Audit your VMware vCenter Server using Ansible

August 3, 2021 by Gonéri Le Bouder

vCenter has a graphical user interface if you want to interact with it, but what if you manage multiple vCenter servers and want to automate audits or the maintenance of those servers? In this blog, we will see how we can retrieve details about the VMware vCenter Server directly using Ansible. The practices laid out in the blog will help system administrators responsible for managing multiple vCenter servers. In addition, Ansible automation becomes imperative in development environments for testing against multiple instances in your CI/CD pipeline. 

The new vmware.vmware_rest Collection has recently been released and published, and it comes with a new set of modules dedicated to vCenter Server (VCSA) management.

VMware vSphere (Product bundle that includes vCenter Server and other features) 7.0.2 (a.k.a 7.0U2) comes with some new REST end-points. This REST API does not cover all the features exposed over the SOAP interface. Modules in the vmware.vmware_rest Collection are built on top of this API and face the same limitations.

The vmware.vmware_rest Collection contains these modules, which is supported by Red Hat and available on Ansible automation hub.

 

Validate the state of a vCenter Server instance from Ansible

Taking our own dogfooding example (or drinking our own champagne!), our cloud/infrastructure team maintains a CI to validate the VMware Ansible modules. Everytime a new change is submitted, the full test suite is run against a freshly deployed VMware lab. The initial deployment takes 15 minutes and so we cannot spawn a new environment before each of the dozen of tests are run. Hence, it becomes important to keep our test environments as clean as possible.

We use these new appliance modules to build an audit report of the vCenter instance before and at the end of the test suite run. This way, it will be easier to spot any inconsistency between test runs.

The appliance modules cover the following use cases.

  • Access → localaccounts, audit and control the Console, Direct Console UI, the Shell or even SSH.
  • Health → retrieve information about the state of the system component.
  • Networking → collect information about the network configuration and adjust it.
  • System → manage services, reboot the system, get the storage configuration, get the state of the updates, etc.
  • Time management → configure the NTP server, adjust the timezone.

How to start using these modules

The latest release of vmware_rest Collection available on Ansible automation hub supports vSphere 7.0.2 and greater.

We can pass the authentication keys either through some environment variables or with the module parameters. In the following example, we use the first option. For example:

VMWARE_HOST=<vsphere_host>
VMWARE_PASSWORD=<vsphere_password>
VMWARE_USER=<vsphere_username>

Note: The community.vmware Collection uses the same environment variables.

We will try to explain some sample use cases below for the readers to understand how you can start using these modules.

 

Collect information about a VCSA instance

In this first example, we secure the appliance by turning off any potential user interfaces. The REST interface that the modules use remains available. Here’s how you can check that using the modules available.

- name: Shell access should be disabled
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_access_shell_info:
- name: The Direct Console User Interface should also be disabled
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_access_dcui_info:
- name: We need the SSH access
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_access_ssh_info:

Response:

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": {
        "enabled": false,
        "timeout": 0
    }
}

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": false
}

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": true
}

 

The health states

We can rely either on the appliance_health modules or the other info modules to audit the state of your VCSA. For instance, here we check that the system load and the database are in a green state.

- name: Ensure the database health status is green
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_health_database_info:


- name: Get the system load status
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_health_load_info:


- name: Get the system load status
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_health_system_info:

Response:

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": {
        "messages": [
            {
                "message": {
                    "args": [],
                    "default_message": "DB state is Degraded",
                    "id": "desc"
                },
                "severity": "WARNING"
            }
        ],
        "status": "DEGRADED"
    }
}

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": "gray"
}

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": "gray"
}

In this example, our database is in a degraded state and the rest of the system is not in the optimal GREEN state.

 

Network configuration

Ansible is also able to read and set the network configuration of the VCSA. The appliance_networking_info modules return a system-wide overview of the network configuration:

- name: Get network information
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_networking_info:

Response: 

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": {
        "dns": {
            "hostname": "vcenter.test",
            "mode": "DHCP",
            "servers": [
                "192.168.123.1"
            ]
        },
        "interfaces": {
            "nic0": {
                "ipv4": {
                    "address": "192.168.123.8",
                    "configurable": true,
                    "default_gateway": "192.168.123.1",
                    "mode": "DHCP",
                    "prefix": 24
                },
                "mac": "52:54:00:c9:06:64",
                "name": "nic0",
                "status": "up"
            }
        },
        "vcenter_base_url": "https://vcenter.test:443"
    }
}

But we can also collect the details one specific NIC:

- name: Get details about one network interfaces
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_networking_interfaces_info:
    interface_name: nic0

Response:

{
    "changed": false,
    "id": "nic0",
    "value": {
        "ipv4": {
            "address": "192.168.123.8",
            "configurable": true,
            "default_gateway": "192.168.123.1",
            "mode": "DHCP",
            "prefix": 24
        },
        "mac": "52:54:00:c9:06:64",
        "name": "nic0",
        "status": "up"
    }
}

 

DNS configuration

The appliance_networking_dns_hostname_info module can be use to retrieve the hostname of the VCSA.

- name: Get the hostname configuration
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_networking_dns_hostname_info:

Response:

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": "vcenter.test"
}

Use the appliance_networking_dns_servers_info to get DNS servers currently in use:

- name: Get the DNS servers
  vmware.vmware_rest.appliance_networking_dns_servers_info:

Response:

{
    "changed": false,
    "value": {
        "mode": "dhcp",
        "servers": [
            "192.168.123.1"
        ]
    }
}

 

Conclusion and next steps

These new modules are helpful to quickly retrieve information from a running VCSA instance without relying on SSH. The outputs will fit well in a regular Ansible Playbook. Finally, you can also use them to adjust the configuration of the system (network, firewall, etc). An unsupported version of this Collection is also available on Ansible Galaxy.

For further reading and information, visit the other blogs related to VMware automation. If you are unfamiliar with Ansible Content Collections, check out our YouTube playlist for everything about Ansible Collections. The videos will get you up to speed quickly.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Automate infrastructure workflows e-book if you want to learn more about building a unified, automated pipeline for infrastructure operations.

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Topics:
Ansible Tower, Cloud, Infrastructure, VMware


 

Gonéri Le Bouder

Gonéri Le Bouder is a Senior Software Engineer for Red Hat Ansible Automation where he focuses on the Cloud technology. He is a long-time Free Software enthusiast with interest and contribution on various projects like OpenStack or even Mandrake Linux back in the days.


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