VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

Extending vRA with vCO to add custom service designs allowed us to eliminate blueprint sprawl. It lacks the expected seamless integration with vCenter.


What is most valuable?

When managing vRA and trying to use the keep-it-simple model I found that setting up an access control system where anyone could request access with ease. I really thought that the ability to use AD groups throughout the product made it very easy to set up and grant user access at every level of the product.

The ability to extend vRA with vCO to add custom service designs was helpful in our deployment. It allowed us to eliminate blueprint sprawl.

How has it helped my organization?

We were able to reduce the delivery time of requesting a VM from three weeks to under 10 minutes using the vRealize Automation Suite.

What needs improvement?

The way this product handles logging has a long way to go. VMware addresses this by using agents to gather the logs from various locations and condense them for you.

Managing templates and the way they interact with blueprints needs improvement. If you change a template, you have to go change every blueprint that it was assigned to. There needs to be a template clustering or grouping object.

It lacks the expected seamless integration with vCenter. Objects like templates, storage clusters, or naming changes were not automatically reconciled by vCAC. This often led to full error logs when the only issue was a lack of syncing between vCenter and vCAC.

For how long have I used the solution?

I began working with vRealize Automation (vCAC) two years ago, in mid-2014. The first six months of this time was spent designing use cases and configuring the out-of-the-box settings such as reservations, blueprints, templates, resource allocation, entitlements, and chargeback. For approximately the next year, we enhanced the out-of-the-box product using vCO/vRO to automate IPAM integration, DNS, monitoring, storage selection, template management, and tagging.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

The system was already deployed when I arrived; it had been accomplished by VMware professional services. However, it was not configured, so that was my challenge: Determining the best way to set up business groups, allocate resources, user access and entitlement, create blueprints, manage templates, create the business catalog, and then add features and functions.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product was stable if no changes were being made. Adding a new endpoint, agent, or fabric often led to some sort of related or sometimes unrelated errors. We were usually able to catch these in our integration environment and avoid them in production.

The system functioned stable with no real issues. The one problem we encountered was around data collection at remote sites.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We grew our deployment upwards of five sites and the system functioned as desired.

How is customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Our sales reps have always tried to sell us something such as professional services, then when we finally caved in and said yes, they never delivered the resources. Rating = 6/10.

Technical Support:

We often solved the problem ourselves before support could answer our question. It seemed like a trial-and-error game with VMware’s support on this product. Try this, oh that didn’t work, try this, still no, let me ask someone, no reply for days, then the guy is off and a new guy comes in, start over. I spoke to the department manager multiple times. Rating = 7/10.

What about the implementation team?

It was implemented by VMware professional services with an excellent level of expertise.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Prior to my arriving on the team, they compared this product to OpenStack and KVM.

What other advice do I have?

VMware’s vRealize Automation is a good product, made for large enterprises. From my experience, vRA requires a highly skilled team to maintain, version upgrades without downtime are not possible, and overall it doesn’t scale fast. Every change requires weeks of planning and testing to see how the product is going to respond.

With the release of vRealize Automation 7, there is a deployment wizard that reduces the complexity of setup. Make sure you have very knowledgeable technical staff to operate this product on a daily basis. There are 15 roles that come with the product by default; it’s a lot to learn.

The vRealize Suite is a great product for those that want excellent governance and tight controls. Integration with Active Directory groups works flawlessly for both vRA business groups and entitlements.

In order to truly take advantage of the power of vRA/vCAC, you need vRealize Orchestrator. It’s a totally separate entity to maintain, patch, upgrade, connect to vCenter Server and of course manage its code.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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