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.

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”

vRA – vRealize Automation and ServiceNow Integration

Some of you may have attended the vRA and ServiceNow presentation at VMworld 2017 yesterday.  I regret not being able to attend and present it myself, however I’m certain that Chris Smith and Ian Smith did a fantastic job.  Here I want to recap some of what was presented during that session.

It’s important to understand what options are available and what features they offer in order to understand what you really need when integrating with ServiceNow.  To start do you need what is referred to as North/South integration, East/West Integration, or both.  Below is a list of what capabilities fall under each classification.

North/SouthEast/West
ServiceNow used as CatalogvRA used as Catalog
VMware vRealize Automation handles automation and orchestration.VMware vRealize Automation handles automation and orchestration.
Create or update CI recordsCreate or update CI records
Available via VMware ITSM plugin, AVNet Plugin, or Custom REST API integration.Available via VMware ITSM plugin, SovLabs plugin, Avnet Plugin, or custom vRealize Orchestrator workflows.

Continue reading “vRA – vRealize Automation and ServiceNow Integration”

VMware vRealize Automation – vRA7 – The dawn of the vRealize Automation 7 Event Broker

vRA 7 introduced a number of new and very useful features such as unified blueprints, software components, event broker, and others.  The event broker however has proven itself to be one of the most power new features we have seen in some time.  How so you ask?  Well if you have been working with vRA for any period of time you will remember the old way of triggering external workflow executions such as those run by vRO.  If you have been using vRA for a really long time you will remember back before vRO when vRA wasn’t even vRA and run nothing but .Net workflows, but we won’t go back that far.

Continue reading “VMware vRealize Automation – vRA7 – The dawn of the vRealize Automation 7 Event Broker”

VMware vRealize Automation – vRA7 – Easily prepare Windows Server 2012 R2 templates for use with vRA7

Looking to prepare a Windows template for use with vRA7?  Want to utilize the vRA Guest Agent as well as Software Components?  Great!  The very talented Gary Coburn has built a package that will it all for you.  If you have ever prepped an image for use with vRA 6 or even vRA 7 you know it’s sort of a pain especially if you are like me and don’t like to read the documentation line by line.  The first time I prepared a guest I figured ah this is simple I’ll just go and do it.  Well that didn’t turn out to well.  I had anticipated putting together an article on how to do it when a co-working on my team at VMware Gary Coburn built an awesome script that just does it all for you.

Continue reading “VMware vRealize Automation – vRA7 – Easily prepare Windows Server 2012 R2 templates for use with vRA7”

vRealize Autoamtion 7 – vRA7 is officially released and available on VMware.com

Folks this truly is an amazing leap forward for the vRA platform.  Just look at the list of new features below, which is not a complete list of all there is with this release.  Keep checking back for informative step-by-step articles as well as updated versions of our workflow packages to be published by the end of this month.

vRealize Automation 7.0 is a cutting edge release which provides an industry lead cloud automation solution to our customers.   With the streamlined installation wizard, simplified SSO configuration, integrated graphical infrastructure and application blueprint authoring and deployment capabilities,  and many other new enhancements,  customers will be able to maximize their return on investment by extremely shortened time to value for cloud service delivery.  

Following are some of the new features:

Streamlined and Automated Wizard-based Installation

  • Introduces management agent to automate the installation of Windows components and to collect logs
  • Automates the deployment of all vRealize Automation components
  • Installation wizards based on deployment needs: Minimal (Express) and Enterprise (Distributed) Installations

Simplified Deployment Architecture and High Availability Configuration

  • Embedded authentication service by using VMware Identity Manager
  • Converged Application Services in vRealize Automation Appliance
  • Reduced minimal number of appliances for HA configuration
  • Automated embedded PostgreSQL clustering with manual failover
  • Automated embedded vRealize Orchestrator clustering

Continue reading “vRealize Autoamtion 7 – vRA7 is officially released and available on VMware.com”

VMware vRealize Automation 7–vRA7–Performing a “Minimal deployment” Installation

In this article I’m going to walk you through performing a minimal deployment of vRA7.  Please keep in mind vRA7 is not GA as of the writing in this article and the GA version could have some differences.  Once it is released and you have downloaded the vRA7 appliance follow the below steps for performing a “minimal deployment”.

Before you Begin

Before you start there are a few things you will need:

  • A server running a supported version of Windows.  (I’m running WIndows Server 2012 R2).
  • Configure NTP Time sync on windows server. (Instructions inline below)
  • A Microsoft SQL server for the IaaS database.
  • Configure the MS SQL server with the proper MSDTC security settings. (Instructions inline below)

Deploy the Appliance

The first thing you are going to need to do is deploy the appliance to your vSphere environment.  I’m not going to walk through the OVA deployment in this article.  If you need information in regards to deploying the appliance you can refer to the following article:

Refer to the section “Importing the vCAC 6.0 Virtual Appliance OVA to vCenter” in article vCloud Automation Center – vCAC 6.0 – Installing the vCAC 6.0 IaaS Server

Performing the Installation

1. Navigate to https://{vra7VAIPAdddress}:5480

    1. Once there login as user “root” with the password you set during the appliance deployment.  Once you login a new window will appear to start the guided installation.  Select “Next” to begin.

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2. Accept the agreement and select “Next”.

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3. Select “Minimal Deployment” and select “Next”.

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4. On this step you are presented with a file download.  You will now need to download the agent installation and install the deployment agent on the Windows IaaS host.  If you do not have a Windows IaaS host prepared you can deploy it now and simply install the agent once completed.  I have deployed a Windows 2012 R2 host for this example.

vRA Management Agent Setup

    1. If your server is not already setup to use NTP configure NTP time services on the server.  Youc an do this using the following command from PowerSHell.

w32tm /config /manualpeerlist:pool.ntp.org /syncfromflags:MANUAL
Stop-Service w32time
Start-Service w32time

  1. Launch the “vCAC-IaaSManagementAgent-Setup” file on your WIndows IaaS host and select “Next” to continue.
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  2. Accept the terms and select “Next”.
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  3. If needed change the path otherwise select “Next” to continue.
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  4. Input the GQDN of the vRA7 appliance in the format https://{vRA7VA_FQDN}:5480, then input the username for root and the password set during the vRA7 VA ovf deployment.  Finally load the certificate, confirm it is correct and select “Next”.
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  5. Next specify the account username and password the service should run as.  The account need to have admin privileges on the windows IaaS host and select “Next”.
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  6. Select “Install”
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  7. Once installation finished select “Finish” and then return to the vRA7 Installation wizard.
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5. Once you return to the vRA7 Installation Wizard you will now see your IaaS host listed along with it’s Time Offset in seconds.  If the time offset is more than 600 seconds the wizard will not let you continue until it is resolved.  From what I can tell it looks like the wizard will update the Time Offset every 3 minutes.  Select “Next” to continue.

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6. Next select “Run” to run the pre-req checker on the IaaS host.

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7.  If you are like me I deployed a Windows server and did not complete any of the pre-reqs manually.  In this case the prerequisite checker will come back with “SOme prerequisites are not met.  If you want to review the failed prerequisites you can select “Show Details”.  Select “Fix” to have the wizard complete the prerequisites for you.

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8. Once the Wizard finished setting up the prerequisites the status will show “OK”.  You can show the details if you like and then select “Next” to continue.

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9. Next input or select Resolve Automatically the hsotname in FQDN format of the vRA7 appliance.  Select “Next” to continue.

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10. Next set the password for the single sign on admin account and select “Next” to continue.

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11. Next we need to set the FQDN of the IaaS host as well as specific a windows domain account to use for the installation of the IaaS components.  Then set an encryption passphrase for the IaaS database.  Once set select “Next” to continue.

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12. Now we need to specify the Microsoft SQL server to be utilized for the IaaS server., the database name and the authentication type to be used.  Please also note that if you haven’t already you need to make sure that the MSDTC configuration on the SQL server is properly configured under Component Services –> Distributed Transaction Coordinator.  When finished select “Next” to continue.  (Note you can also use the validate button to validate the configuration at this point.)

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13. Now we need to verify the DEM configuration.  You can add additional DEM’s if you like, however this is not necessary for a minimal installation the defaults here should be fine.

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14. Next we need to configure the agents to be installed.  When the page loads there are defaults already populated for a vSphere agent.  Please remember to note whatever you choose to use for the “Endpoint” as we will need this later.  If you only need a vSphere agent then you don’t need to change anything.  If you need to add additional agents you can select the green + sign to add additional agents.  Select “Next” to continue when finished.

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15. Now we can either Generate or import a certificate for the vRA7 Appliance.  I’m going to generate a new certificate since I don’t have a certificate server up and running.   If generating select “Generate Certificate, fill out the reqired info and select “Save Generated Certificate”.  Once completed select “Next” to continue.

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16. Next we need to do the same for a Web Certificate for the IaaS webserver.  Select “Next” when finished.

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17.  And one last time for the Manager Service Certificate.  You will notice that because the Manager Service and the IaaS webserver are on the same host it automagically uses the same certificate, however if we were to split them up in a distributed installation another certificate would be needed.

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18.  Next the wizard will validate everything we have told it.  This process can take some time so select “Validate” and go refill your coffee.

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Notice there are two DEM’s being validated.  Both an orchestrator and manager DEM.  The installation automagically accounts for the orchestrator because it knows it is required.  You will also notice that I have two proxy agents and you may only have one.  This is because I added a second agent to for another use.

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19. Once validation is finished select “Next” to continue.

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20.  You now have the option to snapshot the the VM’s being used in case something goes wrong.  Once you snapshots are finished select “Next” to continue.

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21. Once you select “Next” above the installation will begin.  Go to lunch for this one it may take up to 30 minutes or a little longer.

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22. Once the installation finishes you can then input your license key.  Select “Submit Key”  and then select “Next” to continue.

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23. Choose your customer experience settings and select “Next” when finished.

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24. Congratulation, you have successfully installed vRA7.

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