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Tag Archives: orchestration

The VMware vCenter Orchestrator Appliance Is Now Available!

Whenever we run into a VMware customer who is not using vCenter Orchestrator, it usually comes down to one of two things: 

  1. Not being aware of vCO's existence (and yes, we admit we have a lot more education to do in that area)
  2. Getting stuck on one of the initial configuration steps (and let's face it, configuring directory services and databases is not everyone's cup of tea)

Well, we're extremely glad to announce that vCO is now available as a preconfigured virtual appliance. This appliance significantly reduces the time and skills required to deploy vCO, allowing you to get up and running in under 15 mins.

And even if directory services have no secret for you, you can find comfort in the fact that the new appliance provides a low-cost alternative to the traditional Windows-based installation. In a sense, the "free" (vCO is included with vCenter Server) just got "even more free" 😉

The vCenter Orchestrator Appliance is an OVF (Open Virtual Machine Format) that is pre-built and pre-configured with Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, PostgreSQL, and OpenLDAP, and can run on vCenter Server 4.1 and higher.

It offers tremendous flexibility yet makes no compromises on performance, making it ideal for a wide variety of use cases:

  • Product evaluations and proofs-of-concept
  • Development
  • Test
  • Production, including on a large scale

The appliance offers all of the components included in the regular Windows-based installation, along with the flexibility to use either the pre-built directory services and database, or to use external ones like Active Directory or Oracle for example.  What's more, the appliance has been certified to run at the same performance as the traditional Windows version.

In short, the vCenter Orchestrator appliance makes it even faster, easier, and more affordable to integrate the VMware cloud stack with your IT processes and environment.

To give it a try for yourself, please check the following sources of information:

 

It’s (Almost) All About Plug-ins (in 2011)…

If you missed VMworld Las Vegas, are reading this blog for the first time, or are just new to vCenter Orchestrator, then maybe you haven't heard the news… 

This year, it's all about plug-ins.

That's why we are very glad to announce two new vCO plug-in releases:

  • VMware vCenter Orchestrator Plug-in for vCenter Server 5.0
  • VMware vCenter Orchestrator SNMP Plug-in

As promised in a previous post, the vCenter Server 5.0 plug-in adds over 50 out-of-the-box workflows to extend capabilities around networking and storage operations, and to incorporate new features like Storage DRS into fully-automated, end-to-end cloud provisioning scenarios.  As previous versions, the plug-in provides 100% coverage of the 5.0 vSphere API.  With this new plug-in, organizations can now automate a broader number of use cases, such as dynamic scaling-up and scaling-down of vSphere resources, while taking full advantage of the new vCenter Server 5.0 capabilities.

And to complement this new release, we are also glad to announce a sparkling new SNMP plug-in that enables organizations to automatically trigger workflows based on SNMP messages.  SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is one of the most widely used protocols to manage network devices and systems in IP networks and the default alerting mechanism for vCenter Server and ESX/ESXi. 

With the SNMP plug-in, you'll be able to define policies that automatically trigger specific workflows when SNMP traps are received by vCO. For instance, an administrator could configure a workflow that, upon detecting that a vCenter datacenter is nearing full capacity, would reclaim unused resources or provision additional compute and storage resources.  Of course, the SNMP plug-in is able to process events beyond vCenter Server, so the triggers for workflows can come from virtually any device or system that supports SNMP.

Finally, be sure to check our plug-in documentation site often to get information on update releases.  This week, new updates are available for the Cisco UCS Manager, Microsoft Active Directory and VMware vCloud Director plug-ins. 

For additional information, please see the following sites:

PS.  We'd like to take all of the credit, but we're far from the only ones building plug-ins.  In addition to Infoblox's recent announcement, we're glad to highlight Radware and Uptime Software, who have already released vCO plug-ins. Be sure to give them a try! 

Master of the integration – conquer VMware vCloud Director blocking tasks with the powerful vCenter Orchestrator plug-ins

One of the upcoming features of VMware vCloud Director is Blocking Tasks (call-outs). This enables a system administrator to configure many operations to block. They can be ublocked later by another application or can expire after a timeout. These blocking tasks generate AMQP messages that can be used to automate actions over them. This blog post shows vCO flexing muscles over blocking tasks. Doing this requires several plug-ins: AMQP, HTTP-REST, ActiveDirectory and Mail.

Whenever a vApp is created by an user in the vCloud Director the task is suspended and the user's manager receives a notification mail providing link for approval of the operation. When he approves, the vApp creation task continues in the vCloud Director. This is achieved by using a different plug-in on every step. AMQP plug-in is used to handle the blocking tasks notification messages. The HTTP-REST plug-in is used to communicate with the VMware vCloud Director over its RESTful interface. Active Directory is needed to find the user’s manager in the company's active directory database. Finally, the approval email is sent using the Mail plug-in. Webviews are used to build a simple web-based interface that the manager uses to approve or reject the vApp creation.

At the end of this article you can find links to a vCO package containing theexample and a video demonstrating the scenario. Jump right to the video at the end or read the details below describing  some technical aspects.

The message sent by the vCloud Director for the pending vApp creation is handled first by the AMQP plug-in. The next few lines of JavaScript show how to configure the subscription for the message. Note how the routing key is constructed. The detailed strucutre of the routing key is described in the vCloud Director documention.

Image1_setup_scripting

After its execution this script will create a new Subscription element in the AMQP plug-in inventory:

Image2_subscription_inventory

This subscription is ready to be used for a policy that will listen for vApp creation messages:

Image3_policy

The workflow is started by the policy on every message and does the rest of the work:

Image4_workflow

The user must define the vCloud Director as a REST host in the inventory:

Image5_rest_inventory

And then use it in the scripts to build the request URL:

Image6_rest_script

The VMware vCloud Director REST API responses are XML documents but handling them is easy with E4X (ECMAscript for XML):

Image7_xml

When the manager follows the web link in the notification mail he is brought to a web page showing again the request details enabling him to take an action on it:

Image8_webview1

Behind the scene the approve and reject buttons are handled by a script that answers the user interaction of the blocked workflow. When decision is taken the workflow continues and notifies the VMware vCloud Director to resume or cancel the pending task.

To get your hands dirty with this demo follow the link to the package that contains the example. It won’t work out of the box because the AMQP broker and the VMware vCloud Director configuration must be updated to match yours. Also the message handling policy must be manually created since policies cannot be distributed in a package.

Here is a video demonstrating the whole scenario:

 

Delivering VMs into vCloud Director with vCO

When starting with vCloud Director the most asked question I receive is: "How can we deploy our customized VMs into the vCloud Director?". The reason is that a VM template or vApp is used for vCloud Director.

With this example I want to show how easy it is to build a VM and deliver it to the vCloud Director using vCenter Orchestrator and it´s plug-ins.

Of course, there are several methods to automate these imports:

  • clone a customized VM into a VMware template for vCD import
  • choose and transform an existing VM into a vApp

The following simple example is based on the workflows "Create simple virtual machine" and "Import VM as vApp" and a little scriptable task for MoRef (ID of the VM) translation. Both workflows are standard workflows, delivered with the vCO library and vCD plug-in.

Bildschirmfoto 2011-06-04 um 10.54.02

To keep it simple I used some static inputs (datastore, host-system etc.). In real environments I automate these too, like choosing the datastore based on free space and left space. With these static parameters the inputs are reduced to:

Bildschirmfoto 2011-06-04 um 11.01.06

In most environments there are some specific steps for the customized deployment of a virtual machine, like Altiris trigger for Windows or ssh deployment commands for Linux, but there is no deployment server in my lab 🙂

The small scriptable task in the middle is used for delivering the MoRef ID of the new VM as input for the "Import VM as vApp" workflow:

Bildschirmfoto 2011-06-04 um 11.08.50

After all inputs and attributes are defined, I start the workflow and look into the vSphere Client to check the state of the deployment:

Bildschirmfoto 2011-06-04 um 10.53.30 

Also I check my vCloud Direcor App catalog for the new vApp template:

Bildschirmfoto 2011-06-04 um 11.13.16

And finally my new VM is deployed and registered in the vCloud Director as a new vApp template in my Application catalog. For sure this is only an example to show the direction. In normal use cases there a few things more to do:

  • ensure that applications are proper installed and able to get cloned
  • define a application catalog for the right departments (HR for example)
  • setting the right users and groups

So, get your feet on the street and test it!