vCloud Automation Center Part 1 – Components Overview

Last year VMware acquired DynamicOps and their product called DynamicOps Cloud Automation Center (DCAC). DynamicOps originally started as part of the Credit Suisse’s Global Research and Development Group in 2005 to help the company address the operational and governance challenges of rolling out virtualization technology. After VMware acquired DynamicOps, the product has been rebranded to vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) and has recently been updated with the release of version 5.2.

Since the release of vCAC I’ve always wanted to find time to look at this new product in our portfolio, but I haven’t managed to do so until recently. vCAC allows internal IT departments to create provisioning blueprints and provision these blueprints to either VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, External cloud providers like AmazonEC2 and even physical machines using one single provisioning process. Apart from the out of the box functionality vCAC offers great extensibility to support end-to-end provisioning. Using so called workflow stubs, allow you to hook into the provisioning process at different stages to insert your customizations. Extensibility options include writing your own workflows in vCAC Designer and/or calling out to external systems like vCO or running PowerShell scripts.

Enough said, first things first. Let’s have a look at the architecture. The vCAC environment can be divided into 3 main parts:

  • The vCAC core components
  • The integration and distributed execution components
  • The provisioning infrastructure.

vCAC core

vCAC core part contains the following sub-components:

Web Server

There are three webserver services that can either be installed together on the same webserver or installed separately, distributed across multiple webservers. The vCAC web services are designed for Microsoft IIS and therefore need to be installed on a Microsoft IIS Web Server.

  • Administration Portal Web Site
    The Administration portal provides the administration user interface to vCAC and communicates directly with the Model Manager. The portal can be reached via https://<webserver_name>/vCAC.
  • Reports Web Site
    The reports web site provides access to vCAC reports, available through a link in the vCAC administration console or at via https://<webserver_name>/vCACReports.
  • Model Manager Web Services
    The Model Manager manages core vCAC and custom models. The Model Manager provides services and utilities for persisting, versioning, securing and distributing the different elements of the model and for communicating with the vCAC portal website and Distributed Execution Managers (DEMs).

vCAC server

The vCloud Automation Center service (commonly called the Manager Service) coordinates communication between vCAC agents, the vCAC database, Active Directory and SMTP. The Manager Service communicates with the portal website through the Model Manager. The system hosting the Manager Service is typically called the vCAC Server.

SQL server

vCAC requires a Microsoft SQL Server database to maintain information about the machines it manages and its own elements and policies. This database is typically created during vCAC installation, but can also be created manually before the vCAC installation.

Integration and distributed execution

The components in this part are the interface between the vCAC core components and the provisioning infrastructure.

Distributed Execution Manager

The Distributed Execution Manager (DEM) comes in two flavors. Each DEM instance can perform either as an Orchestrator or as a Worker.

  • DEM Orchestrator
    The DEM orchestrator works as a manager responsible for monitoring the DEM workers and responsible for scheduling workflows on those DEM workers. By preprocessing the workflows, it decides which worker needs to pick up a certain workflow to execute, as multiple workers can have different functionalities or skills as it’s called inside vCAC. If a worker loses connection, the DEM orchestrator puts its workflows back in the queue for another DEM worker to pick up.
  • DEM Worker
    The DEM worker is responsible for executing workflows

vCAC Agent

vCAC agents are used to interact with external system. There are different types of agents, each having specific functions, like agents that interact with hypervisors, agents that allow vCAC to run scripts in guests as part of the provisioning process, agents that interact with virtual desktop solutions or WMI agents that enable vCAC to collect data from Windows machines.

Provisioning Infrastructure

The provisioning Infrastructure is the environment that you want to provision blueprints to. This can be either one or a combination of the following:

  • Hyperisors:
    • VMware ESX(i)
    • Windows Hyper-V
    • RedHat KVM
    • Citrix XenServer
  • Hypervisor Management
    • VMware vCenter Server
    • Microsoft SCVMM
  • Hardware Management:
    • Dell iDRAC
    • HP iLO
    • Cisco UCS Manager
  • Cloud:
    • VMware vCloud Director
    • Amazon Web Services Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2)

It might sound massively complex when you’re looking into vCAC for the first time, but as soon as you understand the different components and where they fit, it’s getting a lot simpler. I’ve created a small conceptual diagram showing the above-mentioned components

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1 Comment on “vCloud Automation Center Part 1 – Components Overview”

  1. #1 vCAC 6.0 Resources | TheSaffaGeek
    on Feb 5th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

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