VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

The portal allows us to assign permissions enabling users to request and provision catalog items themselves


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is to automate the end-user request for either a VDI or a server virtual machine.

It has taken some time to implement vRA. Over the different versions, we had a lot of problems doing some upgrades, but as of right now, it's working really well.

How has it helped my organization?

The benefits are that it reduces the administrators' having to manually make all these VDIs and deploy servers. It's really an optimization tool for administration. It helps by reducing the amount of time that administrators and engineers have to spend to provision and manage specific VDIs and servers. It puts that work on the end-user, and then the automation engine does it.

We have integrated our CICD pipeline into an automatic catalog request through some API calls. It can request and provision new virtual machines behind the NSX load balancer straight out of the CIDC pipeline, add those nodes to the load balancer, request SSL certs, and do SSL termination at the load balancer so that it's not encrypted behind the scenes - all of which has really been helpful. So it has helped to increase infrastructure agility, speed of provisioning, time to market, application agility, and made it easier for IT to support developers.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the portal where you can assign permissions to specific people to request specific items in the catalog and allow them to provision things for themselves. Or it enables them to request different services that you can create through vRO and vRA.

What needs improvement?

We do partner with VMware on their beta testing, so we have already communicated some of the features we'd like to see back to VMware. I don't know that I'm allowed to speak about it because it's on an NDA.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability has gotten a lot better. However, the vRO aspect, when you have a multi-vRA head, is a little bit finicky still. vRO still needs to stay on one appliance and be one application, because, when you have two, you can't see runs on the other one that are happening when you're not logged into that one.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is good. We have extended its reach out into our DR site and out into the hybrid cloud. The extendability is really much better than it was in the early days of vRA.

How is customer service and technical support?

I haven't personally used tech support. I know that we have used VMware's preventative tickets when we're getting ready to do upgrades so that we have support on-call when something goes wrong, because something usually goes wrong.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We had no automation engine before we started vRA a couple of years ago. It was something that our directors and our management really wanted to get into our environment so we could automate some of these processes that are very redundant.

When selecting a vendor, interoperability - whether it can operate with the other solutions that we've already implemented - is important. Also, how much the vendor is willing to help and work with us to make their solution viable is another factor.

How was the initial setup?

We have had the opportunity to upgrade the solution multiple times. The upgrade to vRA 7.3 was painful. The most recent upgrade we did to 7.4 was very sleek, it was smooth, it went really well.

What was our ROI?

We have seen value from it. We've seen that typically, the people who are provisioning VDIs and server VMs can now utilize most of their time towards other projects and moving the environment forward, instead of just hammering out virtual machines all day.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We haven't really looked at a lot of competitors. We do use SCCM, which isn't really a competitor, but it's a different type of management. It seems that vRA works a little bit better in the vSphere environment because it can connect to all the other VMware products really easily.

What other advice do I have?

Use it, but be ready to invest a lot of time, man-hours, into building it out in the way that you want to use it. It can do a lot of things, and that's one of the problems - that it can do a lot of things. So you have to know what you want it to do before it'll do what you want it to.

In terms of it being intuitive and user-friendly, from an end-user perspective, I believe it is. From the administration and development side, it's a little bit complex. It takes a little bit of time to understand how everything works behind the scenes of vRA and vRO, but once you start learning it, it's kind of intuitive, once you get your feet wet with it.

I rate vRA about a nine out of 10, because of some of the "gotchas" that aren't really well documented. But it is very valuable for us in how we've implemented it and how we're utilizing it.

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