vRA 7.0 is released. What about you ?

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It’s a pretty exciting moment that we are living in the Cloud Industry and at VMware : vRA 7.0 is officially released.

vRA 7.0 is here to smooth the way to leverage the “state of the art” technologies in the Cloud industry. I will post something later on the limitations in the coming days (hopefully).

4 main features have just landed with vRA 7.0 :

  • vIDM : Identity Management was somehow a pain in vRA 6.x, for companies with special configuration, multiple
  • Event Broker Service (EBS) : or how to handle extensibility with an appropriate tool and provide the tool to customize everything when you want
  • Converged Blueprint : how to make vRA really agnostic and give your users a smooth experience using vRA
  • Merge of all services into a single appliance (well, not really but we will discuss this further), easier to set up, and multiple other improvements

I plan to work on Converged blueprint (CBP in docs), Event Broker Service (EBS) and the new IDentity Manager (vIDM) in futures posts. I will not go with these 3 topics for the moment. Please, stay tuned.

I will start with my views on the strategy behind this brand new 7.0 release of vRealize Automation.

Just to be clear, I will not go as deep as @Virtualad. He is obviously way better than me at this game. I just want to bring another view on vRA 7.0.

A little point regarding the strategy

I really grant a huge importance to the strategic side of every aspect of the stuff we can put into an Information System.

Behind the integration of a cloud solution in an IS, a CIO wants to help its corporation get the value for its end-customer. By deploying these solutions, a CIO aims at creating value inside the IT department, by delivering the best solutions, with the reliability, the security it expects. Automation is a key to create a reliable, secure environment. The IT customers know exactly what they will get when they request something from the IT Catalog, ideally at which price.

vRA wants to be at the heart of this system. The new version is strengthen the integration of the automation, bringing more value directly out of the box. It also provide interfaces for Finance department to work with accurate datas and directly influence the IT users on their choice, by defining the charge for every asset. You can now dynamically create approvals processes, to help management and/or IT keep control on what’s happening. Cloud Operations are also able to keep operations under control, by monitoring, receiving alerts, by coupling both structured and unstructured datas.

It helps create quickly a tangible outcome. And, by being at the heart of the Cloud platform, vRA 7 creates transparency for every stakeholder, from CIO to Cloud operators, from Finance people to IT users and why not Corp Execs. vRA 7 strengthen transparency to achieve the value.

Let’s get deeper on the technical side.

Merging all that stuff, are you serious ?

Well, in 1 3 single words : yes … but no.

In fact, every service that you previously needed to split amongst different appliances are now grouped in a very single app. That includes Identity management, Application Services, vRO, … There are many advantages of merging : no need to prepare different environment, no need to monitor multiple machine, less effort to put to make the machine “know” them, … I will stop here, but it also has other impact.

Merging also means taking much more care to sizing. The appliance is now hosting many services and you will need to put some effort at estimating the resources. For that purpose, anyone will require some testing and … yes RTFM. If someone takes time to create docs, never underestimate them. And why not engaging with your TAM 🙂.

Merging will also help everyone in the deployment : easy PoCs, easier preparation of production environment, …

If you were guessing at it, no, unfortunately, the IaaS part of vRA is still running under Windows. Not that I am against Windows, but it would have been great to have this machine gone from the landscape. By the way, this is on the way : we will see it in the next chapter, some IaaS services were modified (and why not being removed in the future).

And what about the IaaS, multitenancy, …

The IaaS component is always a piece of trouble when it comes to installing vRA. Many prerequisites (will discuss this further in next chapter), SQL Server, java, …, and another machine to maintain. By the way, the developers put some effort to bring this VM away from the landscape. The v6.x IaaS contains components that are not tenanted : Build Profiles, Endpoints, … Many efforts were put on this and even if some are kept inside the IaaS, they are now tenanted, for example the Build Profile, the custom properties. Now, you won’t share custom properties between your different tenants. You are now able to do a-la-carte configurations for your user, avoiding conflicts in these.

This is really important as the vIDM allows the system administrator to ultimately customize the portal. Coupling this improvement to a better separation of technical configurations is a great step forward, to improve the overall user experience.

By the way, you can still split the IaaS components on different machines, for example your DEM, Model Manager, Web site, … I will give some information later in next chapter.

Let’s get now to the significant technical modifications.

Technical improvement

We’ve seen previously that we now have only one (excluding the IaaS machines) vRA VA to deploy. But, it is also possible to set up a redundant environment. It is fully integrated in all the services available in vRA VA : just enable vRA VA HA, configure your Load Balancer, use appropriate certificates and you’re done. That’s that easy.

Deploying the IaaS is somewhat painful on vRA 6.x (who said “the whole installation process is painful”). It was hugely improved in vRA 7.0. vRA 7.0 still needs some rigor but it is way easier. It allows an automatic fixing of the misconfiguration for IaaS’ server(s) (MSDTC not configured, …). It offers 2 installation path as well :

  • the simple install : no HA, but still possible to install multiple IaaS servers, distribute DEM Workers across windows server(s), …
  • The enterprise install : offers every option, HA, …

Regarding vIDM, you previously needed to have either an external VMware SSO service available or PSC (for vRA 6.2 only) or the external appliance hosting Identity Manager 1.0. Although using the “Identity Appliance 1.0” was causing some trouble under certains circumstances, it was a pretty good solution when you were looking for an isolated solution, not relying on anything from vSphere (which make sense from my standpoint). But, both SSO, PSC and IDM 1.0 were lacking some features. This was partially due to vRA’s way of working. It was for example not possible to use fields available in the Active Directory to customize worlflows, … This is somehow a limitation that anyone can now overcome.
The new vIDM is just awesome. Some performances assesments have been led and it can browse a 2 millions objects (yep, millions) Active Directory. It synchronizes periodically the Active Directory (in fact the branches that are specified) to throttle the user logins. We will probably get deeper on vIDM in the a future time (if I find something really important to add near everything that can be found here and there on the web).

And, what does this mean for me and all my organization

The darkside : Architects and Operations guys

Well, so many improvements could be a trouble to find your way in it. So, first step should : RTFM. Yep, read the web, so much docs/thoughts/shared docs/… already present that you will probably find what your are looking (and connect with your TAM … :D). Next, let’s appreciate and digest.

As an Operations guy you can set up HA easily, you can distribute the IaaS components across with ease, the wizard is really helpful for you.

As an Architect, you are now able to prepare really smart service, include any components smoothly in your blueprint, develop less customer workflows, leverage the EBS to fully customize using standard components (yes EBS is for this as well !!).

The light side : IT Directors (really ?? :)), Service managers, …

Imagine a service that is tailored for your customer using standard components => Your guys can now deliver this. Open your eyes, … wider and loot : vRA 7.0 is here to be the first brick of your dream.

Let’s examine the key words that will impact your value proposition towards your customer : EBS to capture the exact moment you need to customize your service, vIDM to get some information on the users, vRO to develop customization workflows, Converged blueprint to use a standardized object for all purposes, and imagination. I truly believe that this will improve the way anyone delivers services to your customer.

Developing standard components is the only way to have scale savings but your customer want to have their own services, fully customized, an a-la-carte service in fact. vRA 7.0 can combine these antagonist views : Converged blueprint coupled with EBS, vIDM and vRO help you have exactly what you expect. For example : a standard W2K12 VM, customized based on the BU of the user, using the info available in AD or anywhere else (why not asking user for example through an ASD).

Another positive impact of standard services will improve re-usability (lower OPEX BTW), and simplify the organization of your catalog (never forget simplicity is the supreme sophistication).

Do not fool yourself : you still need to put some efforts to have the exact service that will satisfy your customer. But, I’m pretty sure, vRA 7.0 will allow any organization get the result it wants really quicker than previously, by leveraging these new mechanisms.

Finally, shoud I go there ?

Well, that’s THE question !!

I already add this discussion with some customers and we did not find currently an answer to this question (the product was just released by the way). It’s a pretty tough question. The improvement are really huge and really match our customer’s desires and your customer’s desires. This is really a huge step forward in the domain of Cloud Management Platforms (and there is more to come, but shhht, that’s secret :)).

By the way, if you already have a vRA 6.2 platform, even though you should (must ?) consider vRA 7.0, you must also take care and engage with your VMware counterparts. It is really important to go one step after another. I chose on my about me page a citation from Lao Tseu : “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”. It applies quite well to this thinking. You could fell into trouble if you do not prepare it conscientiously. But, well prepared, I really feel it could be not that a trouble (only a feeling at this time, future will tell if I were right :D).

I will conclude by : vRA, as your CMP, is a really strategic component in your organization. I would highly recommend taking care of it : you’ll get the reward.

I will be fond of reading your feedback in comment. Please, leave a message, I will do my best to answer any of them.

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