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VMware Fling tosses admins into the automation pool

The PowerActions Fling makes it easier for users to attach PowerShell scripts to the vSphere Web Client and get IT shops started on automating tasks in the virtual data center.

If you haven't already, check out the new VMware Fling called PowerActions. This Fling marries the vSphere Web...

Client with PowerShell to let administrators launch PowerShell consoles and run scripts in the vSphere Web Client.

This functionality is nothing new. Administrators have been using the PowerShell plug-in inside of vCenter Orchestrator (vCO) and registering vCO within the vSphere Web Client for a while now. However, this process involved quite a few steps and configurations.

PowerActions isn't that much different, using a separate PowerShell host -- sometimes called a jump box -- to provide the execution environment and lets the vSphere Web Client be the front end to the scripting environment. PowerActions is simple to set up; after meeting a handful of system requirements, it's as easy as installing an MSI package on the box you want to be your PowerShell host.

Why is automating important?

Some say the new role of IT centers around DevOps and applying those same DevOps standards into enterprise architecture and management. Others say the future revolves more around cloud and elastic resources. Others tend to go the software as a service route and focus solely on the delivery of applications. But it's universally accepted that all roads lead to automation -- and orchestration plays a key role in the future of IT.

With all the functionality and efficiency that PowerActions provides, we have to remember that it is just a Fling.

PowerActions, although not a full orchestration product, provides administrators with a simple execution framework that can be configured within minutes. Over the last few years, PowerShell has become much more mainstream and has been integrated into many products from third-party vendors. By leveraging an automation framework many people are comfortable with and placing it within the vSphere Web Client, VMware is helping companies take that first step in the orchestration journey.

The PowerActions Fling doesn't give you the functionality of vCenter Orchestrator or HP Operations Orchestration. It can't necessarily support scheduling, nor can it be easily chained together with products that don't support PowerShell. It also cannot be triggered to execute scripts responding to certain events, but it gives an administrator an idea of the potential from automation.

Organization is key

Aside from providing an easy way to automate the environment, PowerActions can help administrators organize their scripts.

I have scripts scattered everywhere: on vCenter servers, other jump boxes, my laptop and USB drives. PowerActions can take all of these scripts and consolidate them on one server, making them easy to find and execute.

It can also associate scripts to run contextually on the inventory items within our vCenter environment; if we have a script that we normally run against a VM, we can place it within the right-click context menu of our VMs. The same goes for hosts and data centers.

Sharing is caring

PowerActions has a nifty sharing feature to either mark a script as private or to share them with other team members. If you have a PowerCLI script that resolves an issue with snapshot consolidation that you execute every time foreign snapshots are found, sharing it will allow your co-workers to execute this same script and resolve the problem if you are unavailable.

It's still a baby step!

With all the functionality and efficiency that PowerActions provides, we have to remember that it is just a Fling. There's no telling if it will be baked into vSphere. It definitely has a 1.0 look and feel to it. That said, it's easy to install, simple to use and lets us execute PowerCLI scripts from within the vSphere Web Client.

This was last published in November 2014

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Will you have a fling with PowerActions?
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At some point? Probably. Not right now, though - we're in the middle of developing something, and we try to avoid making too many changes while a project is active. That... tends to create more problems than it solves. Still, PowerActions definitely look like something we'll be integrating in the future, and holding off on getting such flings means they have more time to mature into a functional, usable system we'll know how to use properly.
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