VMware vCenter Orchestrator

So, for my first real VMware post I thought I’d blog about a little known (yet very powerful) VMware product called VMware vCenter Orchestrator (vCO)….

What?!? You’ve not heard of it?!?

Did you know it came free with that vCenter Server software you just splashed out a lot of cash for? No?!?

Well…. join the club……!! Probably 90% of the VMware clients I’ve dealt with over the years have absolutely no idea that when they installed vCenter Server (4.x and later – I’m talking about standard edition here, not the cheapy foundation or essentials), it silently installed a nice little tool called Orchestrator as an additional component….. Such a shame that there isn’t a fanfare when it does so, as this little tool can make an Administrators life a helluva lot easier!

If I’m honest, this is a product I’ve known about for years yet have never ever used until just before Christmas where I was forced to use it in anger for the current project I’m working on….. and I’m now kicking myself for not picking it up earlier! (sorry, did I mention Procrastination was a favourite hobby of mine? Well, keep that in mind as you read this whole blog!)

“So what is this great free little app that VMware has installed on my box?” I hear you ask…..

Well, VMware like to describe it as:

“……. an IT Process Automation engine that helps automate your cloud and integrate the VMware vCloud Suite with the rest of your management systems.”

http://www.vmware.com/products/vcenter-orchestrator/overview.html

Que?!?

Without boring you all with all the details, it basically provides a library of workflows that can help you automate your day-to-day manual tasks, as I previously said – it’s a tool that makes an Administrators life a lot easier! (I may touch upon vCloud Suite in a later blog… so let’s leave that for now!)

Take for an example the manual process of creating a VM – you need open up the vSphere client, decide whether or not you’re deploying from a standard template or creating a custom VM, check whether you have enough resources for the new VM, setup all the virtual hardware, fire up the VM, drop on an OS, assign the IP, name the host, tell someone the VM is ready for use, blah blah blah…… well there’s a workflow for that (well, a workflow which you may need to tweak)…. or how about deleting all VM snapshots that are older than 1 month? Well, you can build a workflow to do that too…..

Basically if you can do something in vCenter or vSphere…. then more often than not you can build a workflow to automate what you’ve just done manually!! Not to mention you can get hold of vCO Plugins for a lot of other products to help integration into your environment! (eg. vCloud Director, SOAP, HTTP-REST, AD, SQL, PowerShell, etc)

TBH, whilst it maybe fun to automate everything….. Orchestrator is probably best suited when you have:

  • A repetitive task that needs to be completed.
  • A time consuming task that needs to be processed.
  • A structured task which can easily be broken down for automation.

However, it’s not always easy to use Orchestrator…. there are many tasks where workflows just do not exist in the library, and you may need to build a workflow from scratch (especially if you want custom workflows for your specific environment)…. and more often than not this will involve you doing some programming (in Javascript)!

Now some of you will probably shudder at the thought of programming, but to tell you the truth it’s not too hard to pick up…… you’re not writing or developing a piece of software, you’re mainly writing a bit of code that manipulates a parameter to pass into an existing action or method. And I’m talking from experience, I picked it up quite quick….. the last time I did any sort of programming was in my first job straight out of uni (a bit of C#) and that was over 12 years ago!!

Anyways, I’ve waffled on a bit…… need to get use to this blogging marlarky and make sure I keep my readers (if I have any) interested.

If you want more information on vCO then visit the VMware link I’ve listed above as well as heading over to the vCO team at http://www.vcoteam.info/.

Suffice to say that this first blog topic came about after some success recently with creating a workflow in vCO that automatically deploys a load balancing service onto an Org vDC gateway within vCloud Director! A workflow that for some reason VMware did not even have listed within their library for gateway services in their vCD Plugin! Whilst the workflow I helped to create is still ‘work-in-progress’, it pretty much does what the client wants! I’m hoping I’ll have some time to tidy it up over the next few days….

But more on this another time….. However, much thanks go out to my partner in crime – Simon Sparks, as well as Hugo Phan (http://vmwire.com/) and Burke Azbill on the vCO Team!

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