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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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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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vRA 8 – GetDiskInfo: ERROR: Partition name buffer too small

After spending a lot of time looking at the web interface for vRealize Automation 8 (vRA 8), I decided to look under the hook a bit. One of the first things I looked at was the logs. It seems one of the primary logs that vRA 8 uses is /var/log/vmware-vmsvc.log Upon viewing this log, I was greeted with the following spam:

[2019-12-05T11:47:54.126Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] GetDiskInfo: ERROR: Partition name buffer too small
[2019-12-05T11:47:54.126Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] Failed to get disk info.
[2019-12-05T11:48:24.128Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] GetDiskInfo: ERROR: Partition name buffer too small
[2019-12-05T11:48:24.128Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] Failed to get disk info.
[2019-12-05T11:48:54.127Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] GetDiskInfo: ERROR: Partition name buffer too small
[2019-12-05T11:48:54.128Z] [ warning] [guestinfo] Failed to get disk info.

As shown by the timestamps, this error will repeat every 30 seconds, resulting in this log being totally flooded with this error. I also confirmed this error was happening in another instance than my own. Upon googling the message, I found a Github issue entry that referenced this and how it can be caused by the very long paths with Kubernetes. vRA 8 uses Kubernetes heavily. The code fix that resolved this issue appears to have been folded into the v11.0.1 release of the open-vm-tools. When checking the version on the vRA 8 appliance, we can see the following:

That explains that

When checking the package info via yum, the versions available range from 10.2.0 to 10.3.10 from the repositories that vRA is configured to use. So it appears updating isn’t an option at this time.

vRealize Automation 8 First Impressions – Service Broker

The Server Broker section of vRealize Automation 8 contains the items that your consumers will interact with the most – the Catalog, and the Deployments tab where they can review the status of their requests. It also has some administration areas, such as Content & Policies and Infrastructure

vRealize Automation Service Broker
vRealize Automation Service Broker

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vRealize Automation 8 First Impressions – Getting Started

Initial Login and Quickstart

Towards the end of the Easy Install wizard for vRealize Automation 8 (vRA 8), a link is provided for the vRealize Automation 8 UI. Accessing this link will load a landing page that shows a short piece of text and a link to a login button.

vRealize Automation Landing Page
vRealize Automation Landing Page

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