VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) Review

Solution is extensible, and customization of community-provided Blueprints helps as a basis for automation


What is our primary use case?

Primary use case is, generally, a DevOps lab-type environment that we have, spread across multiple locations throughout the United States. It's meant for a DevOps shop, for our developers to spin up, spin down VMs or applications, and do their testing.

How has it helped my organization?

Big-time cost savings on administrative overhead without having to constantly manage virtual machines, spin them up, spin them down, manually. We can automate all of that now and most developers will be able to access a page, landing zone, and do that all themselves, rather than having an admin or someone on the team have to do it for them.

As far as increasing the infrastructure agility, that goes back to the cost savings. Being able to tear down entire development enclaves, essentially by pushing a button or invoking a command line, and spin them all back up, is immensely valuable for an Agile development shop.

It does help, to an extent, with speed of provisioning. But to me, I'm also thinking on the back end, the technical end, depending on which environment I'm on, it might have flash or, in some areas, it might have old spinning disk. So the speed is going to be limited to that as well. But as far as the software itself and using the API calls, it's definitely speedy.

It has definitely made it easier for IT to support developers. That is one of the main aspects of the product line. It's for having that in place, to not have to call up Joe Shmo Admin to say, "Hey, can you go manage this for me, spin this up for me?" You can have a portal for a developer, another user login, spin up the resources, shut them down if they need to, request apps, and all without having to bother your admin next door. 

What is most valuable?

Valuable features include the extensibility of it and the customization of a lot of the Blueprints, that you can customize, and the community as a whole. There's a ton of community-generated Blueprints that might be (helpful) to set up a design for your automation needs, that you can use as a base and go on from there and make changes to it. That would probably be the biggest thing.

Once it's deployed, managing it is pretty intuitive.

What needs improvement?

The deployment mechanisms for the initial deployment of the product line lack the appropriate documentation to give someone who's never used it before... Obviously, you want people who are knowledgeable in the product line before they deploy it, but there might be cases where someone wants to go to the website, go to the doc section, and do a step-by-step on how to deploy it. That's really not as brushed-up as other documents I've seen that they have. That would definitely be an improvement on their end.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I haven't had any stability issues with it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability, I have no issues with that as well. As long as I have the compute, storage, and network bandwidth to support it, the underlying infrastructure is there. It's pretty expandable.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support has been fine, adequate. I have not really had any need for it, per se. It's more so self-taught and people going to training and learning how to use it. If we have an issue, it's generally really rare that we'd have to reach out and talk to tech support. So I don't have a lot of experience having to deal with them on it.

How was the initial setup?

The deployment of it is not overly intuitive. It does require some knowledge about putting it out there and deploying it.

I have had the opportunity to upgrade it and that is definitely not the easiest of things to do, generally. As long as you follow the checklist, and which product line you're updating in the specific order, you won't break your system. But if you don't follow the sheet or "the law," you will definitely mess yourself up big-time.

What other advice do I have?

Make sure that you know what you're getting into, first off, what it's for and what you might need it for because I might recommend maybe a less robust product line for your needs as opposed to something that's more of like a higher infrastructure, corporation-level product line, like vRealize.

Every version, they've updated the UI, scalability, added new products to be able to work with different cloud vendors. Overall, that part of it's fine, there have been improvements from version to version.

As far as automation techniques, like Chef or Puppet or Ansible, it's the age-old thing: Mac, Windows, Linux, whatever works for what I need, I'll use. I don't really have a preference, as long as it works for what I need.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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