vSphere automation with vRealize Orchestrator

    Automation is becoming a fundamental aspect of standard IT operations. There are many tools on the market that can facilitate automation of some degree, but in this blog post, we look at VMware vRealize Orchestrator, a critical component of the VMware vRealize stack.

    What is vRealize Orchestrator?

    vRO, or vRealize Orchestrator, is fundamentally a workflow automation tool. We define a workflow using a series of drag-and-drop items which we can define, modify and influence to meet our specific needs.  

    What may not be completely obvious is vRO is an integral part of vRealize Automation. vRO is embedded within vRA to facilitate a lot of the actions required to execute a request, but it can also be used outside of vRA too.

    vRealize Orchestrator

    vRealize Automation

    • Task automation
    • Self-service
    • Visual designer
    • Governance
    • Extensibility with third-party products
    • End to end delivery and management of infrastructure/applications

    What can we do with vRealize Orchestrator?

    Due to the extensibility options available to us, there are very few limitations with what can be accomplished with vRO. It’s also worth mentioning that even for products that don’t necessarily have native integration with vRO but have API’s exposed – these can be consumed and leveraged by vRO. Out of the box, however, there is an extensive list of integrated services:

    Some basic examples of what vRO can be used for are:

    • Assign an IP address to a VM from an IP address management tool.
    • Add users / computers to Microsoft Active Directory.
    • Automatically provision virtual machines and a corresponding load balancer.

    Some examples of what external resources vRealize Orchestrator can “tap” into:

    • Dell Active System Manager
    • Cisco UCS Manager
    • Netapp OnCommand/ONTAP
    • Microsoft Azure / Amazon Web Services

    Therefore, vRealize Orchestrator can be seen as an important workflow engine behind the scenes of any modern hybrid cloud solution. The ability to leverage plugins for native integration or implement complex API calls to facilitate any number of business cases makes vRealize Orchestrator an extremely powerful tool in any organisations repertoire.

    Practical example – Creating an Active Directory Object

    What if we want to use vRO to integrate with something that is not natively part of the vSphere ecosystem? No problem, providing we have a plugin for it. In this example we can manipulate Microsoft Active directory by creating a new computer object type:

    This workflow leverages two built-in actions – Create a computer object in Active Directory, and then retrieve it once it has been created. If we run this workflow the user is prompted for the required fields:

    After submitting the request the respective actions are executed, resulting in the object being created in the target Active Directory environment:

    Practical example – Creating an NSX logical switch

    To demonstrate some of vRO’s capabilities, we will look at a simple workflow to facilitate a straight-forward request – creating an NSX logical switch.

    This particular workflow consists of a central scriptable task which ingests input variables and generates an output. We leverage the following concepts:

    • Inputs – Parameters that are provided, either manually, statically or from other sources.
    • Scriptable task – Leveraging the inputs to manipulate the target environment.
    • Output – The end result of applying the inputs to a task.

    The script itself contains the following:

    As we run the workflow it generates a form for the user to fill in:

    This is one of vRO’s methods to populate the input variables from external sources.

    Why use vRO?

    We’ve used two basic examples of what vRO can do out of the box, but the real power of vRO is made evident when stringing multiple actions together to create complex workflows. Examples being:

    • Deploying n-tier architectures implementing load balancing.
    • Deploying entire software solutions
    • Orchestrating changes en-masse

    And many, many more. Additionally, workflows can be used as reusable constructs which can add significant value. Workflows can also undergo version control, which enables auditing and tracking capabilities natively to vRO.

    Conclusion

    vRO is undeniably an extremely powerful tool with extensive extensibility and interoperability features, enabling a comprehensive portfolio of workflow automation capabilities. Tasks which could take hours or even days of manpower can be captured, modelled, version controlled and executed in far less time.

    To find out more about the topics covered within this post or to discuss them with an Insight solutions specialist, please get in touch here.
     

    Why not also read 'Infrastructure as Code'?