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Plug-ins breathe new life into VMware vCenter Orchestrator

New plug-ins will give users and ISVs more options for integrating third-party and homegrown apps into VMware’s orchestration tool.

VMware Web services plug-ins released this month could speed integration between users’ homegrown or third-party applications and vCenter Orchestrator.

VMware vCenter Orchestrator, which ships free with vCenter Server at the Standard license level and above, automates tasks with VMware vSphere to enable automation between VMware’s products, as well as some third-party software. It can also be used to create automated workflows, and under vCloud Director is used to manage “call-outs” to other systems needed to automate the surrounding infrastructure such as IP address management.

Users say the plug-ins -- which are part of a new quarterly update cycle for the orchestration tool -- as well as beefed-up documentation, could breathe new life into vCenter Orchestrator, though many are still evaluating the tool.

Building bridges to/from vCenter Orchestrator

“Theoretically, the options of expansion are almost endless, and [VMware is] finally putting together one of the biggest pieces: extensibility,” said Maish Saidel-Keesing, virtual infrastructure admin for a technology company in Israel. In his words,  vCenter Orchestrator is “one of the undiscovered jewels” in VMware’s product line.

New documentation, including a book on vCenter Orchestrator due this year, and blog posts from the Orchestrator team providing examples of use cases for the tool, will also help him get a better sense of the product for use in his environment, Saidel-Keesing said.

An enterprise architect for a medical center in New England said his organization will investigate the plug-ins as a potential “stopgap, if nothing else,” for creating homegrown self-service provisioning portals, while his organization is still kicking the tires on vCloud Director, adoption of which would be a big change.

“We’re not ready for anything that dramatic,” the architect said. The plug-ins “may be an interim step” to offer a simple Web interface to provision and deprovision virtual servers instead.

The plug-ins will most likely appeal to shops already following VMware’s vCloud roadmap, but some enterprise users are still weighing their options at the orchestration layer, said Gartner analyst Chris Wolf.

“[Some] of them right now are going homegrown when it comes to the orchestration layer for two reasons: fear over lock-in or because they don’t see enough maturity in the vendor space yet to commit to a particular platform,” Wolf said.

VCenter Orchestrator gets REST and SOAP support

The new HTTP-based Representational State Transfer (REST) and XML-based Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) plug-ins offer a standardized means of integrating vCenter Orchestrator with third-party data center orchestration tools or homegrown tools users may already have in house.

Before this update, users had to figure out how to integrate vCenter Orchestrator with such systems using Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, Secure Shell, or other protocols. Or, they would have to wait for VMware and partners to perform application programming interface-level integrations.  Now, users can make direct calls to the API of the system they want to integrate. The REST and SOAP plug-ins could also be used to add features that may fall outside what’s provided in VMware partners’ standard integrations.

Ramin Sayar, vice president of products, enterprise management for VMware, said the plug-ins are part of a new quarterly release cycle for vCenter Orchestrator that has already seen integrations with Cisco Systems’ Unified Computing System and vCloud Director in the first quarter, as well as a tie-in to Active Directory released in the second quarter.

This week, VMware also released a new vCenter Orchestrator connector for its service desk product, VMware Service Manager, and Sayar said integration with more third-party service desk and change management database applications are on the roadmap. Some partners, such as application delivery controller vendor Radware, have already begun developing plug-ins on their own. 

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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