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Configure a cloud computing test lab with vCloud Automation Center

If you have the capacity and the inclination, follow these steps to build a virtual machine test environment with vCloud Automation Center.

The previous article detailed a basic installation of VMware vCloud Automation Center.

The vCloud Automation Center tool adds capabilities for hypervisor and cloud infrastructure management to a virtual data center. Here, find out how to make some configuration changes and spin up some virtual machines (VMs) after you've installed VMware's vCloud Automation Center for testing a cloud computing environment.

Creating groups in vCAC

First, log in to your vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) installation Web interface with the administrator account.

Next, you need to create an enterprise group (see Figure 1). Enterprise groups define the resources available to the cloud. Click "vCAC Administrator", then "New Enterprise Group".

Open the vCAC administrator screen to create a new enterprise group
Figure 1. Create a new enterprise group in vCAC administrator screen

Give this new group a useful name and description. Enter your domain admin in the Enterprise Admin box. The compute resource available shows all the vCenter clusters and the machines that encompass them. In my case, this is my Lab Cluster. Put a tick in the checkbox and click "OK".

You now have a new option on the left-hand side named "Enterprise Administrator".

Now we can create provisioning groups, which are logical collections of machines with users, approvers and administrators.

Click "Provisioning Groups" followed by "New Provisioning Group" in the top right-hand corner. Create a default machine prefix so the machines can be auto-deployed by clicking the "..." box, update all three fields and then click "OK". You may need to exit and reselect it to populate the field.

Fill in other fields as needed, making sure your Active Directory (AD) container is correct by using the full AD path. For example, in my basic test lab it is set up as: "ou=test,dc=local".

Assigning capacity in vCAC

Once the Enterprise group is available, assign some reservations and capacities. Go to "Enterprise Administrator", then "Reservations". Click "New Reservation" and select "Virtual".

Choose "Compute Resource" from the drop-down list. Note this screen has multiple tabs.

On the first tab, "Reservation Information", the name will be auto-populated, but it can be changed. You also need to select which provisioning group can access this resource; select the group you created earlier. Ignore Reservation Policy and Machine Quota for now. Set priority at 0 because we are only provisioning for this group.

Click on the "Resources" tab to create reservations for the memory and new VMs across the cluster. Sometimes this setting doesn't stick, so you may have to repeat it a few times. Regarding storage: Although you can see local devices, I suggest you do not use them and stick to shared storage. If you use local devices for storage and the host fails, you will lose access to the storage and therefore the VM.

You can also select Resource Pools if required. In addition, if you want to play with alerts and alarms, you can see those settings on the Alerts tab. Click "Save" to save the settings.

Creating blueprints in vCAC

Now we can create some blueprints. Global Blueprints are templates with more configuration details; they are similar to vSphere templates and can be adjusted in hardware terms as needed. Go to "Global Blueprints" and select "New Blueprint", then choose "Virtual" from the drop-down menu.

On the Blueprint Information tab, fill in the Name field with something easy to remember. On Groups, choose the provisioning group you wish to have access to the machine.

The default cost of a virtual machine based on configuration for daily usage
Figure 2. The cost based on the configuration.

Select the prefix you created from the drop-down list. Don't select an approval policy yet. The approval policy is utilized when you want to use workflow and approvals for chargeback, so for testing purposes it's not important.

You can also set the maximum number of machines per user. Archive specifies the number of days before the machine is archived. Fill in the default cost of a machine based on this configuration for daily usage. (See Figure 2). This is the cost for the base template; extra memory and CPUs can be included in the cost for the configuration.

On the last tab, named "Build Information", set the Platform type to "vSphere (vCenter)". Set the "Blueprint" type to "Server", and set "Action" to "Clone". You also need to determine the number of archive days, which is the number of days a machine is active before it is deleted.

Choose "Clone from" and click the "…" box to choose your VM template. After selecting the clone, the rest of the resource tab will be auto-populated. You can leave Properties and Securityalone for now.

Now you can go to "Blueprints", click on the blueprint and select "Request Machine". All being well, your machine should now provision. If you look at the vSphere client, you will see the machine being built.

To make the setup more friendly for business users, you can install the self-service portal in the Extensibility file hosted on the same webpage as the vCAC installation file.

About the author:
Stuart Burns is a virtualization expert for an 80,000-user global financial Fortune 500 company based in the Boston area. Stuart has been involved in VMware and virtualization for six years, as well as OpenStack. He holds multiple VMware certifications including VCP.

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