Versioning and Renaming Elements in vCenter Orchestrator

During the development cycle of a workflow, your workflow can change drastically whenever you add new functionalities. Therefore a good practice is saving different versions of your workflow. One way to achieve this is by utilizing the built-in versioning functionality. As a best practice, always increase the version number of your workflow when making changes and don’t forget to write a decent comment describing the last changes. Although this enables you to revert back to the saved versions using the “version history”, it doesn’t allow you to have a peak at that version. Therefore I often find it more convenient keeping a copy of the workflow or action for reference and backup. This way you can easily open a saved version without impacting the current version and risking the loss of any changes.

Note: Pressing the “Revert” button in the editor or History Version Inspector, does NOT prompt you, but reverts to the last saved or the selected version state instantly.

Workflow Elements

Making a copy of the workflow or action for backup is easy. Right-click on the item and select “Duplicate …”. But be careful when duplicating workflows or actions; every element in vCenter Orchestrator is identified by an internal ID. This allows you to have multiple items with the same name, even in the same folder. Because of this ID, you can’t simply replace a workflow by putting a copy in the original folder using the same name.

When a workflow is called from within another workflow, the linked workflow is referenced by its ID. Renaming the linked workflow doesn’t break the link in the parent workflow. When you want to replace the linked workflow with another copy or version, you have to change the linked workflow element in the parent workflow to point to the replacement. Suppose that you have a main workflow called ‘wfMain’ referencing a sub-workflow ‘wfSub’. Figure 1 shows a graphical representation of this workflow.

Figure 1

When you want to create a duplicate of ‘wfSub’ to develop new functionality without affecting users using the current workflow, you create a duplicate and call that ‘wfSub_v2′. After adding new functionality you want your users to use this new version of the workflow. You rename ‘wfSub’ to ‘wfSub_v1′ and then rename ‘wfSub_v2′ to ‘wfSub’. When viewing the main workflow, you’ll see that the name of the referenced sub-workflow has changed to ‘wfSub_v1′ according to the rename operations. This is because the sub-workflow is linked by ID. What happened under the surface in vCO is that the new copy got a new internal ID and is not linked to the parent workflow ‘wfMain’. Figure 2 shows that the referenced workflow has been changed. Note that the name of the workflow element didn’t change.

Figure 2

When you have multiple linked workflows, replacing workflows can be a tedious task as there is no direct reference back or back-link to any parent workflow. The only option is using the search feature of the client to search for references as shown in Figure 3. Therefore avoid having a production version and a ‘development’ version of the same workflow or action on one server.

Figure 3

A best practice is running a separate development instance of vCO. This way you can develop new functionalities on the development server and, when finished, synchronize the new version to the production instance. By synchronizing content between vCO instances, the synchronized items on both the source and destination instance have the same internal ID. This saves you from replacing and relinking workflows. But be careful that you keep developing in the same ‘master’ workflow and only make duplicates for backup.

Tip: Make a duplicate of your workflow or action after every significant change. I always append the version number to the element’s name for easy reference.

Action Elements

Now let’s do the same operation on an action element. Let’s add an action element to the ‘wfMain’ workflow called ‘getMyObject’. Figure 4 shows the new workflow.

Figure 4

Now when you rename the action called ‘getMyObject’ to ‘getMyObject_v2′, you’ll notice that the reference of the action element didn’t changed. In fact the workflow is unable to run because it can’t find the referenced element ‘getMyObject’. When running a workflow validation, you’ll receive an error stating that a referenced element could not be found as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

This is because action elements are referenced by path (their location in the action library tree). Opening the action element and viewing the ‘Scripting’ tab as shown in Figure 6 can validate this.

Figure 6

Now create a new copy of the action element and give it the original name (‘getMyObject’). When you run the validation process again, everything is fixed.

Unlike workflow elements, there is no option to relink an action element to another action. So you’ll have to replace the action element with a new one. This also means that you have to bind all input and output parameters again as well as setting the exception binding if any.


So before you start renaming elements, think twice. As a best practice never rename elements. If you want to keep some versions of an element as a backup while working on a solution, remember that you create a backup of the current element and keep editing in the original version and not the copy. Also make sure that you update the version number after every change, because this version number is the only parameter being evaluated by vCO when determining the elements that need to be copied to the remote server during synchronization.

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