Wednesday, November 16, 2011

vCenter Orchestrator - You Own It, Use It!

At lunch this week with a customer when the subject of automation came up, as it seems to more and more frequently these days.  They were looking for a way to automate provisioning of servers so that they could reduce time to market.  What product would help them with that, they asked.

You already own it, was my answer.

If you're a VMware administrator you're probably aware of vCenter Orchestrator at least in passing.  If you're like me, you may have even played with it a little and moved on to other things because you couldn't really figure out how it all works.

On the other hand, you may have never even heard of vCenter Orchestrator and you don't know why you'd want to learn about it, much less use it.

What is it?

vCenter Orchestrator, or vCO, is a workflow engine that can help administrators automate tasks.  Simple, yet powerful statement, right?

In fact, vCO comes out of the box with lots of pre-built workflows for vSphere administration as well as plugins for things like Active Directory, SOAP, REST ... there's even a plugin by Cisco for UCS.  Naturually, VMware also provides plugins for other products like vCloud Director and Update Manager.  The community also provides a source of plugins such as Joerg Lew's PowerSSHell pluginVMware Labs also provides some unsupported/experimental plugins.

With vCO, a VMware administrator can create, using a drag and drop interface, a workflow to provision new servers including deploying a template, customizing and installing applications.

Did I say it was drag and drop?  That's the best part for salty old infrastructure folks like me - you know, the kind of guy who does his scripting through the Google search interface.  vCO doesn't require that you be a hacker, but it also doesn't limit you from creating some pretty complex workflows that include custom scripts.  The good news is, you can do a lot of powerful things, pretty easily, with the built in workflows.

What can it do?

Here's a list of examples from the vCO community --

How do I get it?

As the title of this post indicates, if you own vCenter Server you already have vCO.  Recently, VMware released a vCO virtual appliance so installation is super easy.

Burke has a good guide for installing vCO on a Windows server if you like to do things the hard way.

How do I get started with vCO?

There's actually a pretty good community out there already with example workflows, step-by-step guides and video demonstrations...

VMware vCenter Orchestrator Blog
VMware Orchestrator Community
vCO Portal
VCO Team
Mighty Virtualization
Cody Bunch - you can pre-order his book "Automating vSphere"

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