vCenter Orchestrator 4.1 has been just released as part of vSphere 4.1.

Here is a summary of the main changes since version 4.0, along with our analysis.

Improvements

Performance and scalability: 5 to 10 times faster than vCO 4.0. 10,000 managed VMs per vCenter Orchestrator Server instead of 3,000 in 4.0!

  • vCO Workflow engine and scripting engine code base has been optimized.
    • Workflows are now processed faster, using fewer resources.
  • vCO now runs on Java 1.6 64 bit Java Runtime Environment (versus Java 1.5 32 bit for 4.0):
    • Java 1.6 provides performance improvements.
    • 64 bit JVM allows many more objects in memory (default memory was set to 1 GB in 4.0 with very little possibility for increase; 4.1 has a 2 GB default and can be increased substantially).
  • A large amount of bugs have been fixed.

Better Integration with vSphere

  • The vCO vSphere plug-in now fully supports the 4.1 API.
  • You can now point vCO to a vCenter server instead of having to enter the vCenter Server License yourself.
  • You can now add managed vCenter servers dynamically to your vCO set-up without having to restart the vCO server.

Caveats

In vSphere 4.0 some experimental, unsupported features were available for selection in the configuration Web interface. The vCO 4.0 Installation and Configuration Guide states that:

  • "The supported directory service types are: Active Directory, eDirectory, and Sun Java System Directory Server. OpenLDAP is not supported and can only be used for testing and evaluation purposes."
  • "Orchestrator server supports Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server databases and provides experimental support for MySQL and PostgreSQL. You can use MySQL and PostgreSQL for testing and evaluation purposes."

In vSphere 4.1 these options are hidden by default. They can be revealed by following our Configuration Q&A or the Installation and Configuration Guide referenced below. These options are not officially supported since they are not supported by vSphere 4.1. Technically, they certainly do work (I use PostgreSQL on a daily basis on my development system) but do not install them in production or on any system on which you might require support.

Deprecated Features

The following features are still present in vCenter Orchestrator 4.1 but will not be supported in the next major release:

  • Authorizations: These are rarely used. Authorizations enable or disable managed vCenter Orchestrator objects in Web views. vCO developers prefer to manage these objects programmatically (if you look at LCM internals, you can see how it is done).
  • OGNL expressions in workflow presentations: These were used by advanced developers. The workaround is to use Javascript based actions, which simplifies development and maintenance anyway.
  • Policies: Often, policies were used to schedule workflows. Since vCO has a workflow scheduler it is easy not to use policies. Another use of policies is to trigger a workflow if a defined event occurs. vCO 4.0 introduced a new workflow element that waits on such events. A possible workaround to replace policies is to implement a "wait for event" loop that starts parallel workflows.
  • Web views: Web views depend on older versions of the Dojo toolkit (used in the Web front end) and on the Tapestry framework (used in the Web back end). Since there is no replacement for Web views just yet (other than the SOAP Web service, that does not include a presentation layer), you can still use Web views vCO in 4.1.

This list of deprecated features should give you a good idea of how to adapt your development strategy to ensure maximum compatibility with future versions of vCO.

Conclusion

In vCO 4.0, the principal effort was to integrate the 3.x version into vSphere. The 4.1 release focuses on improving performance and scalability but also improves the availability and reliability of the Orchestrator platform. This release still supports the legacy features. The major next release will drop some of the legacy features to allow for significant evolution of the platform.

To see the full vCO 4.1 documentation, please consult vCO Technical publications landing page.