Orchestration is a growing trend, whether to reduce repetitive tasks, prevent misconfiguration due to fat fingers, or allow tasks that would have been performed by specialist teams be completed instead by application administrators.  The F5 plug-in for vCO aims to provide a way to perform some of the more common tasks on LTM and GTM.
Some of the use cases we came up with were automating server maintenance, scaling services dynamically, and of course service provisioning.  This path leads to the self-healing network ideal; where log messages or threshold alerts kick off workflows to address capacity or configuration issues, with vCenter, vCAC and other plug-ins also used to dynamically reconfigure the infrastructure.  We'd love to hear about other use cases you come up with too, and of course share your workflows and comments on DevCentral.

The plug-in is officially unsupported, which is to say that while we've tested it and put it through the VMware Solution Exchange certification process, we're giving it away for free and F5 support are not equipped to handle support calls on a vCO plug-in.  That said if you come across problems we want to hear about them, but if they need reproducing and fixing your account team and our team in business development will probably be the ones involved. To get the plug-in and to give us comments please contact us at vco@f5.com.

Getting started

If you have vCenter Standard you already have vCO, whether you're using it or not.  You may need to start the configuration service though, and configure and start vCO itself, I'll let VMware documentation and Google explain how to do that.  If you have a more limited license of vCenter you still have vCO, but with the Essentials and Foundation you’re limited to a player mode, where you can only run pre-existing workflows rather than create and edit them.

Once it's ready to go you should see the initial vCO webpage as follows, the F5 plug-in is imported from the configuration interface:

Initial vCO webpage

Inside the configuration interface select the Plug-ins section and use the magnifying glass icon to launch the file browser, navigate to the F5 plug-in .dar file and then select Upload and Install:

vCO dar install

When imported and running the next step, still in the configuration interface, is to tell the plug-in about the LTM and GTM appliances (be they physical or virtual) you want to be able to command:

vCO add LTM

It may be necessary to restart the vCO service in order for the new F5 objects to be registered.

Now we're done in the configuration interface and can launch the Orchestrator client, where the next step is to import the F5 workflow actions package, select Import Package from the Run window:

vCO import package button

Again navigate to the F5 plug-in, but this time select the package file.  Before you import it you will see a list of the elements in the package:

vCO package install

Once imported you can expand the new package elements and see the new actions we now have available:

vCO actions

Building advanced (and useful) workflows is a matter of chaining these together, which you do in the schema view:

auto scaling schema 2

This one watches load balancing pool member statistics and if a threshold is exceeded starts additional virtual machines, or if a low watermark is reached removed them from the pool and powers them back down.

Watch this space, we plan to publish more workflows and some more details on building useful schema with them.



For further information:

1. The vCenter Orchestrator Plug-in for VMware vCloud Automation Center allows organizations to automate vCAC provisioning and post-provisioning tasks. With these two components, customers can leverage full bi-directional integration capabilities between vCloud Automation Center and vCenter Orchestrator.

2. Another offering is the vCenter Orchestrator Elastic Service Plug-in. This plug-in provides a foundation for the self-scaling virtual datacenter, by automatically balancing the physical resources between virtual datacenters in VMware vCloud environments. This plug-in contains a rules engine that can analyze resource usage metrics (for instance, metrics captured by vCenter Operations Manager) and make scale-up or scale-down decisions automatically.

3. The vCenter Orchestrator Plug-in for VMware Service Manager enables organizations to automate operations around Configuration, Incident, Task and Service Request management.  Thanks to this plug-in, repetitive tasks such as updating an Incident or creating a Configuration Item when a new virtual machine is provisioned can now be fully automated.

4. And to help you take advantage of all of the above, the VMware Training department released over 10 self-paced vCO training videos on vmwarelearning.com available for free!