Introduction

Automation is something that was started in the industrial revolution. It introduces processes to automate repeating tasks so that quality is maintained or even better (by designing, testing and debugging the process), and minimal or nil human intervention is needed. If you can repeat it, automate it. Well not all, don’t repeat failures, issues and such ;-).
This creates efficient infrastructures, and more important efficient IT departments that can focus on other tasks then repeating that same boring task list all day long.

Automation in the VMware product suites can be done with several products, like vCenter Automation Center for cloud, puppet, scripts, third parties products and the like; but with your vCenter infrastructure there is already a component you can leverage vCenter Orchestrator or vCO for short. With vCO, the VMware administrator can create, using a drag and drop interface, a workflow to for example provision new servers. With steps like deploying a template, customizing the system and installing applications. With plugins additional tasks as creating an Active Directory object, or adding a change request to the IT management system to create the storage needed for you VM’s can be added as well. The prebuild workflows library already has hundreds of out-of-the-box workflows to start using immediately

And the best part, when you installed a licensed vCenter server system, you already have it. Start using it!

Architecture

vCenter Orchestrator can be installed next to vCenter on a Windows system via the vCenter installer (it will by default), or via the vCenter Orchestrator appliance. With the vCenter Server Appliance you don’t have vCO components, you will have to add vCO on a Windows server or add the vCO appliance next to the VCSA. When installing on a Window system use the vCenter server installer to install orchestrator as a component, or do it on a complete separate system. But then prepare your environment by installing a SQL database and starting the vCenterOrchestrator.exe from the vCenter-Server/vCO directory on the install media. Installing the orchestrator appliance is downloading and deploying the OVF. When receiving an IP address the rest of the configuration can be done via a supported web browser.

Orchestrator is composed of three distinct layers: an orchestration platform that provides the common features required for an orchestration tool, a plug-in architecture to integrate control of subsystems, and a library of workflows accessed from the client application (addon to vSphere web client). Other components are the directory services or SSO, the database, and web services for browser access and REST/SOAP API.

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Orchestrator is an open platform that can be extended with new plug-ins and libraries, and can be integrated into larger architectures through a SOAP or REST API. In my opinion this is the strength of automation tools to leverage the ability to integrate in the infrastructure architecture and not having the orchestration focus on the primary product architecture. With the plugins architecture automation via vCO is reaching beyond the VMware infrastructure, with plugins for AWS, SQL, Active Directory or leveraging SOAP/REST and such.

Release / License

With the release of vSphere 5.5, vCO is at 5.5 as well (well 5.5.1 for the appliance). You can download the integrated installer or the appliance from your MyVMware vSphere 5.5 entitlements.

Orchestration is licensed from the vCenter license. vCO will run either in Player mode: allowing you to run but not edit workflows. Or in Server mode; allows you to run and edit workflows.
Player mode comes with the vCenter Essential and vCenter Foundation licenses, and server mode is leveraged with the standard and higher licenses.

Plugins

The plug-in architecture, you can automate tasks across both VMware and third-party applications.

Plugins can be developed specifically for your needs, by partners. You can find already created plug ins at VMware Solution Exchange. Just log in and search for vCO.

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Going further?

Yes, definitely. But I will follow up in more blog posts.

Sources: vmware.com. solutionexchange.vmware.com.

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