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Auto Deploy plug-in

Overview

The Auto Deploy plug-in allows simplified and automated provisioning of physical hosts with ESXi software by interacting with Auto Deploy server. The user is able to browse rules and rule sets defined within the Auto Deploy server, configured public depots and all available host profiles within the vCenter Server that can be used. The plug-in provides a set of pre-defined workflows for Auto Deploy hosts configuration, public depots configuration, rules management, answer files management and reprovisioning of ESXi hosts.

Using Auto Deploy plug-in together with vCenter Server plug-in users can benefit from pre-defines workflows by decreasing the effort and time of provisioning and reprovisioning of stateless hosts with ESXi software.

Prerequisites

  • Configured Auto Deploy server registered to a specific vCenter Server must be available.
  • Make sure that the network where the vCO, Auto Deploy server and public depots reside allows enough bandwidth to transfer large amount of data (ESXi software packages).
  • It may take some time to complete some workflows like creating, modifying rules or reprovisioning of ESXi hosts with image profiles that have not been used at least once. The second time an image profile is used will go much faster as the the software packages from the depots will be cached by the Auto Deploy server.
  • Make sure that Auto Deploy server is configured to reuse connections:

Example:

On the Linux version you need to change the following properties in the /etc/vmware-rbd/httpd/conf/httpd.conf file and restart Auto Delpoy server:

  1. KeepAlive = On
  2. MaxKeepAliveRequest = 0
  3. KeepAliveTimeout = 300 (or more)

Configuration

Depot configuration

Only online depots are supported currently which means that depots should be accessible through a URL. The plug-in provides workflows for configuring access to such public depots so that later they can be used during the process of provisioning and reprovisioning of stateless hosts.

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After completion of the 'Add a depot' workflow the depot will be added to the Inventory.

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Auto Deploy host configuration

The plug-in provides a way of configuring Auto Deploy hosts by simply pointing to the associated vCenter Server host. The plug-in will automatically discover the registered Auto Deploy server (if available) and it will appear in the plug-in's inventory.

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After completion of the 'Add an Auto Deploy host' workflow the Auto Deploy host will be added to the Inventory.

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Rule management

Actually the way Auto Deploy works is via rule management on Auto Deploy server. The plug-in provides an easy way for creating, modifying or activating rules within the rule engine of Auto Deploy server. There are also predefined workflows for retrieving rules that impact a specific host and workflows for testing and repairing the rule set compliance.

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Host profiles and answer files

The plug-in provides a way for managing answer file corresponding to a certain host profile using a XML format. The user should know the actual keys of the parameters in order to modify specific values from the answer files for a specific host.

In case the host doesn't have an answer file, a simple XML template will be presented so that the user can fill the empty placeholders with real values and modify the XML content. In case an answer file already exists for the particular host it will be displayed and ready for edition. The user can also provide a XML content as an already prepared XML file. Answer files will be saved and later used when a host profile with user interactions is applied on the specific host.

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Provision an ESXi host

In order to provision a stateless ESXi host for the first time the host must be configured to perform PXE boot. Provided that Auto Deploy server and infrastructure environment has been configured properly the following additional steps must be performed:

  1. Create a deploy rule that impacts the target ESXi host.
  2. Activate the new created rule so that the rule engine evaluates the rule when receiving requests from the target ESXi host.
  3. Reboot the ESXi host to initiate the boot process.

Create rule

Use the workflow 'Create a deploy rule' to create a new rule. It won't be active.

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Select an image profile from the already configured depots:

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Optionally, select a datacenter, host folder or cluster within the vCenter Server inventory where the ESXi host will be registered:

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After clicking of Submit button the process of creating the new rule will start. If the image profile is used for the first time it may take some time to finish the workflow. Of course later, if the same image profile is used again in some other workflow it will finish much faster. After successful completion of the workflow the new rule will be shown in the plug-in's inventory.

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The next step is to activate the rule using the workflow 'Activate a deploy rule and a working set' so that it becomes active. Actually the rule will be added to the working rule set first and then the whole working rule set will be activated. It is not possible just to activate a single rule. This means that all rules in the order they are placed in the working rule set will be added to the active rule set.

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After activation the rule is added both to the working and active rule set. It becomes non-editable and from now on it is evaluated by the rule engine on requests from the ESXi hosts. If you want to modify already activated or non-editable rule you must use 'Copy a deploy rule' workflow which actually hides the original rule and replaces it with completely new one.

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After rebooting the ESXi host it will perform PXE boot and Auto Deploy server will provision it with the software images defined by the created rule. As we set also a vCenter Server location in the rule, the ESXi host will be registered in the specified host folder after booting.

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Reprovision an ESXi host with a new image

This use case shows a simple use case when by modifying a single rule the ESXi host can be provisioned with a new software images (virtual infrastructure bundles). There are predefined workflows for reprovision ESXi hosts with new image, answer files and a new location. All of them assume that a modification on single rule is needed. Use the workflow 'Reprovision a host with a new image' to reprovision ESXi host with a new image.

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If the image profile is used for the first time the workflow will take more time to complete. The workflow will reboot the ESXi host automatically and the host will load the new specified image:

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Conclusion

The Auto Deploy plug-in provides basic building blocks as workflows and actions for interacting with Auto Deploy server and managing stateless ESXi hosts. The workflows can be used 'out of the box' or custom high level workflows can be composed according to the real use cases in order to automate  and greatly decrease the time and effort to provision and reprovision stateless ESXi hosts.

 

More info about VMware vCenter Orchestrator Plug-In for vSphere Auto Deploy: release notesdocumentation and download