vRA/vRO 8.1 Powershell – Peaking Under The Hood

One of the new features in vRealize Automation (vRA) and vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) 8.1 was support for PowerShell. This means there are now 4 scripting language options for Action Based Extensibility (ABX) in vRA and Workflows in vRO. In this post, I’m going to have a look at some of the technical details of the PowerShell implementation.

Why We Should Care

There’s two items that come to mind about why we should care about the PowerShell implementation. The first relates to the history of PowerShell itself. Up until 2016, PowerShell had been based upon the full .NET framework. In that year, Microsoft announced PowerShell Core, which was based on .NET Core. This allowed PowerShell to be used on non-Windows platforms like Linux. This new “branch” of PowerShell had reduced functionality, with many modules no longer working. Eventually PowerShell Core was re-branded to a 6.x version line. In March 2020, PowerShell 7 was released. This version was an attempt to close the gap in functionality between the two branches.

The second item is how PowerShell was used in vRA/vRO 7.x. In 7.x it was possible to add a PowerShell host. The PowerShell host was a Windows system configured to allow vRO to remote into it to execute commands. This created an incredible amount of flexibility because you could install any modules you liked on the host. On the down side, it added complexity (more moving parts to manage) and security issues (like ensuring the PowerShell Host had a network path to each target, and Kerberos double-hopping issues).

With this background in mind, it becomes relevant to figure out what implementation of PowerShell is used in vRA/vRO and other information about the implementation.

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I’m a vExpert!

In June this year, VMware opened applications for their vExpert program. For those not familiar with it, it’s VMware’s “global evangelism and advocacy program”. A key part of it is giving back to the community. This can be via blog posts, helping people on VMware’s forums, participating in VMware user groups and so on. I threw my hat into the ring for it, without any real expectations.

Anyone who has worked with VMware products for any amount of time has ended up relying on the output created by people who are vExperts. I know I have. When viewing the list of people in the vExpert Directory, there was a lot of blog URLs that I recognised.

So when I got the email this week saying I was one of the lucky ones, it was a pleasant surprise. It’s an honor to be recognised by VMware for this. Congratulations to everyone else who got their vExpert awards this year.

Bulk Add Flavor Mappings Using vRA 8 REST API

One of the features added in vRealize Automation 8 (vRA 8) was Flavor Mappings. Flavor Mappings allow various instance types on different cloud providers to be associated with a platform-agnostic label. While it was possible to do something similar in vRA 7, it required a lot of scripting to handle the logic of the choice made. Like many of VMware’s newer products, vRA 8 has a REST API for executing most tasks, and this includes management of Flavor Mappings. Because adding these in bulk can be tedious, I looked at how it might be done with a bit of automation.

Workflow Overview

The vRealize Automation 8.1 API Programming Guide is a good starting point for looking at automating tasks in vRA 8. It has the steps relating to getting authentication done, as well as some general administrative tasks. In the case of what I was trying to achieve, the general workflow looks like this:

Flavor Mapping Workflow
Flavor Mapping Workflow

Read moreBulk Add Flavor Mappings Using vRA 8 REST API

vRealize Automation 8 – cloudConfig

With the increased focus on cloud-based services in vRealize Automation (vRA) 8, VMware have added a lot of new features. One of the key ones for Infrastructure As A Service (IAAS) provisioning is initialising a machine via “cloudConfig”.

How We Used To Do It

Historically, when provisioning a Virtual Machine (VM) either via vRA or directly via vCenter, we would use a Customisation Specification. These were files that controlled certain settings when a VM booted for the first time, such as the administrator password.

Settings from a Customisation Specification

In AWS, Userdata scripts were used to perform similar tasks. This was executed via the EC2Config service/agent that was installed on the AMI templates that were used for deploying EC2 instances. Azure has similar functionality.

Read morevRealize Automation 8 – cloudConfig

Home lab expansion

For a while now I’ve been hitting the capacity limit of the single server in my home lab. This is the nature of running a lot of VMware’s more recent products on it. The plan had been to get another server, shared storage and a larger switch. This week I was able to bring it all together. There were some problems.

What I already had

The original setup I had included the following items:

  • 1 Dell R710 with a Samsung 970 Evo Plus M.2 SSD (in a M.2 to PCIe adapter), a 128GB SATA SDD and a 1TB SATA SSD
  • 1 5-port Gigabit switch
  • 1 5-outlet power board

The Second Server

For the second server, I tried to get something that was as close to my current one as possible. This meant another Dell R710 with a similar model of CPU and about 128GB of RAM. Fortunately I was able to easily find one for sale on ebay. It came with 4 x 300GB SAS drives. I ended up moving 2 of these to the original server and creating a RAID 1 on each server.

Read moreHome lab expansion

vRealize Automation 8.1 New Features Walkthrough

VMware announced the general availability of vRealize Automation 8.1 a couple of weeks ago. This update includes a wide range of new features and capabilities. Some of these items restore functionality that was lost in transitioning from 7.x to 8.x (such as Approval Policies).

Governance and Policy

Version 8.1 adds some new items under Governance and Policy. Some of these include Approval Policy, limits on resources and view-only roles.

Approval Policy

Approval Policies have been expanded to be more in line with the functionality of what was in 7.x. In one of my first impressions posts about version 8.0, I noted there was only 2 policy types (Lease and Day 2 Actions). There is now a third option called simply Approval Policy.

The new third Policy Type - Approval Policy
The new third Policy Type – Approval Policy

Read morevRealize Automation 8.1 New Features Walkthrough

Updating to vRealize Automation 7.6 Hotfix 7

I had been burned by updating vRealize Automation a little too quickly following a hotfix release. Chrome 75 caused some rendering issues in the deployment forms. These issues were resolved by Hotfix 1, which introduced some extra issues. The most visible one is the duplicate requests on an XAAS (Anything as a Service) blueprint. An example of this behaviour is shown below

Duplicate request
Duplicate request

The second issue that I’ve seen as cosmetic. It was resolved in Hotfix 2. In this issue, labels on an XAAS blueprint rendered correctly in the Designer but when requesting the blueprint via the catalog, the label text would wrap. An example of this is in the image below:

Designer vs Request rendering
Designer vs Request rendering

Read moreUpdating to vRealize Automation 7.6 Hotfix 7

vRealize Automation 8.0.1 Update Walkthrough

VMware have released a minor update for vRealize Automation (vRA) 8. This is my experience of attemtping to update the instance running in my home lab.

Update Preparation

In the Release Notes for 8.0.1 there’s a section for performing an upgrade. A couple of items in this section jump out. Firstly, that the vRA product supports upgrading from vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager (LCM), with a link on the process. The second is an explicit mention of disk space requirements. Based on this, the first thing I checked was the free space for the two partitions mentioned.

Checking Free Space Before Update
Checking Free Space Before Update

Read morevRealize Automation 8.0.1 Update Walkthrough

VMUG vRealize Suite 2019 and vRA 8

VMUG recent added the vRealize Suite 2019 to their EVALExperience offering. For those not familiar with it, EVALExperience is part of the paid “Advantage” member in VMUG. This paid membership includes discounts on training and other benefits. This is on top of benefits of free membership.

This new addition means it’s now possible to get a 365-day license for all the components of the vRealize Suite 2019, including vRealize Automation 8. The license is for personal use in a home lab. I had previously tried updating the license on my vRA 8 installation from an Advanced to an Enterprise one, using Lifecycle Manager. It didn’t like that.

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Calling System Center Orchestrator Runbooks from vRealize Orchestrator

Sometimes you end up having to put in place an implementation that’s pretty crazy to get something (non-production) over the line. This was the case recently where I used vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) to call System Center Orchestrator (SCORCH) Runbooks. That is, using Orchestrator to call Orchestrator…

yo dawg...

A lot of the credit for figuring out how to do this goes to Laurie Rhodes and their blog post about calling SCORCH runbooks via REST using Powershell. It was my starting point for this piece of work and I was able to adapt the core pieces of this for my scenario.

vRO Configuration

Assuming there’s existing SCORCH and vRO instances, the first task is to add the SCORCH server as a REST host in vRO. This can be achieved by running the “Add a REST Host” workflow that comes with vRO. The “Orchestrator Web Service” runs on port 81, so that will affect the settings for the host.

Host properties for Add a REST Host
Host properties for Add a REST Host

Read moreCalling System Center Orchestrator Runbooks from vRealize Orchestrator

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