Going back to my customer days, one thing I’ve always been impressed by is VMware’s ability to build an ecosystem around its products. Being on the inside, it’s pretty incredible to see the amount of work going into growing and innovating across so many different products, and the fact that many of them deeploy integrate with one and other is a pretty huge marvel to see
That being said, one of the struggles we’ve had is creating smooth lifecycle operations for our products in some cases. We’ve been evangelizing the Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC); but we still treat each object as an individual item and not a cohesive solution. Many of these products have different installation processes, with varying levels of complexity. Once they ARE installed, they are typically managed separately from an upgrade perspective. They all interact and integrate with each other really well - but getting there has historically been a challenge. Additionally, once you do manage to get there - bringing in various solution extensions (via the Solutions Exchange for example) has presented its own challenges.
Enter vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager (henceforth referred to as vRSLCM).
vRSLCM aims to bring the installation/lifecycle/content management of our key SDDC products under one platform, licensed as part of vRealize Suite licensing. It aims to create standard ways to deploy the products, following our VMware Validated Designs. It also, in the upcoming 1.2 release, aims to simplify the import of solutions (Content Packs, Blueprints, Dashboards, etc…) via marketplace integrations natively inside the product. vRSLCM Unifies vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations, vRealize Log Insight, and vRealize Business under one platform.
On top of general lifecycle management, vRSLCM can also help manage configuration drift within these products. During configuration you can choose to save a configuration baseline, which can then be used to move the configuration settings that have been captured back to a “known good state”. This is helpful for testing different environments, or configuration settings and then getting back to a working configuration.
With the release of vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager 1.2 growing closer, I thought that it would be a good time to throw together a post around getting the 1.1 release up and running in the lab. Additionally, we’ll add the SDDC products I have deployed in my lab as a “managed object” to the platform. This should simplify my upgrade processes later when the new versions of all the products are released.
I’m not going to cover the installation process for vRSLCM as it’s a pretty basic installation via an OVA like many of our other products. You can access it via the MyVMWare portal, and as long as you have a vRealize Suite license - you’ll be entitled to it.
Once it’s installed and configured, and you log in, you’ll be presented with the following screen:
In order to complete what we’re trying to do here (a vRSLCM managed environment), we’ve got a few tasks ahead of us:
- Create a Datacenter
- Add our vCenter
- Generate Certificates
- Setup how we’re going to access the product OVAs (vRSLCM can consume OVAs from an NFS share or download them from the MyVMware Portal)
- Create our product environment
Since we currently have no environments in our platform, we’ll select create a new environment from the pretty box in front of us. This brings up a simple window to start our installation wizard
If we had an already configured “Configuration File” we could import it here. Since we’re starting from scratch, we’ll choose “Using Installation Wizard”. This takes us to a screen where we begin setting up our environment. You can see that vRSLCM is prompting us to configure a few items.
Currently we have no datacenters, so we’ll click the plus symbol next to datacenter to create a new one. One cool feature around creating our datacenter is the ability to assign a geographic location to the datacenter. I like this feature because it gives a bit of identity to your datacenter deployments aside from just a hostname. When you’re looking at the map screen, you can hit the 3 dots on the top right corner and select New Datacenter in order to access this menu.
I named mine “Humblelab” (go figure…) and set it to Sacramento, California. Sadly, Roseville isn’t on the list (REPRESENT!)
Once we’ve defined out our datacenter, select “Manage vCenter Servers” to we can add/configure our vCenter for that location.
We configure out our credentials as we would normally expect to. Note the last option in the list regarding the vCenter Server type. Those of you familiar with our VMware Validated Design models will recognize this. This refers to how your “pods” are setup. In this case, I have my “Management” environment mixed in with my “Workload” environment.
Once we save, we are sent back to the main vRSLCM screen. Next, we will generate our default certificate for vRSLCM managed installations. Fill in our typical certificate information and select generate certificate.
As I mentioned earlier, vRSLCM has the ability to leverage either an NFS share where you’ve stored your OVA’s, or pull them down directly from the MyVMware portal. On our main screen, we were getting a yellow warning box that indicated we needed to configure this setting. If you’re still on the certificate screen, you can click “OVA Configuration”, or if you hit the main screen arleady just click the “OVA Configuration” link. Being a packrat, I store my OVA’s on a NFS share in my lab - so thats what we’re going to configure.
As we add OVA’s to the store, we need to define those products out in vRSLCM. Effectively what we are doing is mapping the OVAs we’ve download to individual product Names, and whether or not they are “Install” or “Upgrade” binaries.
After the OVA setup is complete, we can hit the “Home” menu to take us back to “Create a New Environment”. We can start to hit the drop down menus to hit the configuration data we just built (Datacenter, vCenter, etc…) as well as fill in our administrator email and default passwords for the environment.
Below the Environment Data menu, you’ll see 2 tabs, “Products” and “Solutions”. By default, the “New Install” box is checked which lets us select version and sizing. The version connects back to the mapping we built earlier. Size relates back to the standard platform sizing options. This is a really cool option because it lets us tune environment sizing to match the needs of a customer. You don’t need a Large vRealize Automation install, complete with HA, for a POC lab environment as an example.
For our example, we select import on all the products because we are going to “bring in” our existing installations. Once we select import, and check the boxes - our Create Environment box illuminates and we can hit it and move forward.
We’re automatically dropped into our actual configuration of this vRSLCM object at this point and presented with a EULA to accept for the products we are deploying.
If you manage to get kicked back out for some reason, or decide to pick this back up later - you’ll be able to see the not “fully created” object sitting in our “Recent Requests”. Hitting resume on this will bring us back into this configuration screen, picking up where we left off.
When we continue/resume in a NEW installation, we would configure things like Hostnames, Certificates, IP addresses and so on. In our case, we’re importing components that have already been deployed. There is still some required information you’ll need to bring in. We need to add our vRealize Suite License, as well as match this environment to our previously defined vCenter (or create a new one). We need to define out the cluster and storage we want to leverage for future configurations (think of when you grow an environment, or expand one). We need to add the network. We can select existing certificates that we generated, or import a valid certificate configured externally.
We also need to configure all of the product credentials for our existing environment. This includes things like our node FQDNs, root passwords, IaaS/vRA tenant names and passwords, various binding environment.
Once we fill all of this in, correctly, we can hit submit and roll forward.
Once we submit, we’ll be rewarded with “Submitted” status on the request, and we can wait for it to complete!
Now, once it completes - you won’t see a full picture of health data. It took me a while to figure out why this is. It turns out that the health data actually comes from the vRealize Operations integration; specifically the SDDC Health Solutions Management pack.
Being the completionist that I am, I can’t handle the fact that the health is not displaying. You should definitely move through setting that up if you want the data to come through successfully. This dashboard has its own…quirks…but ultimately the setup is pretty easy. Once it’s configured, you’ll be rewarded with health check glory.
Being transparent; the quirks I mention above translate into this. I’ve had some issues getting the health monitor information to actually reflect accurate health data - but hey, at least its not a “missing data” screen!
With this, our environment configuration is complete. We’ve got the object managed successfully in the environment and we are able to perform our lifecycle operations on this object (upgrade/expand/manage configuration drift).
I’m pretty excited about this product. There are some gaps in the current implementation, it’s new - and our first foray into an SDDC deployment/management solution. When I look down the road at the type of capabilities this type of platform is going to expose, it’s pretty incredible and will certainly grow into a pretty powerful offering. This is especially true when you consider all of the changes that are coming in 1.2.
I see this product becoming a no-brainer deployment for customer environments as it matures. If you’re licensed for vRSLCM - there’s no reason not to implement it currently. Again, there are certainly gaps and scenarios where the product doesn’t hit all usecases - but it certainly is going to simplify aspects of management/deployment for our SDDC story.
Stay tuned for more when 1.2 is released soon!