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.

VMware Cloud on AWS – Initial Thoughts

For the better half of the day yesterday, my Twitter feed and blog channels were filled with news of the partnership between VMware and Amazon Web Services. In short, VMware has dropped their own public cloud offering in lieu of a more strategic relationship with AWS. With VMware Cloud on AWS, traditional VMware SDDC workloads (ESXi, VSAN, NSX, etc.) can be run on AWS infrastructure using the same tools that administrators are comfortable with for their on-premises deployments. See Frank Denneman’s (@frankdenneman) blog post on the announcement. It’s packed with information and potential use-cases.


One of the most interesting things that jumped out at me while reading Frank’s blog is the mention (albeit, only graphically) of AWS GovCloud. AWS GovCloud allows US Government Agencies and contractors to run workloads in the cloud while maintaining necessary FISMA requirements. AWS GovCloud, since June of this year, has been authorized to run workloads that reach a High impact level. Prior to that, only the Moderate impact level was supported.


To me, this means that USG agencies and contractors can likely run a successful hybrid cloud deployment with much less effort. I’m sure that VMware Cloud on AWS itself needs to be approved by the Federal Risk and Management Program (FedRAMP). However, this process might be streamlined since AWS GovCloud already has a Provisional Approval to Operate. Assuming that the necessary components on-prem. have been configured to the proper level (i.e., DISA STIGs for ESXi 6.0, NSX, and vCenter Server), VMware Cloud on AWS can allow USG agencies and contractors a significantly more flexible approach to consuming IT resources.


Sure – this helps move existing Government workloads to the cloud. It doesn’t necessarily encourage the redesign of those workloads to be better-performing or more modern. My experience thus far has been that the USG is relatively slow to complete these tasks. It’s fair to say that there are a lot of hoops to jump through to do much of anything. Does this help facilitate keeping up with the times or is it more geared towards remaining where we are?

Share your thoughts!

How I Learned To Read Error Messages

Not long ago, I tore down my homelab (more of a test/dev environment for work, really) to focus on another project. It’s time to start the homelab fresh and play with some VSAN stuff.

I’ve installed ESXi 6.0 Update 2 and I’m ready to deploy my VCSA. I go through all installation dialogues and leave the system to churn. I return a little while later to a failed deployment.


The VCSA is powered-on. The storage appears to have been provisioned properly. I reboot to see if the error was a fluke, yet I continue to get a “firstboot error” which indicates that services have failed to start.

Having deployed several VCSAs for test/dev, I wasn’t too positive what I could have done wrong. I start the entire process over and the deployment fails again. This time, I’m paying attention as the VCSA boots. I can’t quite figure out where or why it’s failing.

Tip of the week: Click the Show All button to get more information about errors (including why your deployment failed). In this instance, it answered 100% of my questions without the need to even view the log file.

As I ran through this deployment for the third time, I realized that I was referencing a FQDN which didn’t even exist yet. I’ve deployed the VCSA so many times that I was entering the FQDN that I WANTED the machine to have. That’s a deployment-killer.

The simple solution here is to create a DNS record in advance or to just use the IP address. Creating a DNS record saw this final deployment as successful with a useable VCSA. This issue is actually called out in the Release Notes for vCenter Server 6.0 as well as in this KB.