VDCA550 – Objective 7.2 – Utilize basic workflows using Orchestrator

vCenter Orchestrator was an objective in the VDCA410 exam that qualified for the VCAP4-DCA certification, disappeared in the VDCA510 exam and returned in the VDCA550 exam

Skills and abilities

  • Configure and manage vCenter Orchestrator
  • Add Orchestrator to vCenter
  • Create basic vCenter management workflows
  • Troubleshoot existing workflows
  • Import/export packages

Tools:

Configure and manage vCenter Orchestrator

First of all, what is vCenter Orchestrator (vCO from now on)? According to the documentation, vCO is a development- and process-automation platform that provides a library of extensible workflows to allow you to create and run automated, configurable processes to manage the VMware vSphere infrastructure as well as other VMware and third-party technologies. The Key word in this definition is the word “process-automation”.

The architecture of vCO

VDCA550-7.2-01Figure 1 – vCO Architecture (Source: VMware)

Orchestrator contains a workflow library and a workflow engine to allow you to create and run workflows that automate orchestration processes. You run workflows on the objects of different technologies that Orchestrator accesses through a series of plug-ins.

Orchestrator provides a standard set of plug-ins, including a plug-in for vCenter Server, to allow you to orchestrate tasks in the different environments that the plug-ins expose.

Orchestrator also presents an open architecture to allow you to plug in external third-party applications to the orchestration platform. You can run workflows on the objects of the plugged-in technologies that you define yourself. Orchestrator connects to a directory services server to manage user accounts, and to a database to store information from the workflows that it runs. You can access Orchestrator, the Orchestrator workflows, and the objects it exposes through the Orchestrator client interface, through a Web browser, or through Web services.

Install and Configure

VMware documentation on installing and basic configuration of vCO, see the vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Install and Configuration Guide

Orchestrator consists of a server component and a client component. There are several options for the installation of the server component:

  • Install the Orchestrator components on the Windows server on which vCenter Server is installed.
  • Install the Orchestrator components on a separate Windows Server. In case
  • Download and deploy the Orchestrator Appliance.

Each of the choices above has some prerequisites, see documentation.

Install vCO on the vCenter Server

While installing vCenterServer on a Windows server, the vCO components are part of the installation. You can check by browsing the Windows menu option. Be aware that vCO still needs additional configuration before you can use it!

VDCA550-7.2-02Figure 2

Install vCO on a separate server

In case you need or want to install the vCO component on a separate Windows Server, read this excellent post by Emad Younis on vSential.

Deploy the Orchestrator Appliance

The Orchestrator Appliance package contains the following software:

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 Update 1 for VMware, 64-bit edition
  • PostgreSQL
  • OpenLDAP
  • Orchestrator

The Orchestrator Appliance can be found in the same section as the vCenter Server components. After deploying and booting the appliance, you can immediately start the configuration part. More on that in the next section. In which scenarios would you choose the Orchestrator Appliance?

  • In case you don’t want vCO on the vCenter Server
  • In case you have deployed the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA). The vCSA comes without the vCO component.

Configuration

After the installation or deployment of vCO, additional configuration tasks needs to be performed, before creating the first workflow. However, the number of configuration tasks depends on the choice made during the installation. The vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Install and Configuration Guidepresents a complete overview of the configuration steps:

  • Start the Orchestrator Configuration Service
  • Log In to the Orchestrator Configuration Interface
  • Configure the Network Connection
  • Orchestrator Network Ports
  • Import the vCenter Server SSL Certificate
  • Selecting the Authentication Type
  • Configuring the Orchestrator Database Connection
  • Server Certificate
  • Configure the Orchestrator Plug-Ins
  • Importing the vCenter Server License
  • Selecting the Orchestrator Server Mode
  • Start the Orchestrator Server

Configure vCO on the vCenter Server

Overview:

  • Under “Services”, check if the “VMware vCenter Orchestrator Configuration” Service is running. If not, start the service.
  • From the Windows menu, select “vCenter Orchestrator Configuration”.
  • In the VCO Welcome screen, login with username “vmware” and password “vmware”
  • In the next screen, you are forced to change your password
  • Most of the configuration (Network, certficates, authentication, vCenter Server plug-in) should already be fine.
  • Under “Startup Options”, check if the Server is started, otherwise do so.

vCO on a separate server

Emad Younis on vSential also wrote a great post how to configure vCO on a dedicated Windows Server.

The Orchestrator Appliance

The configuration of the vCO appliance is a reasonable amount of work. For testing purposes, in my home lab, I have deployed the vCSA combined with the vCO appliance.

For the configuration, this post by Mike Preston was very useful and is highly recommended reading. Also, the vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Install and Configuration Guidechapter 7 presents a complete overview of the configuration.

Chapter 7 “Configuring vCenter Orchestrator in the orchestrator Appliance” of the vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Install and Configuration Guide is – as the title reveals – dedicated to the configuration of the vCO appliance.
Talking about Configuration, I must mention one special item. As an Automation tool by nature, vCO also has an option to modify the Orchestrator Server configuration settings by using a special Configuration plug-in or the REST API.

vCO Client

As mentioned before, vCO also has a client component. While using the vSphere Web Client, there is no additional action needed. In the Home menu, under Inventories, there is the vCO client.

No vSphere Web Client? Go to:\https://<IP of the vCO server>:8281

VDCA550-7.2-03Figure 3

From here there are three choices:

  • Start the vCO Java client.
  • Start the vCO Web client
  • Download and install a local client

Add Orchestrator to vCenter

vCO is bound to a vCenter Server by configuring the vCenter plug-in. This is part of the configuration.

VDCA550-7.2-04Figure 4 – vCenter Server plug-in

In my case, while using the vSphere Web Client, an additional step was necessary before the first run of the vCO client. After selecting the vCO Client, under Inventory Lists \ vCO Servers, the vCO server needs to be connected to the vCenter Server (vCSA in my case).

VDCA550-7.2-05Figure 5

After entering URL\https://<IP of the vCO server>, you can test the Connection. If OK, then save the configuration.

Now, you are ready to create your first workflow.

See also vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Install and Configuration Guide , Chapter 6 “Configure the vCenterServer Plug-in”.

Create basic vCenter management workflows

The vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Using the Client Guidediscusses the usage of the vCO in daily operations. This guide discusses topics like:

  • Usage of the Orchestrator Client.
  • Managing Workflows. Workflows are the key elements within the vCO.
  • Managing Policies (Is there any application that can go without policies these days?)/
  • Using Packages (Packages are useful for transferring content from one vCO server to another one).
  • Using Authorizations and tagging object.

Fortunately, you can start reading the documentation later. In case you are curious to see what vCO has to offer, a lot of bloggers wrote excellent articles. You can create and execute your first workflow in minutes. For instance, Mike Preston wrote an excellent series of post about configuring vCO and creating Workflows. This post is very helpful creating your first Workflow.

Other useful links:

  • Cody Bunch wrote a book, published by VMware Press “Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator”.
  • See also this page by Cody Bunch with more vCO goodness.

Troubleshoot existing workflows

So you created a workflow and are curious to test it. You kick off and nothing happens (as with my first Workflow).

VDCA550-7.2-06Figure 6

What options are available?

  • vCO provides a workflow debugging tool. You can debug workflows from the standard workflow library and custom workflows. You can debug custom workflows while developing them in the workflow editor.
  • Explore the Logging of the object(s) involved in the workflow. For an example see this post.

N.B. My first workflow for rebooting an ESXi server refused to run, because the parameter for forcing a reboot had the wrong value…

Import/export packages

What are packages in a vCenter Orchestrator perspective? In a few words; packages can contain workflows, actions, policies, Web views, configurations, and resources. Packages allow you to transport content from one Orchestrator server to another (by exporting and importing packages).

First step is to create a package. While adding elements to a package, all dependencies are automatically added to the package.

After you have created your package, you can set different levels of permission on a package to limit the access that different users or user groups can have to the contents of that package.

During the export of a package, you can optional sign the package by adding a certificate.

All actions are performed from the Administer Menu, under the “Packages” section.

VDCA550-7.2-07Figure 7

From the same menu, packages can be imported. There are two options:

  • Import from your local Management station (Import package…)
  • Import from a remote vCO server (Get remote package)

Note: The Packages view provides a way to synchronize a package on one Orchestrator server with an existing package on another server. Synchronizing packages is the only way to obtain all the elements from the remote server.

For more information, see the official documentation vCenter Orchestrator v5.5 Using the Client Guide chapter 4.

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