vRA 7.x vs vRA 8.x – Which Version to Deploy?

VMware has recently released vRealize Automation 8.0 and with this comes a complete redesign of the vRealize Automation product. Are you just starting out on your Cloud Management Platform (CMP) journey and not quite sure which version to deploy? Hopefully this blog will help you understand some of the key differences between vRA 7.x and vRA 8.x and some familiar features which are missing from vRA 8.x.

The first place to start is by reading this excellent blog post by Chip Zoller (daphnissov) on the VMware Community Forums. This vRA 8 FAQ provides plenty of answers to some of the obvious questions.

vRA 7.x Pros & Cons

  • PRO – Very mature and proven product
  • PRO – Well documented / blogged by VMware customers
  • CON – Slower deployment time
  • CON – Higher resource requirements (SQL/Windows IaaS)
  • CON – Requires Windows licenses
  • CON – Requires a rework to migrate to vRA 8.x

vRA 8.x Pros & Cons

  • PRO – Streamlined deployment process with Easy Installer
  • PRO – Less resource requirements (No SQL/Windows IaaS)
  • PRO – Centralised architecture using single appliance / cluster
  • PRO – No rework required
  • PRO – Infrastructure as Code
  • CON – vRA 8.0 is essentially a 1.0 product, potentially lots of bugs
  • CON – Not well documented / blogged by VMware customers
  • CON – Missing Features

Missing Features

This is probably the biggest sticking point for many customers – “Feature X is missing from vRA 8.0 so I can’t deploy it”. Admittedly, vRA 8.0 does have several features missing such as approval policies, multi-tenancy, granular role based access and the property dictionary.

Approval Policies – Although approval policies are missing from vRA 8.0 and many customers on vRA 7.x are using them, the same customers also use tools such as ServiceNow, where vRA can leverage the ServiceNow capabilities for the approval policies, with vRA 8.0 then taking over the deployment once ServiceNow has completed the approval workflow. I have not heard anything hinted that this may return in vRA 8.1, so for now there are simply no approval policies in vRA 8.

Multi-Tenancy – Unfortunately multi-tenancy is not available in vRA 8.0. It has been hinted a several public VMware events and VMUG events that vRA 8.1 will be released with multi-tenancy, but we still don’t know what this will look like or if it will provide the same separation as version 7.x did. For now, if you require multi-tenancy, vRA 7.6 or waiting for vRA 8.1 are your only options.

Property Dictionary – The property dictionary which was utilised extensively by customers in vRA 7.x is gone from vRA 8.0. Never fear though, there is a replacement! Almost all vRA components now have a generic key-value pair for tagging different components. VMware provides some good documentation on Tags and how best to use them, so have a good read of the documentation here.

Ansible – With vRA 7.x, Ansible Tower was supported. However, vRA 8.0 only supports Ansible (Open Source) and not Ansible Tower.

Unsupported Endpoints – vRA 8.0 does not support several endpoints. The full list is available here and this includes vCloud Director, Hyper-V and VCH.

VMware Support

VMware has confirmed that vRA 7.6 will be supported until 11th April, 2022 which is over 2 years after the version 8.0 product was released. VMware seems to be happy supporting version 7.6 for a while longer yet, as they understand that customers will need time to migrate from 7.x to 8.x. The details below are correct at time of publishing (November 30th, 2019).

FeaturevRA 7.4vRA 7.5vRA 7.6vRA 8.0
End of General Support17th Dec 202017th Dec 202011th Apr 202217th Oct 2021
Support Length2 Years2 Years3 Years2 Years
Upgrade to 8.x?NoYesYesYes

Migration Assessment

Shipping with vRA 8.0 is the “vRA 7 Migration Assessment” and although this does not allow you to upgrade from 7.x to 8.x, it will analyse your vRA and vRO instances and find potential problems. Issues such as blueprints with software components and vRO code referencing the vCAC Cafe or IaaS objects will all be highlighted. Each component will be analysed and it will provide a status for each object as either Ready, Ready with Warnings or Not Ready, along with a description. I am sure this migration assessment will be upgraded for vRA 8.1 to match any new features, but it is a good idea to run it now to get an idea of how compatible your environment might be. More information is available here.

Final Thoughts

So after all of that, what should I go with? The answer for me was essentially both. I will be deploying vRA 7.6 as the development instance in a greenfield environment and vRA 8.0 as a sandpit instance where users can get familiar with where the product is heading. The vRA 8.0 instance will provide very basic functionality initially, but can be built upon as the product matures over the coming releases, while the vRA 7.6 instance will be the main instance used by users, ensuring that all available features can be leveraged. I am very excited to see where the vRA 8.x product line is heading and look forward to seeing future upgrades.

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