Request vRealize Automation Blueprints with Ansible Tower

Integrating Red Hat Ansible Tower with VMware vRealize Automation is a very popular enterprise automation solution. SovLabs has several excellent integrations that can help you accomplish and scale your integration of these two powerful cloud automation tools. This article is the first in a series of four articles covering the integration of Red Hat Ansible Tower with VMware vRealize Automation, based primarily on the content and discussion from our webinar with Red Hat Ansible on May 22.

  1. Requesting a vRealize Automation deployment from Ansible.  How, and why you would want to do it.
  2. The SovLabs Ansible Tower Module for vRealize Automation with Static Inventory
  3. The SovLabs Ansible Tower Module for vRealize Automation with Dynamic Inventory
  4. The SovLabs Ansible Tower Plug-in for vRealize Automation CM Framework

Requesting a vRealize Automation deployment from Ansible

With Ansible Tower quickly growing in popularity, many developers and system administrators want to be able to utilize Ansible Tower to deploy infrastructure.  This type of deployment is the subject of many debates within enterprise organizations, especially those with cloud teams trying to develop standards while enforcing policy and governance across organizations.

The good news is that organizations no longer have to choose between solutions. If you want to use Ansible to develop standards while enforcing policy and governance across organizations, now you can.  Using the solution below you can request workloads from Ansible facilitated by vRA to enforce the desired standards and governance policies. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Continue reading “Request vRealize Automation Blueprints with Ansible Tower”

How to Create vRealize Automation Global Properties with the SovLabs Property Toolkit

If you have not yet read my recent series Harness the Power of vRealize Automation (vRA) with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine, I would encourage you to do so. This 3-part series will provide you with some interesting ways to get more out of vRealize Automation using the software solutions provided by SovLabs. In this article I will be coveringa topic closely related to my previous articles and showcasing even more value when you use the SovLabs Property Toolkit.

Global Properties

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Is there a place to define global properties in vRA?” throughout my career, I probably could have retired by now.  The unfortunate answer to this question has always been “it does not”, but there is a way to apply properties to every request. Keep reading.

The Old Way

The old way to define global properties in vRA was to add the properties you wanted applied globally to each and every endpoint you had configured in vRA.  So, if you had 25 endpoints and 20 properties you ended up have to enter 500 properties and 500 values. This method leads to inevitable typos, finger fatigue, and management overhead every time you need to update a value for any one of those properties or add a new property.

To see the new more efficient way read the rest of the article on the SovLabs blog site here.

SovLabs Plugin Release 2019.8.0 Now Available

SovLabs has released it’s latest version of it’s vRealize Automation plugin version 2019.8.0. Among other key updated it is Certified for vRealize Automation 7.6 as well as ServiceNow Madrid. Below is the full list of updates available in this release:

What’s New?

  • Certified for vRA 7.6!
  • SovLabs Licenses
    • A new SovLabs 2019.x license key is needed in order to use the SovLabs 2019.x Plug-in
    • A 2019.x license key is needed in order to use the SovLabs ServiceNow Connector 2019.8.0
  • SovLabs EULA has been updated!
    • During install of the SovLabs Plug-in and running SovLabs Configuration, the EULA now refers to https://sovlabs.com/eula
  • SovLabs Template Engine
    • Added new tags, filters and improvements!
      • Tags: decrement, ifchanged, increment
      • Filters: abs, at_least, at_most, ceil, compact, concat, floor, lstrip, newline_to_br, reverse, round, rstrip, slice, sort_natural, strip, uniq, url_decode and url_encode
      • Improvements
        • Allow “.” in variables
        • Enhanced parser error messages
        • Allow Unicode forward and backward “fancy” quotes
  • Puppet Enterprise
    • Added “2018.1” and “2019.1” into the Version dropdown list.  Previously verified on 2018.3.4 and 2019.2.0
  • ServiceNow CMDB
    • Added “Madrid” into the Version dropdown list.  Previously verified on 2019.2.0
  • Backup as a Service for Veeam
    • Support for Veeam 9.5, Update 4
    • Performance improvement for Backup Jobs with a large number of VMs
  • Backup as a Service for Cohesity
    • New Day2 Feature: Ability to Recover Virtual Disk that allows recovering an entire virtual disk – either by overwriting the existing disk or recovering to a new (unmounted) device

ServiceNow Connector 2019.8.0

What’s New?

  • A 2019.x license key is needed in order to use the SovLabs ServiceNow Connector 2019.8.0
  • Supports Madrid
  • Added ability to enable the vRA Business Group to be selected at request time by the end-user in ServiceNow when ordering the Catalog request

Import Catalog Item / Modify Catalog Item Mapping Page Enhancements

  • New field for “Override vRA Business Group?”
  • Updated “Constant” label to “Template”

Improvements/Resolved Issues

  • Error logs in ServiceNow and ServiceNow Mid Server
  • ServiceNow request to show useful error when the request is unable to be generated in vRA
  • Hid unnecessary fields during Import/Modify for a vRA Blueprint

Resolved Issues

  • Ansible Tower
    • Fixed issue for Static Inventory failing when no dynamic groups are defined.
  • Ansible Tower for CM Framework
    • Fixed error reporting to report back correct error when an IP address is not defined
    • Fixed the error similar to the following: “[WARNING]: * Failed to parse /tmp/awx_inventory_rNDKxh/tmpqWOvv0 with script plugin: Inventory script”
    • Fixed error when accidentally appending trailing “/” to vRO Hostname when creating the Ansible Tower Endpoint
  • Snapshot Management
    • Fixed issue for missing ID(s) from incomplete vRA CAFE/IaaS data that prevented successful mapping to managed VMs in vCenter.  Added checking and additional logging.
  • IPAM Framework
    • Fixed Release IP to release the IP address correctly

To see previous feature releases please visit the SovLabs support website here.

Harness the Power of vRA with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine – Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we created three inputs for our vRealize Automation blueprint: Production, WordPress, SOX compliance.  These three inputs correspond to property groups that allow us to associate multiple custom properties to a single input. Using property groups allows us the ability to templatize how each input affects the outcome of a request.  In this article, the Genie that we’ve previously released from the proverbial bottle is about to take form, as we walk through how these three inputs come together to determine the outcome of our request.

Let’s look at how the different input options impact the different modules.

ModuleEnvironmentApplicationCompliance Convention Outcome(Prod, WordPress, SOX)
NamingProd = pDev = dLab = lWordPress = wpMSSQL = ms None = nSox = s{{env}}{{app}}{{comp}} pwps
IPAM NetworkProd = prodDev = devLab = lab Wordpress = webMSSQL = dbNone = nullSox = sox{{env}}{{app}}{{comp}}  prodwebsox
vCenter FolderProd = PRODDev = DEVLab = LAB  Wordpress = WORDPRESSMSSQL = MSSQLNone = nullSox = SOX \{{env}}\{{app}}\{{comp}} \PROD\WORDPRESS\SOX 
 vSphere TagsProdDevLabWordPressWeb ServerMicrosoft SQLDatabaseNo ComplianceSOX ComplianceSee vSphere tagging below ProdWordpressWeb ServerSOX 

To read the full article please visit the SovLabs Blog here.

Harness the Power of vRA with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we walked through how you can use the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine to configure vRealize Automation (vRA) for our environment input.  In this second part of the series, we’re going to walk through setting up the Application and Compliance inputs for our particular use case.  If you are starting to see smoke, don’t be alarmed. It’s just our Genie being let out of the lamp.

In Part 1, we determined that the required options for our Application input will be:

  • WordPress
  • Microsoft SQL

Determine the Outcome

In this scenario, the selection of the application will have a significant impact on the outcome. However, while we need to think about the application, we also need to look at the larger picture. What do I mean by “the bigger picture”? Well, once we figure out the desired outcome for each of these items, we need to think about how each item relates to the environment and the choices we made in Part 1.

What if the requester chooses WordPress as the application and Production as the environment?  Alternatively, what if they choose Microsoft SQL and Development? Will the outcome of the application differ based on the environment to which it is being deployed?

Some things to consider:

  1. Do the workload specs change based on the environment selection?
  2. Do development, test, and production instances have the same CPU and Memory requirements?
  3. Do any of the integrations change based on application and environment?  
  4. Do WordPress and Microsoft SQL have the same backup requirements?
    1. Does this requirement change based on which environment the workload is being deployed to?
  5. What else could affect the outcome?

To read the entire article please see the original article on the SovLabs Blog.

Harness the Power of vRA with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine – Part 1

Ever wish you were able to set more than one value from a single vRealize Automation (vRA) request input?  Have you ever wished you could make some aspects of vRA more dynamic and flexible? Wish you could simplify the vRA request form?  In this article I’m going to let the genie out of the bottle. All your wishes are about to come true. But before we summon our genie, let’s first dive into what it is that we are going to be wishing for.  My wish is to have a simple vRA request page with only three inputs that can drive the outcome of every aspect of my request. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? We will find out soon enough.

Finished Result
Harness the Power of vRA with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine 1
Determine the needed Inputs

Determining what our inputs are going to be.  For my scenario I need to the following three inputs:

  1. The Environment (Production, Development, or Test)
  2. The Application (WordPress or Microsoft SQL)
  3. Compliance Needs (SOX or Non-SOX)

In my example, these are the only three items I need to know from the requester to build a server in my environment.  The remaining info I can gather from the business group they belong to, what resources the workload is placed on, etc. I know every environment is different and many will require more than three inputs.  Once you have read this entire 3-Part series, you will realize the number of inputs doesn’t matter. It’s how we use them that’s key.

Determine the outcome

What outcomes do we need to drive based on these inputs?  Or, how will these help determine the outcome of the overall deployment?  Will they influence items such as the machine hostname, Active Directory OU placement, vCenter Folder placement, vSphere tagging, application installation, etc?

Harness the Power of vRA with the SovLabs Property Toolkit and Template Engine 2

To read the full article please visit the SovLabs blog located here.

Infoblox, Custom Naming, and the Cost of Free Software

About the Free Custom Hostname Extension for vRealize Automation

Here at SovLabs we are always helping our audience make the decision to either “build” or “buy”, when it comes to VMware automation solutions. Recently, we have been involved in some discussions about the free Infoblox plugin for vRealize Automation. Specifically,these discussions are around how the free Infoblox plugin for vRealize Automation handles custom host naming. That discussion prompted us to consider all such customizations and the support required when when they are integrated with vRealize Automation.

Integrate with vRA
Custom Automation Considerations

There are a few issues at play here, including:

  • How do the different components of your solution work together?  
  • Was it designed wholistically or were pieces added on as you needed them?   
  • Did one source develop all of the components, or are they pulled piecemeal from multiple places?
  • If one source did all of the development – are they still available?  
  • Who is supporting the development work going forward?

Read the entire article written by Josh Andrews here on the SovLabs Blog.

Bedtime story – A tale of two vRA admins

My six-year-old asked me to tell him a bedtime story and it went something like this.

Jimmy and Tommy are both vRA admins.  Jimmy works for a large financial company and Tommy works for a large company that makes really cool stuff.  Both Jimmy and Tommy made great decisions to use vRA to automate their private clouds.  Jimmy decided his organization was going to build all their own integrations.  Tommy  decided to use the SovLabs plugin for all his organizations needs.

Four weeks after Tommy’s vRA deployment his company was using vRA to deploy 75% of their virtual deployments. Meanwhile after four weeks Jimmy is just getting started designing the first of many needed integrations.  Fast forward a year and Tommy’s organization is now deploying 100% of their workloads.  They have reduced management overhead by 45%, and are able to deploy new server requests in under an hour.

A year later Jimmy’s company is still working out bugs with their custom code.  Their administrative overhead is up 55% and it still takes over two-weeks for new server requests to be fulfilled.  Jimmy is working 80+ hours a week and perpetually stressed.  Tommy on the other hand is working 30 hours a week, but don’t tell his boss.  He is enjoying his job and has next to no stress.

I then ask my six-year-old who he would rather be Jimmy or Tommy?  He responded neither daddy I would rather be you.  I asked him why he said he wanted to be me.  He responded, because daddy you helped Tommy only have to work 30 hours a week.

Road to Automation with VMware vRA – vRA Design Part 1

GSS has decided on a number of design considerations for their vRA implementation.  GSS is currently using a consumption based model for their resource allocation.  They don’t pre-reserve any amount of resources for specific groups within the organization.  GSS feels their current consumption model allows them to more efficiently manage their resources.  It also prevents them from having pockets of idol resources that may never get used.  Based on this utilization model GSS will be implementing the following elements within vRA.

GSS  considered having a business group for each environment (Dev, Test, Stage, and Production).  To evaluate how they would like to proceed they asked to have 5 initial tenants created.  One for each of their environments and one to evaluate a collapsed model of all environments in one group.

Business Groups

  •  Development – All Developers across all groups within GSS
  • Test – All QA engineers within GSS
  • Stage – All production teams
  • Production – All Production teams
  • Gregarious – All Dev, QA, and Production teams

Continue reading “Road to Automation with VMware vRA – vRA Design Part 1”

The road to automation with VMware vRA

I think we need to take a few steps back and focus on vRA architecture and design.  I’ve had many questions, requests, and discussions with some of my readers on this topic.  Implementing vRA can lead to many rewarding outcomes, but as some have discovered it can also lead to aggravating outcomes if not designed properly upfront.

At first it can seem very straight forward. Create some endpoints, groups, reservations, and blueprints.  Sprinkle in some integrations for custom hostname, IPAM, DNS and AD and you are on your way to fully automating your workload deployments, right?  Not exactly.  You can certainly do this and at first it will seem amazing, but as you mature and start to scale out your new catalog of services the lack of up front design and planning will quickly start to reveal itself.

Continue reading “The road to automation with VMware vRA”