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One of the biggest challenges of virtualization is that VMs are difficult to manage at scale. Hypervisor vendors, such as VMware and Microsoft, offer various automation tools in an effort to make their customers' lives easier, but these tools are not the only option for IT administrators who decide to automate VM management: There are also a variety of third-party tools available, such as Chef, Puppet Enterprise and SolarWinds Virtualization Manager.
Some VM automation tools primarily focus on maintaining consistency, while others are more oriented toward enabling self-service provisioning or maintaining infrastructure health. Before admins choose their preferred VM automation software, they must compare feature sets to ensure the product aligns with their system needs.
VMware's vRealize Automation
VMware's primary VM automation tool is its vRealize Automation. Though vRealize Automation is a VMware-specific tool, it fully supports hybrid and multi-cloud configurations and is cloud-agnostic.
VRealize Automation is best known for its self-service provisioning capabilities, which lets admins build catalogs of resources that authorized users are then able to deploy in an automated manner. In addition, vRealize Automation helps admins to automate application lifecycle management as well as any operations related to retiring or resizing applications and reclaiming resources that those applications previously used.
Essentially, vRealize Automation enables admins to manage everything with code, so they can define resources such as policies and infrastructure blueprints as code and manipulate them programmatically. Code-based management is common among virtualization orchestration products and alternative hypervisor vendors provide similar ways of interacting with virtualized resources.
Microsoft's System Center Orchestrator
Microsoft's tool for automating Hyper-V deployments is System Center Orchestrator, which admins can use to automate nearly any data center process -- even those that run on a non-Microsoft OS.
The software enables admins to create workflows that use runbooks, which can check for specific conditions, such as a VM's health, and act on that assessment. Some actions include running a program, starting a VM or sending an email alert.
Although System Center Orchestrator is Microsoft's preferred orchestration and automation tool, it is not the only offering. Microsoft also supports programmatic Hyper-V orchestration through PowerShell. Hyper-V comes with its own PowerShell module, which adds numerous Hyper-V-specific cmdlets to PowerShell. Admins can use these cmdlets to automate any functions exposed through the Hyper-V Manager.
Chef orchestration products and plugins
Chef offers multiple orchestration products, such as Chef Infra and Chef Automate, designed for workload and infrastructure automation. In addition, Chef provides Knife plugins for vCenter, vSphere and vRealize. These plugins help admins to use Chef for VMware automation.
Admins can use the vRealize Automation plugin to query a catalog as well as create and manage resources within vRealize Automation. Similarly, the plugins for vCenter and vSphere automate deployments and describe infrastructure as code, ensuring consistency throughout admins' organizations.
Puppet Enterprise manages patching, provisioning and configuration of OS and application components throughout admins' data centers and cloud environments. Puppet Enterprise also works with software from a variety of vendors, including VMware, AWS and Microsoft Azure.
In VMware workspaces, admins can pair Puppet with vRealize to remediate configuration drift, enable workload portability and fully automate self-service provisioning. Admins can also create templates for VMs through the vRealize GUI and set up Puppet Enterprise to configure VMs.
SolarWinds Virtualization Manager
SolarWinds Virtualization Manager works with VMware, Hyper-V and Nutanix offerings.
SolarWinds designed the Virtualization Manager's automation capabilities to ensure that virtualized architectures operate with peak efficiency. The software can automatically power off idle VMs , redistribute workloads, move virtual hard disks and take snapshots. In addition, the Virtualization Manager provides capacity planning recommendations and predictive advice pertaining to issues that might occur in the future.