When I travel for work, I strive to bring back as many good ideas as I can and implement them in our IT shop. VMworld 2011 offered the opportunity to meet a lot of people, one of those being Cody Bunch who is authoring Automating vSphere: With Vmware vCenter Orchestrator for VMware Press. In talking with Cody, he reminded me something I learned and had forgotten – that every vCenter license includes vCenter Orchestrator for free, bringing a great workflow and automation tool to the masses. For the lesser versions of vCenter (Essential and Foundation), vCenter Orchestrator runs in a ‘player’ mode, allowing you to run workflows but not edit them, but for all vCenter Standard edition, it runs in ‘server’ mode with full functionality. This week, I have been configuring, working in and learning vCenter Orchestrator.
vCenter Orchestrator is installed by default along side of vCenter Server Standard edition and can run on the same host, but in other environments, it may make more sense to deploy it as a vApp instead. If you’re interested in deploying a vApp (which I did not do), see this post from Cody. I’m going to detail my installation procedures as an example of the install, which is fairly simple. These are by NO means the official procedures, just my experience and anything I learned along the way. But first…
What does vCenter Orchestrator Do?
vCenter Orchestrator is, at heart, a workflow tool. It is used to string together a series of tasks that can be kicked off repeatedly and performed on different objects within vCenter and with additional system, using additional plug-ins. It is used to automate repeated tasks that are done in the environment, handle bulk operations and handle integration points. It can be used to receive actions from help desk and monitoring systems and kick off actions based on tickets or alerts.
As I have written about before, I have come to define a cloud as an pool of compute, storage and networking resources with a self-service portal and lifecycle management to automate provisioning, management and decommissioning systems. The key to this definition is in the automation and workflow of processes. Although it is not as advanced, I think vCenter Orchestrator can represent a solid first step towards automation and workflowing deployments and management of datacenter assets. Said another way, I think its a solid first step for many organizations towards the cloud.