VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

Significantly decreases the time to market for our customers

What is our primary use case?

We use vRealize Automation for all of our court locations and the customers are able to, on any day of the week, 24/7, provision VMs at will and maintain them.

How has it helped my organization?

As opposed to the old days where customers put in a ticket and they waited three or four days to get a server provisioned for them, today they can get servers provisioned in five minutes. So, the time to market for our customers is much better, much improved. It's multi-tenanted, meaning one court customer doesn't see the other court customer. They're very happy about that.

For time to market, it's absolutely incredible that a court customer can come in and, within a few days, have the service provided to them. They can then spin up one or 100 servers. Before, it would take them six months to a year to get there. So, for time to market, there are incredible savings. And there are cost savings from their perspective as well. They don't have to manage HVAC and space and cooling and all of those things that they used to have to do. Today, all they have to do is provision a server and manage their users, which is what they should be focused on.

We don't know what they run, we don't manage them. We just provide the infrastructure and they are saved from having to purchase infrastructure, having to purchase licensing, and having to maintain servers internally. So it's a win-win for the courts and for us. We love the product.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features are that it's multi-tenant and the ability for scale.

From a customer perspective, they log in and they have Catalog: what services are available to them. They simply click on that and then there's an option: I can have a Linux server, I can have a Windows server. They select it, configure it, how many CPUs, how much memory, how much storage, and hit the button, submit. It's that easy.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see more integration to do things like DR, from a court perspective. Today, for us, SRM doesn't scale because each of our customers has a local vCenter environment as well as the vCenter in our environment. So we can't get SRM to scale to the point to which we need. From an integration perspective, DR inside of that would be good.

Also virtual desktops. I know you can spin up virtual desktops in vRA, but they're not thin-provisioned. I don't know if that's because the other product, Horizon View, is there, but it would be nice to see more integration. I know NSX is getting more and more integrated. We talked a little about vROps. I see that integration coming in.

But for vRA, DR would be a service we'd like to be able to offer to the customers, and it should be integrated, in my opinion, in vRA.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We scale, we have 180 plus customers in the environment and we have courts with as few as maybe four servers and as many as 80. So it's a very diverse range of systems and they absolutely love it. It scales great.

How is customer service and technical support?

vRA is pretty reliable. We use technical support more for upgrades.

In the event that we've had issues, cluster-wise perhaps, within VRA, we've had to use technical support, but very seldom. I can't point to an outage related to vRA. The outage is probably something else related to either NSX or vCenter itself, perhaps the PostgreSQL Database is filling up. But vRA itself has scaled incredibly well for us.

When we've needed it, the support itself is good, very good.

How was the initial setup?

You have architectural design questions that you have to address. We have multiple sites, multiple data centers. One of the fundamental questions is, how do you get HA in vRA? Do you have active-active, active-standby? Today, for vRA, we deploy it out of one site and we use remote execution managers at the other site. We're kind of in an active-standby mode, if you will. We're semi single-point-of-failure, in that respect. We probably should move to get an active-active scenario, but we're not there today.

But the setup was not too bad. It's nothing like a vROps, for example.

What other advice do I have?

vRA is great. If you're looking for a multi-tenanted solution that is very easy, from a customer perspective, to use, and make it seamless for the customer to actually get what they're looking for, i.e. a server, developers love this. For the customer, from the time to market and ease of use perspectives, you can't go wrong with vRA. It's that good.

I would rate it at about nine out of 10. If they would integrate DR, that would bring it to a 10.

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