vRealize Automation 7.3: Install, Configure, Manage (BETA) Review

Here’s the scenario:

I’ve recently been introduced to vRealize Automation at work. We’re entering the tail end of the roll-out and I’ve only just begun to understand exactly how to interact with it. I understand why an organization might want to use the product, but I’ve just never been at a place in my career to get a good hold on it.

Fast-forward only a moment or two in time. My Principle Virtualization Engineer, the guy leading the vRA deployment project, is moving to a different role in the organization. vRA is left to me to support, but I have no idea what I’m doing. Time to see what VMware has for training! Registration for vRealize Automation 7.3 Install, Configure, Manage (BETA) complete.

Note: The Beta for this course is no longer available as it is now Generally Available. Check out available Beta courses here.

Present day:

Last week, I had an opportunity to take the vRA 7.3: ICM Beta class. Initially, I had some reservations about taking a Beta training course. I wasn’t exactly sure what I should expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the delivery and material. Where some may have been disappointed, I found it to be more helpful overall.

I don’t want to go into detail about the course materials. If you’re familiar with vRA, you can read about new features. If you’re not… attend a Beta! Let’s discuss things that I felt were beneficial about taking the Beta version of the course.

Price –

I’m not sure whether Beta courses vary in price, but this ICM only cost me 50% of what it normally would have. The $2k price tag is still more than I would want to shell out if I were covering it by myself, but the price point is no longer insurmountable. Better yet, the price made it an easier argument for the boss. I list this first because, when comparing all other benefits, this really is a substantial one. Not being able to attend… Well, it really makes getting any benefit out of the training difficult.

Instructors –

On the first day of training my instructor, Brian Watrous, gave a good explanation of how the Beta class would be given. Brian is the Lead Instructor for the course and it was very clear that he’s extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the product. (His blog is solid, too.) Daniel Crider, who developed the course, created the lab scenarios, and built the lab environment joined Brian for the delivery of the Beta.

Essentially, we were going to be seeing a yet-to-be-final version of the course. Daniel was on-hand to take suggestions and feedback from Brian and other attendees on the lecture and lab materials while also offering his fair share of knowledge about the product. I don’t feel that I can adequately capture how unique the instructors made this training feel. I’m sure that this was a result of the Beta and am even more pleased that I attended as a result. The two instructors were excellent.

Attendees –

One of the more interesting aspects of the class was that there were a bunch of VMware Certified Instructors attending with me. As a result, there were some interesting dynamics in the classroom that I don’t think I would have otherwise experienced. I was learning about vRA for the first time among others who were probably learning the “What’s New” pieces of 7.3 (likely having conducted training sessions of their own on previous versions of the product).

Having never seen most of the product before, I asked my fair share of questions. I received answers from the instructors and/or other attendees. In retrospect, I think I may have been the guy that everyone got annoyed with… I’ll choose not to dwell on that.

Labs –

I mentioned before that Daniel had created the lab scenarios and the lab environment. The Beta class saw a new, never-before seen lab on using Storage Policy Based Management in vRA. We almost saw a lab on Containers! Turns out that several layers of abstraction may make certain things difficult (note: containers are one of those certain things).

To me, labs can be difficult to take. They’re very detail oriented and written so that anyone can complete them. It’s very easy to find yourself clicking through the steps and not really understanding what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. As a result, it’s just as easy to leave the course not really having learned anything as a result.

The labs weren’t perfect. Not everything worked as it was intended to. Some things broke and needed some troubleshooting to fix. I don’t say these things as a negative. This was a core piece of my learning experience – troubleshooting a vRA deployment that should be working. The beauty of this was the guidance from two very knowledgeable instructors. I even managed to fix some things on my own which made me feel pretty good at the end of the day!

As an interesting tidbit – Our final lab was learning how to install vRealize Automation. As Brian quipped, “You could argue that this course should be titled, ‘Configure, Manage, Install’ but it doesn’t sound as good.”

Summary (TL;DR) –

The Beta course was excellent! My instructors were extremely well-versed in both using and teaching how to use the software. While the labs were troublesome at times, I spent a good amount of time in and troubleshooting the software. I learned a lot.

At the end of the day, I really feel that the training gave me the knowledge and tools that I need to support my organization’s deployment. Only time will tell. I feel good about the challenge and hope I can mature the deployment well.

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