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What’s new in vRA 7.4

I have been patiently waiting for the release of vRealize Automation 7.4 and today it is finally here.

This update has really focused on the following keys areas:

  • Make Cloud Easy
  • Operate Consistency
  • Simplify Developer Consumption

I will touch on the official “up in lights” features of 7.4 towards the end of this post, like the introduction of custom form designer. First I want to start with functionality that I think will be skipped or missed by most, but I think are just as important.

  • Resume Failed Deployments – hallelujah!!:- This touches close to home for me. For those new to vRA or only used it from v7.x this would be a new feature. But for dinosaurs like me, under vCAC 6.x we had Application Director or AppD(which can still do more than 7.x does), as part of AppD we could resume deployments if they failed, which was handy on large complex applications, if you fat fingered a script you can go back in change it and resume. It was awesome (AppD also had versioning and agnostic blueprints, and cluster and self specific properties but I wont go there today.)
    This will be available as a day 2 action on the deployment only if it has failed.
  • Cancel in progress requests:- We cant have resume with out it’s companion. There has been so many times when I have hit that submit button and realised I forgot to do something and the deployment will eventually fail. Now we can actually cancel it midflight and it will clean up what has been deployed.
  • Public Cloud:
    • Azure Properties – Some people like to store a crap load of information within VM properties. I personally think its not the place but now you can do this on Azure machine too. Ability to add properties to Azure machines is now available.
    • AWS EBS types – Can now choose the EBS type via custom property.
    • AWS User Data – Can call user data script at provisioning time. This was also something that was available previously in v6… thought that was worth mentioning :).
    • AWS SDK update – drum roll please!!! This is a great day, the AWS vRO SDK was from Jan 2014 it has finally been brought up to latest and will allow much greater AWS extensiblity.
  • Appliance Management:
    • No need to modify the load balancer for upgrades and installs – This is by far the biggest change and the most annoying part of the install and or upgrade procedure. I know many customers have outsourced services for network and gateway, which means never knowing if the changes have been made correctly. No need to worry now with this change.
    • Manage vRO Configurator and Server via the VAMI: This is simple but a huge addition. No one really uses vRA and vRO without needing to manage the configurator service as well as needing to stop and start the services. This usually required SSHing into the box and running the commands your self. This will simplify the management for all IT Admins out there.
    • Hotfix Management:- Be able to rollback, retry and view patches and or hotfixes applied to the system.
    • Software Agents Upgrade:-Can upgrade and update certificates and agent to all machines currently deployed.
    • Support for vRA host renaming:- while this is not common I have been asked to do this in the past, previously this was not supported, now its automated.
  • JIT (Just In Time) User Management :- There has been complaints about the vIDM AD sync time or issues with hyperscale AD environments. With JIT user Management it allows you to configure custom groups with rules, which may state the AD user groups are associated as will as the permissions the group has.
    On user login if there is no account synced for that user, it will check the custom groups and if the user meets the rule set they are allowed in and can consume or administer vRA. This means AD sync is not necessary for a person to log in. As you can see below a custom rule that matches only me… as long as there is only 1 norris in Domain Admins 🙂
  • Custom Forms :- This would be the most highlighted feature in 7.4 Those who are using vRA heavily may already have had to use “ASD forms” or “XaaS Forms” both terms stand for the same thing. This was a way to display intelligent forms to the end consumer through the use of vRO. Custom Form’s can be created within vRA with a drag and drop style creation. They can almost do everything an XaaS form can do but beings this capability to the click ops world, meaning anyone can create a dynamic user form that looks good. Some High level capability includes:
    • Rich UI
    • Dynamically Show and Hide or filter fields.
    • CSS support.
    • Apply Field constraints.
    • Validation.
    • Map one field to many within a blueprint.

Below image show a before an after. This is basic but you can see how clean and simple it now is compared to the ootb forms. I will be converting some of my more complex XaaS forms and will show you all custom forms used in anger rather than a 30 sec simple one.

  • OVA backed deployments :- many customers have requested this personally to me. You can now reference OVA to deploy an image along side, clone from template and linked clone etc.
  • Optimized Placement with vROps :- This exists today but some things are not taken into account like storage. This now does and the placement engine has basically been enhanced making it more useful. I personally do not know any customer using this. As it requires the use case where you have 2 or more clusters that will accept the same workloads and have the same reservation policy and the business does not care which one. In my experience if there is multiple clusters there is usually a reason and there is a want to control what goes to which cluster.
  • vRA Health in vROps :- there is a tighter integration with the vRA metric in vROps giving better dashboards and alerting on vRA metrics
  • vRA health Service:- So when the health service came out I was thinking what is the point, it was useless. Bit like windows 8. But it has been fixed and I am excited to use it. It allows the use of running python scripts to tests against 3rd party systems. This means we can make sure everything vRA is relying on in the provisioning pipeline is available.
  • Multi-Tenancy: – Now you are most likely thinking…. “wasn’t vRA multi tenanted before?” well yes it was but some constructs were not. So multi-Tenancy has been slightly enhanced. Blueprint authors will only see networks, security groups, security tags, storage policies, reservation policies and transport zones that belong to their tenant only. Previously there was a number of objects which could be seen belonging to other tenants.
  •  vRO:
    • Partial Multi-tenancy – this means that the workflows themselves are visible across all the tennants but the run and results will be isolated within the tenant.
    • HTML 5 webclient – This will have partial functionality with the ability to view workflows and runs and give an overview of your tenant’s runs and failures etc.

That is the majority of the new features worth mentioning, there is also a ton of bug fixes… and with that im sure more bugs, there has been compatibility updated for VMware integrated containers etc but all in all, a good release. looking forward to upgrading the lab and putting it through it’s paces.

Cheers

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