A look at building containers in vRealize Automation and how to monitor them with vReailze Operations (vROps)

One thing is certain about VMware vRealize Automation (vRA), it just keeps getting better and better with every version. From what started as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) tool in vCloud Cloud Automation Center (vCAC), has now become a complete IT as a Service (ITaaS) cloud management platform (CMP). Thanks to a broad ecosystem full of integrations from OEMs, select third-parties like Blue Medora and SovLabs, groundwork has been layed in the VMware Marketplace to manage your entire data center from a single pane of glass. Combine that with WWT custom professional services development of workflows, APIs and plug-ins, you have everything you need.

So, what’s trending out there in IT land? Integrations, multicloud and comparing the need for containerization vs. traditional virtual machines. William Caban has several posts on working with Docker and Kubernetes Containers, so I figured we should take a look at how we can build these containers in vRealize Automation and then monitor them with vReailze Operations (vROps).

Let’s start with the basics:

Software Required

  1. VMware vRealize Automation 7.3: Enterprise preferred for software components, or include an application management tool like Ansible or Puppet. This also includes the integrated VMware Admiral open source container management platform.
  2. Photon OS 1.0 or 2.0 to utilize as container hosts provisioned from the vRA catalog.
  3. An On-Prem or Public Docker Repository. Here’s some samples:

The Container Host

Photon OS is VMware’s open source operating system that is being developed to streamline how they build and manage virtual appliances for all of the VMware software solutions. Products like VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) have already adopted this new OS in version 6.5.

In this example, we are using a machine blueprint and VMware vRA software component to execute the bash script for deploying Docker. The custom properties shown in the screenshot allows for the host to be automatically added into Admiral as a container host. Our blueprint in particular is building a minimum 3-host cluster, and leverages Infoblox IPAM as well as ServiceNow ITSM/CMDB during processing.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 17

Here we can see the final blueprint added to the vRA Catalog and entitled for users to run. Typically, you would only entitle this blueprint to someone with a Container Administrator role in vRA, so they can access the Containers tab later for further management.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 16

Once provisioned, the deployment and associated components appear in the Items tab for vRA. Here, an Administrator manages Day 2 resource actions such as providing Backup as a Service, lifecycle controls, or scaling in/out the deployment. This is handled by clicking on the VM or deployment and then clicking Actions at the top. Custom Actions can be added by integrating vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) workflows into vRA and then entitling.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 15

VMware Admiral Management

After provisioning the Container Hosts, head over to the Containers tab. Here, you can see the list of hosts added to Admiral, and have the ability to configure placement policies so hosts can be assigned to particular placement zones. Zones allow specific container services to operate on a specific cluster of hosts. So, you can have staging, QA and dev zones, or in my case, a differentiation between our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) lab work versus our software arm’s WWT access.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 14

If your company requires the use of a private registry instead of using a public one like Docker Hub, you simply add the registry connection in the Containers tab as well and indicate the type of login to support (user, ssh key, etc.)

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 13

Creating Container Blueprints

From the Containers tab in vRA, click the templates link in the tree. The most popular templates will appear, but you can search for, import or write one with Docker Compose.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 12

In this example, I’m going to use Crate, by clicking the drop-down menu and then clicking Enter Additional Info.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 11

Click Save as Template.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 10

Next you can add additional containers, container networks and container volumes.

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 9

In the policy tab of the container details is where you also define the deployment policy for the new container.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 8

Once the changes are complete, click Push and then head over to the Design tab to publish the new blueprint before adding entitlements.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 7

If you’re dealing with multiple containers in a template that need to communicate with each other, Admiral also includes a Link feature to map dependencies between them. In this example, WordPress is linked with MySql in order to deploy WP with the DB backend.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 6

Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 5

Container Management

The Items tab in vRA provides the Day 2 actions to support the deployment of any containers from the self-service catalog, however there might be a need by a Container Admin to review logs and system performance. All deployments through vRA are tracked under the Applications and Containers sections.

Application View:Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 4

Application Details:Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 3

Container Details:

Shows current logs, performance and links to ports in use (for quick access to the running app)Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 2

Finally, here’s a look at some templates pushed out to the catalog.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize

Docker on Admiral Alternatives

Running Docker on Photon OS with Admiral isn’t the only way to deliver containers in vRA 7.3. Administrators can also run CoreOS, and supply vSphere Integrated Containers. Another option is to deploy products like Kubernetes and Docker Swarm using a multi-machine blueprint.Exploring Containers with VMware vRealize 1

Monitoring Docker with VMware vRealize Operations

By leveraging the Blue Medora management pack for Docker, Administrators can monitor their Docker CE or EE hosts directly from vROps. Mulltiple dashboards and Docker-based report templates are included with the management pack that make it easy to get started with monitoring the overall health of the container hosts, Docker services and containers.

The Docker Overview Dashboard:Exploring Containers with the VMware vRealize Suite 1

The Docker Container Details Dashboard:Exploring Containers with the VMware vRealize Suite

Want to learn more, or see a live demo of these capabilities from the WWT Advanced Technology Center (ATC)? Contact your account manager or explore it on your own with our ATC Connect app. We have over 50 active demonstrations and proof of concepts on cloud automation to offer.

Don’t forget to check out my other blog articles on integrating with the VMware vRealize Suite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *