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Use VMware automation tools to streamline your environment

By selecting the right tools and preparing for potential implementation challenges, automation can make VMware environments easier, faster and more efficient.

Automation is a key tool in the IT professional's arsenal that can reduce the work of an overtaxed staff and free...

up time for higher-level work that can add value to the company as a whole. Automation isn't a panacea. So, admins have to prepare for implementation challenges, but after knowing the context, as well as the advantages and risks, you can evaluate automation tools on a case-by-case basis and deliberately incorporate them into your workflow. With careful selection and preparation, organizations can incorporate VMware automation tools to great success.

Select automation tools deliberately

Automation has become an essential way for businesses to streamline their processes and improve efficiency. Typically, scripting and batch jobs accomplish this, but the future lies in developing these into automation tools that can span systems. PowerShell, for example, has already been a huge influence; its install base as a Microsoft product and its ability to use third-party snap-ins encourages the creation of programming languages that can satisfy automation needs. There are also communities that can help new users with example code and guidance. It's important to consider features, platforms and costs when selecting VMware automation tools as well; with these factors in mind, you can add great value to your infrastructure.

VSphere 6.5 combines advanced automation and a user-friendly interface

VMware vSphere 6.5 features the new respresentational state transfer (REST) API, which combines a friendly design with advanced automation capabilities, making it one of the most useful and easy-to-use VMware automation tools. The REST API comes with a built-in automation tool that secures the session by blocking unauthorized users from getting access. The REST framework is comprised of components that can be understood using key HTTP actions: Delete, Get, Patch, Post and Put. If your automation is web-driven or uses a number of separate systems, the REST API will be especially useful.

VRealize Automation 7 makes installation easy

It's important to prepare not only for workflow changes, but also for the growing pains involved in implementation.

VRealize Automation 7 continues the streamlining process furthered by vRA 6, including checking that the server meets all prerequisites before installation. If not, vRA 7 has a handy Fix button that will automatically configure the settings in your Windows server. The installation wizard will guide you through much of the installation process, asking for details about vRealize appliances, servers and load-balancer types. Instead of the single sign-on process from the previous version, vRA 7 employs an Identity Manager for user authentication, which allows for tenant-by-tenant configuration of identifiable features -- such as the login screen -- so that users can identify their own systems before logging into the tenant. Other features include a redesigned Blueprint Designer and an Event Broker Service that allows software components to generate, subscribe and reply to events.

Automate patching with vSphere Update Manager

VSphere Update Manager (VUM) is a particularly useful tool that can automate the VM and host updating process. Previously, this required lengthy scripting, but VUM automates it through a user interface. VUM gives you the ability to define the level for patching clusters and the level of automation you want when patching, updating and upgrading your hosts. VUM complements vSphere by allowing users to deploy personalized images during the upgrade process, which enables slipstreaming drivers from your hardware manufacturer.

Prepare for the complexity of implementation

Even with careful planning, the implementation of new VMware automation tools can pose challenges. Problems emerge due to the complexity of these tools, which require time to understand, deploy and maintain. Beyond that, as tasks are automated, personnel need to be trained on how to use these tools and how to use their freed-up time. Automation offers potential, but implementation challenges can make busy organizations hesitant to adopt these tools. It's important to prepare not only for workflow changes, but also for the growing pains involved in implementation. With this preparation in mind, you can fully evaluate tools before introducing them to your organization.

Next Steps

Select the automated testing tools that best fit your needs

Understand the varying levels of automation for data centers

Learn the difference between network functions virtualization automation and orchestration

This was last published in October 2017

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