What’s New in vRealize Automation (vRA) 7.4
vRA 7.4 is a minor release, but brings some long awaited goodies to the table for vRA users that should help hold users over until the 8.0 release happens sometime in the future.
See the following video for a demo of the new features, and continue reading for more information and analysis.
Solution Exchange Content
For those who have been paying attention over the past 12-18 months have noticed that the vRA-related content on the Solution Exchange has grown with a large number of blueprints making it to the exchange. As of this writing, the number is 81. This time last year the number was in the 20’s, so this represents a large number of additions that can be useful in your daily operations or learning experiences.
In addition to those blueprints, there are also a large number (120+) of OVF templates available for download. These represent entirely self-contained packages that can easily be imported to your vSphere environment and used to quickly provide value.
OVF Based Blueprints
If you’re paying attention, you’re probably wondering why OVF templates matter to vRA users. One of the new enhancements in vRA 7.4 is the ability to import OVF templates as a vSphere action. This means that you can create blueprints that are backed by OVF templates. When a user requests the blueprint, they can be presented with some, all, or none of the OVF template properties to configure the VM. The system will then import the OVF at request time and configure it according to the properties configured by the blueprint or entered by the user.
This particular feature has a lot of potential for offering new items as a service. First, the enhanced Solution Exchange content provides more avenues to quickly offering services in the catalog. Any of the afore mentioned OVF templates can easily be added to the system. Second, it offers different packaging mechanisms beyond just VM templates or software component based blueprints. Some organizations are already producing their apps as OVF templates, and vRA being able to provision them provides an extra option for deployment. Third, VMware virtual appliances can now be offered as a service, in addition to any number of third-party apps like InfoBlox and Splunk. These options represent a large opportunity and a good amount of flexibility moving forward for architecting blueprints.
Custom Request Forms
One of the most requested features by customers is the ability to create more customized request forms for blueprints being presented in the Service Catalog. Under previous versions of vRA, the request form was automatically created, and the steps for filling out the form were rigid and followed with how the blueprint was created. Each component of the blueprint had a corresponding step on the form, but it was not intuitive for non-regular users of vRA to recognize that data needed to be entered in some of the nested locations of the form. The more complicated the blueprint was with more components and nested components, the more complicated the request form was.
Enter Custom Request Forms. Now blueprint architects can define a custom request form that presents the necessary information in whatever way makes sense to the architect. All of the inputs can be provided on a single page/tab, or they can be split according logical steps or components. The end result is a more intuitive experience for the end-user and less overall frustration for everybody.
Multi-Tenancy in vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) 7.4
Less a feature of vRA, and more a feature of vRO, this enables vRO to integrate with the tenant-based authentication in vRA. It is of course of major importance for vRA administrators because it enables a vRO server to be shared across vRA tenants without deploying an additional vRO server for each tenant.
The feature is off by default, and requires a CLI script to be run and vRO services to be restarted, but once the feature is enabled, tenant end users can immediately begin logging in and accessing/authoring vRO content.