A few weeks ago we upgraded our vRealize Automation environments to version 7.5. This version has a lot going on so I thought it would be nice to discuss some of the new features and enhancements that have made its way into the new version of the vRealize Automation portal.
For those that still don’t know what vRealize Automation is, it’s a cloud automation tool formerly made by DynamicOps which VMware bought back in 2012. It was released under the VMware umbrella also known as VMware vCloud Automation Center and now it has been called vRealize Automation for a while again. This tool provides the customer a portal with which they can realize end-to-end delivery of IT component within complex enterprise environments. The tool is pretty powerful because of the fact that it can deliver and manage infrastructure resources, all automated, all through (pre)defined policies on a numerous number of (public) clouds such as your own on premise cloud, AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform. If correctly configured it can do this multi-tenant and that is why we use it on our cloud environment.
We’ve had this in production since version 5 back when it was still called vCloud Automation Center. And at the moment it’s running a couple thousand virtual machines/deployments and we are pretty happy with it except maybe for some specific stuff that’s very hard to configure or create in the portal.
Either way, below are some of the new features and enhancements that have made their way into the tool:
Modernized UI and Consumer UX
The Clarity UI has finally made its way to vRA! The portal is now fully supported by VMware’s new UI design which makes the portal feel fresh and snappy as far as I have noticed. As far as I can remember the “Container” page in version 7.x was already somewhat designed with this in mind but now it’s fully operational throughout the portal. What helps to create a cleaner look in the catalog is the fact that catalog items are now rolled up to one if a user is part of multiple business groups. The business group is now selected at the deployment window.
Items and Requests tab merged
In vRA version 7.4 we still had both the Items and Request tabs to check either your deployments/virtual machines or the requests that were made by yourself and everyone in the tenant on certain items. These have merged together into one tab called Deployments. The Deployments tab now has all your deployed items which can be found when you select the correct filters on the left-hand side.And the requests can now be found on each item itself. I have to say that this change does make the portal cleaner, but the one problem I have with this situation is that each time you login you have to manually set the correct filters to display all of your items.
This is also something that a lot of our customers still need to get used to. I hope VMware fixes this in the future as to some sort of default view that you can save. Another thing that is nice to be able to do is to “resubmit” a failed request. You no longer have to fill all the details in again but you can simply click on ‘resubmit’ on the item and it will try it again.
The last absolute mind blowing thing is that you can now cancel tasks that are stuck on items. Previously you had to hack the vPostgres database to get the items status back to normal, or remove the item from the inventory and re-import it, which is a pain to do daily.
Request timeline removed and merged to item level
Another UI change is that the “Requests” tab has been moved to the administration page which is for tenant administrators. The information about tasks has now been moved to the item level. Which means that when you click on an item in the Deployments view and go to “History” you can see a complete history of all the tasks that have ran against the item. Starting from the provisioning until the last day-2 operation that ran on it.
This change has also had some learning curve because previously there was a “complete” overview with tasks that everybody ran on items, but this overview is now gone and you need to go to the item itself.
Reservation lookup improvements
Loading the reservations in the Infrastructure tab would frequently timeout in our environment in vRA version 7.4 and earlier. This has been fixed by VMware. Apparently this was because it needed to load a long list of items and calculating this took too long.
Universal Search for items in vRA
VMware introduced a search feature in vRA 7.5 with which you can search all sorts of items, deployments and menu items. This feature is quite awesome. Instead of going to the deployments tab and setting all sorts of filters, most of the time I just lookup the name of the item directly. You can do this in the right-hand top corner through the magnifier.
This release also introduced the integration with vRealize Operations (vROPS) which makes it possible to display KPI’s for items from within vRA! KPI’s such as CPU, Memory, IOPS and network bandwidth can now be seen from within the vRA portal. This addition is the most significant new feature for me. I now don’t have to give my customers access to vRealize Operation directly, but the customer can simply view this information from within the portal. Great job VMware!
vRA 7.5 now has native NSX-T Data Center support. This also means that the NSX-T functionality is on par with the NSX-V functionality as far as I understand. This is a great move so that NSX-T can be adopted quicker. NSX-T within vRA 7.5 supports NSX-T constructs, including load balancers, security groups, tags and on-demand routed networks.
MultiCloud with AWS (recertified), Azure en Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
vRA 7.5 is now recertified with VMware Cloud on AWS to ensure that the VMware Cloud on AWS can continue to be used as a vSphere endpoint. This means that customers can continue working with on-premise and AWS environments.
This version also supports more Azure constructs such as the Azure Managed Disk, Azure Government Cloud and Azure Germany. Another new feature is that vRA now supports Google Cloud Platform as an endpoint which makes it possible to deploy and manage VMs and storage in GCP.
All of these features really helps the IT to create a true hybrid-cloud environment and deploy workloads in multiple (public) clouds.
Things that have been removed
This release the save button on deployments is removed, which was pretty much never used in our environment anyway so that’s fine by me. The home page is also removed. The home page previously featured a calender which scheduled tasks, had some of the items displayed and had an Inbox feature for approval requests. I don’t mind that this is removed, this was also practically never used in our environment.
I think this release is really stepping it up on quality and usable features in vRA. The overall clarity UI refreshment, which was really needed after all those years also worked out great. Lets see what VMware is going to release next!