IaC for vRealize: Define Dependencies, Manage Versions, Prepare & Release Packages & Deploy Artifacts

Welcome to the third part in the series working with the vRealize Build Tools. At this stage, you should have a fully working CI infrastructure and have all of your vRO code exported using packages and stored in Git repositories. In this post, I will show you how to manage dependencies across your packages and how you can use the Maven plugins to automatically update packages so that they are using the latest dependency versions.

I will also show you how to manage versioning for development (Snapshots) and production (release) code. Once we have our versioning in place, I will detail how to prepare the releases and finally push the artefacts to the Artifactory repositories, which can be picked up by a release pipeline (something I will cover in much more detail in a later post).

I also want to point out that I had to update my previous post to include the git scm connections in your pom.xml files, as this is required for this post, so make sure to go back and check that out.

Understanding Snapshot vs Release Versions

The first thing to understand is the ‘-SNAPSHOT‘ string that is suffixed to package versions. You will have noticed that all of the package versions you created in my previous post, were version ‘1.0.0-SNAPSHOT’. This suffix tells Maven that the code inside this package is in a development stage and not suitable for production release. The Maven release plugins understand this and will prevent the dependency handler from including these as valid dependencies for your packages, as this could result in unstable code (though, they can be defined manually).

If you are following these posts, then currently, all your packages will be at version 1.0.0-SNAPSHOT. Don’t worry, we will change this later, but for now, accept this as-is.

Define Dependencies

In my previous post, I provided an example of 3 packages that I have created. I also created a table that detailed the ‘groupId‘ and ‘artifactId‘ for these packages. I am going to extend this table to list their dependencies on other packages. I have kept this simple, in that no dependencies exist outside of these 3 packages.

A dependency exists when one package is calling code from another package (typically with a System.getModule()). When dependencies are mapped, their artefacts and required versions are released as part of the release process.

groupId artifactId Dependency
com.simplygeek.library logger
com.simplygeek.library rest logger
com.simplygeek.library nsx logger

I have added the ‘Dependency‘ column, which lists the projects/artefacts that this package depends on. All of my packages depend on ‘logger‘, whereas ‘nsx‘ also depends on ‘rest‘.

We now need to add some XML to the projects ‘pom.xml‘ file, that is located at the root of the project folder. These are ‘<dependencies>‘ tags that are used to define a set of ‘<dependency>‘ tags for the project. You should insert these tags immediately after the ‘<packaging>‘ tags but before the ‘<scm>‘ tags.

We also want to omit ‘-SNAPSHOT‘ from the version, since we’ll be pushing actual releases.

Below is an example of what the dependency XML insert looks like for the ‘rest‘ package:

Once you have completed defining your dependencies, save the ‘pom.xml‘ file and make sure to commit the changes to git.

Repeat this process for all of your projects.

Prepare & Release Packages

Maven provides several lifecycle phases and goals that can be used to prepare and perform the releases. We will also need to push the release artefacts to the Artifactory repositories, as this will be queried for dependencies when releasing a package that has any defined.

You should first be focusing on all the core projects that make up most of your dependencies. Also, start with the projects that have dependencies in the lowest order, i.e. the ‘logger‘ project has no dependencies, so that will be released first, ‘rest‘ depends on ‘logger‘, so that will be released next, etc.

For all the release tasks, we’re going to specify the ‘release‘ plugin followed by the goal. We will use the following goals:

  • Clean
  • Prepare
  • Perform

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IaC for vRealize: Manage Existing vRO Code With vRealize Build Tools & Set up Git Repositories

In my previous post on Deploying vRealize Build Tools To Allow Infrastructure As Code for vRA and vRO, I covered how to set up the CI infrastructure and your developer workstation, in preparation for managing your vRO code as projects with Visual Studio Code and Maven. In this post, I will explain how you can work with your existing code base and manage it using the build tools. A major part of this will be creating and managing new projects that will map to our existing code in vRO.

Once projects have been created, I will detail how Git repositories can be used to store and manage your vRO code, and then we can map your project dependencies and allow development teams to work collaboratively, without risk of overwriting the work of others (a major problem when developing using the vRO client). Git is going to bring some very useful processes and methodologies to the table such as branching, tagging and merge conflict resolution.

I also want to point out that I am currently only focusing on Actions, as I believe this is where all your code should exist. I will have followup posts that will cover strategies for managing Workflows and other items.

Setting Up GitLab

One thing that I didn’t cover in my previous post, was setting up Git. I purposely reserved this topic for this post, as it was more relevant. To start, you will need to have a GitLab server deployed that can be used to create the repositories for storing your vRO projects. You can use GitHub if you so wish, it doesn’t matter too much, but using GitLab doesn’t require that your environments have access to the Internet. GitLab also allows you to create groups to organise multiple repositories, which is going to be useful.

If you need to install GitLab, then there is a good guide on VULTR, that details how to install GitLab and enable HTTPS.

Create User

You should be using your user account when working with Git and not the default root account. So log into the admin area and create a new local account for your personal use. Alternatively, you can also configure GitLab to allow users from Active Directory to log in, you can use the guide provided by Git here.

Create a Personal Access Token

Once you have a Git user account set up, you will need to create a Personal Access Token. An Access Token can be used instead of a password when authenticating with Git over HTTPS. This will provide safer storage of user credentials in the Git configuration files.

Click on the profile icon on the top right of the page and select Settings:

On the Settings page select Access Tokens.

On the ‘Add a personal access token‘ page, give the access token a name and the ‘write_repository‘ permissions. Set an expiry date if you wish, or leave blank to never expire.

Once you click ‘Create personal access token‘, the token will be displayed. You will need to copy and save this token somewhere safe as you will not be able to view it again. If you lose this token, you will have to create a new one to replace it.

Create a Group

A Group allows multiple projects/repositories to be created under a single namespace. This is useful when a project spans many repositories and you need to keep these together so that they are easy to locate and manage. Our vRO projects will be using multiple repositories, therefore we’ll great a Group for these. A Group also simplifies granting access to projects, as collaborators can be granted access to the group and inherently, the projects it contains.

To create a new group, select ‘Groups‘ from the main menu at the top and then select ‘Your groups‘.

Click the ‘New group‘ button and give your group a name and settings that you require (I simply called my group ‘vRO’).

We will create all vRO projects under this new group.

Install Git Client

You will also need to install the Git client for your workstation. You can download the client for your OS here. Read More

IaC for vRealize: Deploying vRealize Build Tools To Allow Infrastructure As Code for vRA and vRO

As any vRealize Orchestrator developer will tell you, managing code outside of the appliance is difficult. I recently wrote a post about Using Visual Studio Code for your vRealize Orchestrator Development, where I highlighted some of the challenges with this. The issue is that we’re not given the freedom to use any IDE we want, easily run unit tests on our code or do continuous integration with tools like Jenkins.

I did mention that a couple of solutions were going to make their way, one of these was internal tooling that VMware’s CoE team currently uses for their vRO development (you can read the article here: https://blogs.vmware.com/management/2018/11/automating-at-scale-with-vro-and-vra.html). It wasn’t possible to get access to these tools without engaging with CoE and forking up a bit of cash.

That is until now, as VMware has released these tools as a new fling. The fling is currently in preview, but you can check it out here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vrealize-build-tools. I think this is quite an exciting time for VMware developers as these tools could finally change the way we develop and manage our code and integrate into the wider developer ecosystem.

This is my first blog on this topic but if I find these tools useful, then there will be plenty more to follow. Getting the environment set up to use these tools is not straight forward and has several dependencies. These include deploying supporting infrastructure such as JFrog Artifactory, preparing all the required artifacts that are sourced from the vRO server and getting the workstation set up to create and manage packages.

Deploy and Configure Platform

Before the developer can begin using the vRealize Build Tools, the supporting platform has to be deployed and configured. This consists of setting up an Artifactory server to store Maven artifacts and build dependencies and preparing the artifact repositories.

Deploy Artifactory Server (skip if you already have this deployed)

This section will detail how to set up the Artifactory server and required dependencies. Note that the details below only deploy a single Artifactory node with the database instance running on the same machine. It is recommended that for a production environment to ensure Artificatory is deployed with high availability and connects to external/dedicated database instances.

Install Java Development Kit (JDK)

JFrog Artifactory requires the Java JDK 8 and above to be installed and the JAVA_HOME variable configured. I am using the Open Source version of these tools. Install using the following command:

Add the following lines to ‘/etc/profile‘ to set the ‘JAVA_HOME environment variable and add the Java bin directory to the path.

Then source the file and check that the variables have been correctly configured:

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