vSphere Automation SDKs

This week VMware open sourced their SDKs for vSphere using REST APIs, and Python. The REST API was released with vSphere 6.0, while the Python SDK has been around for nearly four years now. I’m going to summarise the contents of this release below, and where these can help us make more of our vSphere environments.

REST API

The vSphere REST API has been growing since the release of vSphere 6 nearly two years ago, and brings access to the following areas of vSphere with its current release:

  • Session management
  • Tagging
  • Content Library
  • Virtual Machines
  • vCenter Server Appliance management

These cover mainly new features from vSphere 6.0 (formerly known as vCloud Suite SDK), and then some of the new bits put together for modernising the API access in vSphere 6.5. The Virtual Machine management particularly is useful in being able to start using REST based methods to do operations, and report on VMs in your environment, very useful for people looking to write quick integrations with things like vRealize Orchestrator, where the built in plugins do not do what you want.

The new material, available on GitHub, contains two main functions:

Postman Collection

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 10.28.54.png

Postman is a REST client used to explore APIs, providing a nice graphical display of the request-response type methods used for REST. This is a great way to get your head round what is happening with requests, and helps to build up an idea of what is going on with the API.

Pre-built packs of requests can be gathered together in Postman ‘Collections’; these can then be distributed (in JSON format) and loaded into another instance of Postman. This can be crucially important in documenting the functionality of APIs, especially when the documentation is lacking.

There are some instructions on how to set this up here; if you are new to REST APIs, or just want a quick way to have a play with the new vSphere REST APIs, you could do far worse than starting here.

Node.js Sample Pack

Node.js has taken over the world of server side web programming, and thanks to the simple syntax of Javascript, is easy to pick up and get started with. This pack (available here) has some samples of Node.js code to interact with the REST API. This is a good place to start with seeing how web requests and responses are dealt with in Node, and how we can programatically carry out administrative tasks.

These could be integrated into a web based portal to do the requests directly, or I can see these being used in the future as part of a serverless administration platform, using something like AWS Lambda along with a monitoring platform to automate the administration of a vSphere environment.

Python SDK

Python has been an incredibly popular language for automation for a number of years. Its very low barrier to getting started makes it ideal to pick up and learn, with a wealth of possibilities for building on solid simple foundations to make highly complex software solutions. VMware released their ‘pyvmomi’ Python SDK back in 2013, and it has received consistent updates since then. While not as popular, or as promoted as their PowerCLI PowerShell module, it has nevertheless had strong usage and support from the community.

The release on offer as part of the vSphere Automation SDKs consists of scripts to spin up a demo environment for developing with the Python SDK, as well as a number of sample scripts demonstrating the functionality of the new APIs released in vSphere 6.0 and 6.5.

The continued growth in popularity of Python, along with leading automation toolsets like Ansible using a Python base, mean that it is a great platform to push this kind of development and publicity in. As with Node.js; serverless platforms are widely supporting Python, so this could be integrated with Lambda, Fission, or other FaaS platforms in the future.

Conclusion

It’s great to see VMware really getting behind developing and pushing their automation toolkits in the open, they are to my mind a leader in the industry in terms of making their products programmable, and I hope they continue at this pace and in this vein. The work shown in this release will help make it easier for people new to automation to get involved and start reaping the benefits that it can bring, and the possibilities for combining these vSphere SDKs with serverless administration will be an interesting area to watch.

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