I remember when I was younger, I was a big player of video games; especially online ones (you all can probably guess which…). I remember my favorite time was always patch week. It was always like getting a new game with so much more to see and do. Now that I am a grown up kid, I find that same excited feeling at VMware when I know we’re sending a product (especially vRealize Automation) in to General Availability (GA).
Last night, we sent several of our key products in our Cloud Management space into General Availability
- vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager 2.0 (Jimmy Alvarez, dropping that LCM hotness!)
- vRealize Business for Cloud 7.5
- vRealize Code Stream 2.4.1
- vRealize Operations 7.0 (Absolutely a HUGE release, I see you John Dias!)
- vRealize Log insight 4.7
- vRealize Network insight 3.9.0
- And FINALLY, the subject of this post, vRealize Automation (and Orchestrator) 7.5
All combined, these products together make up our vRealize Suite, 2018 edition!
In this post, we are going to highlight some of the spotlight features introduced in vRealize Automation 7.5. Some of the items we’ll talk about are:
- User Interface Overhaul (leveraging ClarityUI)
- vRealize Operations Integrations (Closed Loop Optimizations + Dashboard/Metrics content for VMs, whaaaat?!)
- NSX-T Support
- Ansible Tower Integration
- Pivotal Container Service (PKS) Integration
vRealize Automation and ClarityUI
The most noticeable, and arguably most welcome feature in 7.5 is the update to ClarityUI. Customers have been asking for this for quite a while and the Product Management and Engineering teams sure have delivered on this ask in a big way!
At a high level, the key focus areas of UI improvement are
- Card-Based Catalog View
- Enhanced Deployment View (including vRealize Operations metric and alert functionality!)
- Default View Setting
- Updated Inbox Functionality (Messages/Approvals)
- Universal “Quick Search” Capability
- Help Document Search
- Styling/Theme Updates
Card Based Catalog View
Catalog items are now card objects, and get a lot of great enhancements as a part of that transition. They now have far better readability, as seen in the screenshot above. We’ve configured them to only display one card per catalog item, as opposed to the pre 7.5 behavior of a catalog item for every business group. In cases where users have multiple possibly business groups, a drop down will present where they can choose where to deploy.
Something you might notice is that there is no longer a “Services” view on the left hand side of the browser (by default). We have removed the old sidebar and replaced it with a filter concept that allows users to filter what content they want to see. This removal also freed up a great amount of screen real estate and makes the catalog the central view on the screen. Each context of the services are searchable, as well as a main catalog search bar. Finding the content you in need in the catalog has never been so easy!
Enhanced Deployment View
The first screen you see when logging in (by default, more on that later!) is the Deployments view. This is a new tab addition, and replaces (consolidates) the “Items” and “Requests” tabs. The Deployments view now serves as a central point of viewing all deployed resources within your Cloud Management Platform. Similar to the catalog screen, we present the ability to filter based on a number of constructs and concepts – as well as offer a great search capability that allows you to search for machines based on a number of different filter criteria (name, description, IP, resource name, machine status, etc…).
Another welcome addition (sometimes its the little things…) is the ability to easily rename a deployment or its description. Frequently, users would request the ability to easily update a deployment with details around what the systems contained within the deployment were for. This update was cumbersome and not user intuitive. Users will MUCH prefer the method that exists now of highlighting the name, and selecting the pencil icon to edit and save the changes.
Several enhancements have been made to understanding where a deployment is at from a deployment process, and its overall lifecycle. The Deployments screen is where this spotlight lands today. As a customer, there are several states a machine can be in; but frequently you want some form of a guideline around “where” inside a given state the functionality it at.
Here we have several deployments in a variety of “in progress” states. We have both machines that have completed, as well as machines that are current in the process of being deployed. Let’s look into these approval requirements!
Updated Inbox – Approvals/Messages
In screenshot above, we see several machines that were still in a “requiring approval” state. With 7.5, the inbox has been completely redesigned to provide a better focus on management tasks – things like Approval, Rejection, and Resource Reclamation.
When we enter into an approval request, we can interact with the machine from a governance perspective. We can provide approval or rejection, justification, as well as review details around the original request form
Visibility is a key component of a Cloud Management Platform, and a key theme of vRealize Automation 7.5. As you can see, we’ve made a ton of enhancements to the visibility from an overall deployments perspective, but what about diving into the lifecycle of a machine?
Updates to Deployments Deployments – History Tab
If we enter into a completed deployment by clicking on its name, we can dive into details about the current status. Here you can see a replica of the form you used to deploy the machine, but you are also able to see 2 new tabs as well – History and Monitor.
History allows us to see all actions taken from within vRA against that object. Scale In/Out, Snapshots, Power Operations, Re-configurations, all will show up in a very easy to understand list.
vRealize Operations Integration – Metrics
If we return to the deployments screen and select the Monitor tab, we can see some key performance indicators thanks to the direct integration with vRealize Operations. These metrics include CPU %, Memory usage %, IOPS, and Network inbound utilization. It’s great that now cloud administrators and users can log into vRealize Automation, and get a quick glance at the performance of items that they manage. vRealize Operations should always be our single source of truth for performance data. The additional capabilities in vRealize Operations 7, combined with this functionality makes it easy for cloudy folks to be informed when it comes to the performance of their clouds!
Universal and Document Search
Let’s be totally clear on this next statement, there are times where vRealize Automation is like a bowl of spaghetti to navigate. We’ve come a LONG ways to improve this experience, but there are still things that are buried deep in it’s UI that are hard to find. Those days are officially done! The Universal Search is a new capability that allows you to search for objects within the interface, and quickly navigate to them from any page you are currently on. Simply type in your destination and go!
When you couple that with the new ability to search VMware Documentation within vRealize Automation and you’ll find that it’s even easier to find the information you need, quicker than ever before!
vRealize Operations “Closed Loop” Support
In vRealize Automation 7.4 we introduced the concept of Workload Placement for machines deployed within the platform. In the previous model, we focused on initial placement, but not continuous monitoring. In 7.5 we have expanded this capability to address workload placement on day 2 as well. As clusters are seen as more appropriate for a given workload, vRealize Operations will move these machines to a more performance friendly cluster. Furthermore, feedback will be provided back to the platform regarding this placement – so the internal databases for vRealize Automation can be updated and kept “true”. This is what we mean when we say “closed loop” support with vRealize Operations!
NSX-T Support in vRealize Automation 7.5
More and more customers are expanding and enhancing their software defined networking approach by moving to NSX-T as opposed to the existing NSX-V platform. If you fall into this bucket, then we have some good news! As of vRealize Automation 7.5 we formally have support for NSX-T within the platform! This means that users can quickly get started drag and dropping NSX-T object (NS Groups, NSX-T On Demand Load Balancer, NAT Networks, and On-Demand Routed networks) onto their blueprints after they add the NSX-T endpoint.
Ansible Tower Integration
In 7.5 we are introducing the capability to leverage Ansible Tower as a Configuration Management endpoint. Once configured, customers are able to consume Ansible playbooks as part of their deployments, and scale out actions! This integration is achieved through integration with a new SovLabs Configuration Management plugin, specifically for Ansible integration. We support both configuring a blueprint with a specific playbook associated it as well as configuring a blueprint with “late-binding”.
vRealize Automation machines are dynamically added to the Ansible Tower inventory during the time of provisioning. Filters can be applied to this inventory process to reduce the amount of machines that are added in as needed.
These features do require the Ansible Tower Configuration Management license from SovLabs as well as vRealize Automation Enterprise licensing to function. More on this in the future!
Pivotal Container Services (PKS) Integration
vRealize Automation has gone on quite the journey with containers. We introduced basic container functionality several versions back through integration with Admiral, our open source container management solution. We have continued to iterate and expand on the functionality and vRealize Automation 7.5 is no exception! Introduced in this release, we have enabled integration with Pivotal Container Services, or PKS for short. From here, we can create new clusters, expand existing clusters, as well as manage (download) kubeconfig files to interact with Kubernetes directly.
With this integration, administrators can leverage vRealize Automation as a central point for deployment of all SDDC workloads. These workloads could be Private Cloud, Public Cloud (IaaS), or cloud native in containers and now PKS!
Other Key Callouts
- 5.0 ServiceNow Plugin (Coming soon…) – We will be releasing a 5.0 release of our service now plugin specifically for vRealize Automation 7.5 providing even easier ways to bring ServiceNow and vRealize Automation closer together
- Azure Managed Disk Support
- Improvements to Certificate Management – Enhanced validations and migration checking during process
- Improvements to vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) Clustering – vRO now follows the SAME process as vRA when clustering multiple nodes together, simplifying architectures!
- External vRO to Embedded vRO Supported – Embedded in vRealize Automation 7.5 is a tool which will allow you migrate an external vRO instance to an embedded instance
- Official Support for VMware Cloud on AWS Endpoints
- Improvements to Property Propagation on Blueprints – Extend the Lease/Archive and Scale Out cluster properties on existing blueprints by pushing the properties outbound
- Enhancements to AWS Plugin – Allowing users to select to “Delete Volumes” as part of EC2 removal
- vIDM Upgrade to 3.1 – Embedded IDM instance upgraded to 3.1 to support greater functionality with identity. More on this to come!
vRealize Automation 7.5 is one of the biggest releases I’ve seen since I started working with the product. So many of these features and functionality are direct asks from you – our customers. It’s incredible to see the amount of innovation coming from our Cloud Management Business Unit. There’s a pretty amazing road ahead with vRealize Automation, and a ton of new features an functionality coming. As always, stay tuned here for information first! Congratulations to our Product Management and Engineering teams on a great release!