VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

We're able to support developers, giving them the box they need within minutes

What is our primary use case?

It's our private cloud platform.

How has it helped my organization?

My engineers were able to pick it up quickly and we provisioned and created a private cloud in roughly three months.

Even with the virtualization, it would take us at least three or four days to create a VM. With vRA we have brought that down to seven minutes. The solution has helped increase infrastructure, agility, speed of provisioning, time to market, application agility. Everything got super fast.

It's also easier for IT to support developers. As soon as the developer wants a box, we can pretty much put it out there in a few minutes, instead of wading through a lot of manual paperwork and forms and email boxes and the like.

What is most valuable?

The solution is intuitive and user-friendly. It only took three months to start a private cloud. It was very good. Guys that didn't have a lot of knowledge in scripting picked up on it. Then I hired a VMware solutions architect and it just skyrocketed from there because he knew the ins and outs.

What needs improvement?

I can't say what new features I'd like right now because we're looking forward to the stuff that's in 7.5. I need some stick-time on 7.5 and then I can tell you what I want to see in 7.6 or 7.7.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable. We haven't had any issues and we've been using it for roughly two years. We're upgrading to the 7.5 now.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It scales fine. We've been scaling on storage but we actually have two divisions. We just deployed it to another division to help them out. The company I work for grows by acquisition so the new acquisitions are now getting this pointed to them so they can provision faster, with basically the same standards, instead of doing stuff manually.

How is customer service and technical support?

Regarding technical support, because we have a solution architect on board, we have a lot of problems but his questions are not normal questions. His questions almost have to be escalated to a developer immediately. He doesn't ask anything simple or even just plain hard. His stuff is nearly impossible.

From that perspective, technical support has not done very well. But we have rockstars on the team and there's no way you're going to get great support because these guys are asking questions that even the rockstars of the VM world are scratching their heads about.

Which solutions did we use previously?

I brought VMware into the company in 2004. Before that it was manual, bare metal boxes.

How was the initial setup?

I was involved in the initial setup but not as an engineer. Before I hired Alex, we had a guy put the stuff up. He did it in a couple of days. It was straightforward and it was functional, it worked really well. Then we got this new guy and he had so much insider knowledge. He worked out of Moscow. He was doing all the work for the all the other customers and we hired him in.

We're on 7.4, we're going to upgrade to 7.5 after Labor Day. Since we've gone live, we've done three upgrades and they've all been really good. No issues.

What was our ROI?

I can't provide numbers off the top of my head but going from three or four days to seven minutes to create a VM - and that seven minutes can go up to 50 servers wide - means it has worked beautifully.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Hyper-V, that was a big failure. We looked at KBM, that was pretty good. We're using Acropolis Hypervisor right now. Everything is still primitive, but among the other ones, AHV from Nutanix seems to be the most stable functionally but it is still missing a whole lot of toolsets that you need. So we're not moving in that direction any time soon.

The other competitors are throwing everything at you for free but they don't have any management. You don't have the feature set that you have in vROps. vRA is much more sophisticated. You get what you pay for with VMware. You're getting all the feature set. Where everybody else is trying to give you stuff for free, they're harder to work with and then you spend more man-hours.

What other advice do I have?

Start with VMware vRA. Other solutions haven't been in the game long enough. You're going to have a lot of custom-scripting that VMware already puts in there.

I rate it an eight out of 10 only because I wish we had a way to get through the technical support department faster. We've been with them long enough - and I've already talked to the sales guy about this - that they should almost have an "express lane." You lose two or three days going through the normal process. It goes to level-one and he bounces it to level-two, to level-three, when pretty much, because we've got this long history, they should know that when we call, it needs to be bounced all the way up to the top. That's just the reality.

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