VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

Enables us to be hybrid, to provide services cross-platform to a variety of clients

What is our primary use case?

Automation and operations.

How has it helped my organization?

So far we haven't really implemented it on our own organization as far as using it with IT in the workplace internally. But vRA has helped us bring in a lot of customers because they use things like Chef and Puppet, and this works in that same kind of realm. So it has drawn those customers to us. We are, as part of our VMware venture, working on our expertise in that realm.

Where it is implemented, in the little bits that we've labbed it out, internally, it has, obviously, increased our infrastructure agility. Otherwise, we wouldn't be continuing to implement it. Once you get all the pieces together, it improves delivery times for internal labs for our internal teams.

What is most valuable?

We like the seamless, non-vendor-specific application that we can provide with it. We're a service provider, so we have all kinds of different clients and they have different applications. Automation works with all of them, pretty much across the industries. The ability for it to be compatible across many different products is really what's important to me because that's what's selling: being able to go cross-platform and be hybrid. That's the most important feature.

After that, ease of use would be up there too. We also like the GUI display which ties in the non-devs with the devs and helps them work together.

What needs improvement?

They can improve on the dashboard representations and the options for non-technical people. I would like to see the ability to customize that and maybe provide them with helpful guides to what subscriptions they have. Sometimes, I find that I have to do more explanation to people who do approvals. I would really like to customize the display to the terms they use in their particular business unit. So a little bit more of a nod to the customization of the UI for non-technical users would be helpful.

Also, I expect it's going to come with time, but there is not too much documentation out there because it's fairly new, and not very many people use the little niche product. So more documentation.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

So far, VRA seems stable to me. I don't have any complaints.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't had any scalability issues yet, but we are approaching that potential, whenever we get larger customers. The customers that we do have on, if they do use it, they're just testing the waters with it.

How are customer service and technical support?

They're very helpful. We have Premier Support with them, so we're always working with them. Our TAM is always on top of things. It's good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before vRA, we were using a combination of Chef and Ansible. We moved to vRA because I'm on the VMware side of the house, so naturally, that was part of it. Also, we switched because we foresaw the need for hybrid cloud and wanted to be relatable to VMware, so we could have an answer to compete with business units. We wanted to say, "We have vendor-supported vRA that does the same as your third-party or your open-source." We wanted that name brand with it because that's the department I'm in.

Compared to the previous solutions, while I don't have too much experience with them, from what I understand, from what I have heard from the people I work with that helped me on that side, it is a lot quicker. In the small test bed that we have, it is performing better as far as being able to deliver, and being consistent in its delivery.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is straightforward. There are plenty of hands-on labs and guides. It's more the, "What can I do with this?" As a project engineer, I try to translate from the vendor to the customer, according to whatever they're doing at their end.

We haven't really had any bumps in the road deploying it.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would be to go to hands-on labs to see if it's exactly what you're looking for because, as far as the reality versus the expectation goes, it might be a little bit of a shock, especially for the non-technical person. If they're going to say you, "It's going to be great. You're going to know everything," there are some things you might have to take into consideration. They might have to do a little tutorial for you. I would just try to set your expectations.

I rate it at eight out of ten. I believe it's intuitive and user-friendly. Could it improve? Yes. Could it be worse? It could've been a lot worse. So it's okay.

The extra two points are because one of the first issues, on one of the first versions that I took training on, was around the idea that, yes, here's your dashboard so people can deploy resources without having to know too much, but it seemed kind of bare as far as presenting it to those people. That's the only gap that I see and it's just going to be filled in with user experience and people like me saying, "I'd like a little bubble to pop up," or something to hover with information when someone has to give approval. I'd like for them to be able to see why they are approving this, without having to go dig into why we set up that limit. 

It would be nice to have a tooltip that says, "This was agreed upon..." or whatever comment I want to display. For example, if I want to reference a ticket number internally: "Approved, XYZ," or "Related to mass ticket maintenance ABC," so they can say, "Yes, that's right, this is the DFW migration," or the like. They're non-technical and those are the kind of terms they use. I find the UI is missing that part. I have to explain it to them. And then, of course, they're going to forget, or they're going to get a new guy in, and he's going to say, "Why do I keep having to approve these things?" It would be really nice if it just told him right there. This is why you're approving it because of mandate such-and-such, or memo number 123.

From other products that we work with - I came from the troubleshooting operation side of the house before I started working in Product, so I worked with VMware on ESXi and vSAN - they have always been good at taking our opinions. For vRA, I'm starting that process with them, so I'm not expecting them to have a turnaround yet, but I'm expecting them to take our feedback, for sure.

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