Preparing for vRealize Automation 8 and Beyond

Sid Smith
by Sid Smith

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Preparing for vRealize Automation 8 and Beyond

What is your recommendation or what are your plans when it comes to vRealize Automation 8?  Should we adopt vRealize Automation 8 as soon as it is released?  What is the best path forward for my organization?  These are the most commonly asked question I hear these days as everyone prepares for the release of the much talked about vRealize Automation 8.  The goal of this article is not to answer these questions, but to arm you with information so you can determine the best path forward for your organization.

 

Things to consider

vRealize Automation 8 is really a 1.0 product

vRA8 is a complete code rewrite from vRA7.  This change is a very big deal because, while the new solution is being versioned as vRA8, it’s really a 1.0 product.  While some may argue that the code base for vRA8 has been around for a year with the launch of vRealize Automation Cloud beta last year, it’s still a very new platform.  Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, you should ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you performed testing and validation of vRealize Automation Cloud?
  2. Have you reviewed, modified, and tested your vRealize Automation 7 customizations with vRealize Automation Cloud?
  3. Have you determined/tested how you will migrate your existing vRA7 Blueprints to vRealize Automation Cloud?
  4. Are there missing features in vRA8 that you have to have immediately that are currently available in vRA7?
  5. Are those features more important than others that may currently be lacking in vRA7?

While this list may not be exhaustive regarding the things you need to think about, it’s a good place to start.  In reality, most organizations require proper time and planning to make such a move.  How much time depends on how many and what types of integrations/customizations you have, how many blueprints you will need to move over, and the number of workloads currently under vRealize  Automation 7 management.

 

Is vRealize Automation 7 a Flawed, Buggy Platform? 

You may hear the argument that you should adopt vRA8 because vRA7 is riddled with flaws and has many shortcomings.  While this statement may have some truth to it, all software applications have their shortcomings.  At least with vRA7, we know what those shortcomings are.  Candidly, a great many of those shortcomings and challenges exist on the extensibility side, which SovLabs was created to solve. Thousands of organizations have been leveraging vRA7 to successfully automate the deployment of their workloads for years.  Those environments are not going to just stop working when vRA8 is released.  Remember, vRA7 has been the #1 cloud management platform for more than 3 years, there is a reason for that. vRA8 isn’t even available as of this writing.

 

We are new to vRealize Automation, should we adopt 7 now, or wait until 8 is released?

Well I don’t think there is a black and white answer to this question. If you are not yet familiar with everything vRA8 has to offer, WorldWide Technologies, a global cloud integration provider, has published a solid review of vRA8 and vRealize Cloud here. Are there things you need that cannot be accomplished with vRA7? That was a trick question! You can do just about anything with vRA7.  The real questions are things like:

  • What things can you not do in vRA8, that already exist in vRA7, without heavy customization?
  • What is your timeline for getting automation up and running?
  • Do you have to deliver something by this year?  

I know what you’re thinking, I’m asking you a lot of questions, but not giving you my opinion or recommendations. Keep reading!

While it’s difficult to give a blanket recommendation, because every organization’s needs are different, I do have an opinion.  If I had to make this decision, I would stick with what is tried and true.  I would start with vRA7, and get your automation project off the ground, while staying on top of updates and new developments for vRA8.  Stand up a vRA8 dev/test environment, get familiar with it, and wait until 8.1/8.2 to make the move.  This strategy allows time for the new version to get seeded. Let others do the leg work for you.  

Most organizations won’t (or shouldn’t) adopt any vendor’s 0.0x version of code, regardless of the manufacturer. There’s just no way for most organizations to test the usage of the platform the way the market as a whole can.  Also, when releasing a completely new platform, it’s very difficult in a .0 release to have functionality on-par with a previous, stable platform.

In addition to the platform itself being solid and functionally ready, we all rely on a community of knowledge far beyond what the manufacturer can provide when discussing vRA and, more importantly, cloud automation. The interoperability between vRA and all the complementary platforms that vRA must coordinate with on an automation request is just as important. . I know that the majority of the customers I am working with have fairly specific use cases and requirements on vRA interaction with Servicenow, Ansible, F5, Puppet, Infoblox, Bluecat, etc. Currently, this community of knowledge does not exist for vRA8. It will, eventually, but it’s not there today.

If you remember, back when VMware acquired DynamicOps and acquired the vRealize Automation product, it was a nightmare for customers because they couldn’t find anything about it online. There was nothing in the customer forums. There were maybe a handful of blogs covering vRA —  mine included — but it wasn’t enough.  There is nothing more frustrating than rolling out a new product and not being able to find any real world knowledge to support your efforts.  If everyone starts to perform testing and sharing our experiences, the internet will do what it does: fill with useful information. Such a strategy will give everyone time to test for critical bugs and validate that vRA8 is worthy for production in your environment.

 

We are currently running vRA7. Should we switch to vRA8 right away?

I get asked this question quite regularly.  Without knowing your specific circumstances, I would almost always lean towards “no.”  If you have been running vRA7 in production, then you most likely have skilled folks who understand it, who know how to manage it, and who can — and do — support it.  The community around vRA7 didn’t happen overnight.  Nor will it happen overnight with vRA8. You are going to need to vet the platform from the ground up, put an enablement plan in place, and ensure your staff is properly trained to support and manage the new platform.  

Is training for vRA8 available?  Not today, not yet.  The product is not even available as of this writing.  It will be sometime before any formal training becomes available, so you will have to rely on the documentation and learning it through trial and error. Aside from this one critical component there are other items to consider.  Items such as:

  1. How many customizations do you currently have?
  2. How will you port those customizations to vRA8?
  3. Do you even want or need to port your customizations?
  4. How do the differences between vRA7 and vRA8 impact your business process?

The list goes on and on, but the important thing to realize is that, when you upgrade from vRA7 to vRA8, you won’t be running a simple upgrade.  There is going to be a significant amount of research, design, planning, and preparation to make the transition.  

There are ways to make the transition easier and less painful, and we will publish those in various future articles.  For now, just start with a list of all the considerations specific to your organization, and start planning for what’s to come.

 

In Summary: Before You Move to Any New Platform, CMP, ITSM, ERP, etc., consider the following:

  1. Has the platform been proven and tested by the market?
  2. Does the platform meet your current or near-term requirements?
  3. Is there an extensive eco-system of supporting content and partners available?
  4. If an upgrade is required, have you assessed and removed all the unnecessary customizations (which most likely will break)?
  5. If a replatform is required, have you talked to other customers or partners to ensure there are lessons learned and technology innovations to support this move?

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