vRA 8.4 - Working with custom forms & templates can be really frustrating

I've been using 8.4 for a bit now and here are some issues I have noticed when working with templates:

  • Not able to assign null or empty string values to inputs in a cloud template - this is really odd, why does it work that way? For example, I want to construct an array from input values, and I need a null value so that the order of elements does not get messed up. When you assign a null value, the user form throws an error.
  • Not able to assign null or empty values to inputs in a custom form - same as above, really strange that this is not allowed
  • Not able to set the input to required=false in a custom form, except when you set a default value for this input, however the default value cannot be empty or null or a string with length=0
  • After releasing a new version of a cloud template to the catalog, the catalog item does not get updated automatically (new version cannot be selected). You have to manually update the content from the Service Broker > Content Sources menu, but this does not always work and often has to be repeated multiple times
  • The same as above applies to the custom form fields and external values - when a value has to be calculated by a vRO action, you can create a new action in vRO, then sync the content using the integrations menu option. this should import all new actions, so you can use the new action in a custom form field, but this does not always work or the sync is extremely delayed and has to be repeated multiple times
  • When you apply some conditional or external values to the custom form fields, they will work when requesting a new catalog item, but will not work when you load the form during an "Update" action on the deployment
  • Not being able to use the count property for deployed resources, with the exception of vSphere disks, it seems... I hope this will be imlemented at some point, otherwise you have to use workarounds that make the template unnessecary complex

Those might seem like minor issues but get really frustrating when you start to deploy you own templates. There's a great amount of new features in the new release, but the % amount of jank seems to remain constant 😞

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It's good to see critical feedback out here, as opposed to just problems that need solved.  I have no idea if anyone from the vRA team hangs around out here at all, but maybe they do and maybe they would take some of these concerns seriously.  Who knows....

I doubt much will change with the new paradigm of content sources.  That seems like a design decision and would probably be difficult/disruptive to walk back.  From our experience, updating the content source never has to be run more than once.  And to be frank, it's just a couple clicks.  We're not updating our templates all that often, maybe once every couple months - so definitely not a big deal to us.

I think we have seen that external actions may take what seem like 2 cycles of vRO syncs before they show.  Or sometimes, I believe, we have had to update the version of the action in vRO so vRA would "see" it as changed.  Never fully looked into the when/why for those scenarios, so I might have that wrong.

For cloud templates, we have resorted to setting all of the default values to empty strings (for text fields) so that we can control whether they're required or not in the custom form.  I agree that this is a pain point - why not just assume an input is null if it's not passed.  Not sure if that is actually be design but does seem silly?

We have found, at least for parameters of external actions on a custom form, that we can set a constant to empty string if we open the yaml and set it accordingly in there.  I have not tried that with the default values for form fields, but maybe that would work?  Again, agree that the "empty" use cases on custom forms doesn't seem well thought out.

I have mostly found the Update action useless/problematic.  I agree that it does not seem to care at all that there may have been a custom form used when creating this thing and that we want to use that custom form again if updating.  So we really try to avoid using it.  We were hoping it would be like a resubmit from days old, but it really is not.

All that said, we've been rocking with 8.x since December and things are going pretty well.  But we dove in pretty hard to prove that we could reproduce the functionality we had in 7.5 with 8.x.  It took a decent amount of effort but I'm glad we're through it and on the other side now. 

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