be current. Without having sat through it all, I couldn’t answer that but the table of contents suggest that it deals a lot with the concepts and entities that make up vCAC rather than digging into the nuts and bolts too much. Presumably, that will come with more advanced courses.

Starting "Introduction to VMware vCloud Automation Center (vCAC)"on my iPad

Starting “Introduction to VMware vCloud Automation Center (vCAC)”on my iPad

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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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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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vCAC 6.0.1 Released

Sometime late last night, VMware popped version 6.0.1 of vCloud Automation Center on to their download site.

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This is a maintenance release designed to fix a few of the issues that exist within the 6.0 GA version of vCAC. They’re too numerous to list here but there are a handful that are relevant to my current project and my home lab setup. However, I won’t be installing it straight away.

Known Issues

Before embarking on an upgrade, read the release notes CAREFULLY! There are quite a number of known issues that will bite you if you’re not prepared for them. For instance, the upgrade will revert vCAC to use the internal vCO instance rather than the external one if you’ve configured that. Also, .NET 4.5.1 is still not supported. Be warned, there are many more.

Upgrades

If you’re already running vCAC 6.0 then there is a supported upgrade path. The bad news for anyone using 5.x is that upgrades to 6.x are still not available. That functionality is still penciled in for a future version.