Red Hat CloudForms, and its "upstream" sibling ManageIQ, are powerful cloud management platforms that allows us to efficiently manage our virtual infrastructure and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clouds. A significant part of this efficiency comes from automating many of the day-to-day tasks that would otherwise require manual involvement, or time-consuming and possibly error-prone repetitive steps.

This book is an introduction and how-to guide to working with the Automate feature of CloudForms 4.2 and its corresponding ManageIQ release Euwe.

Automate simplifies our lives and increases our operational efficiency. It allows us to do such things as:

  • Eliminate many of the manual decisions and operations involved in provisioning virtual machines and cloud instances.

  • Load-balance our virtual machines across our virtual infrastructure to match our organisation’s way of working, be it logical (e.g. cost centre, department), operational (e.g. infrastructure lifecycle environment), or categorical (e.g. server role or virtual machine characteristic).

  • Create service catalogs to allow our users to provision virtual machines from a single Order button.

  • Create auto-scalable cloud applications where new virtual machines are dynamically provisioned on demand.

  • Manage our complete virtual machine lifecycle.

  • Integrate our virtual machine provisioning workflow with the wider enterprise, for example automatically registering new virtual machines with a Red Hat Satellite server.

  • Implement intelligent virtual machine retirement workflows that de-allocate resources such as IP addresses, and unregister from directory services.

A Brief Word on Terminology

This book refers to Automate as the CloudForms or ManageIQ capability or product feature, and automation as the thing that Automate allows us to do. The Automation Engine allows us to create intelligent automation workflows, and run automation scripts written in Ruby, or Ansible playbooks.

Who Should Read This Book

This book will appeal to cloud or virtualisation administrators who are interested in automating parts of their virtual infrastructure or cloud computing environment. Although primarily aimed at those with some familiarity with CloudForms or ManageIQ, many of the concepts and terms such as orchestration and automation workflows will be easily understood even to those unfamiliar with the product.

Automate can be one of the more challenging aspects of the tools to master. The practitioner requires an unusual blend of skills; a familiarity with traditional "infrastructure" concepts such as virtual machines, hypervisors, and tenant networks, but also a flair for scripting in Ruby and mastery of a programming object model. There is no black magic however, and all of the skills can be learned if we are shown the way.

The book assumes a reasonable level of competence with the Ruby language on the part of the reader. There are many good on-line Ruby tutorials available, including Codecademy’s Learn to program in Ruby.

The book also presumes a comfortable level of working experience and familiarity of the Web User Interface (WebUI) features of either CloudForms or ManageIQ, particularly Insight, Control, tagging, and provisioning VMs via the Lifecycle → Provision VMs entry point. Many of these features will be automated as we follow the examples in the book, and so an understanding of why tagging is useful (for example) is helpful.

Both CloudForms and ManageIQ are web applications, so interaction is predominantly via the browser-based WebUI. We only use a command line terminal when we initially configure a CloudForms appliance, or when troubleshooting or examining logfiles.

Navigating This Book

The book is divided into seven parts.

Part I "Working With Automate"

Chapter 1, Introduction to CloudForms and ManageIQ, sets the scene and describes the capabilities of CloudForms and ManageIQ as cloud management platforms.

Chapter 2, Introduction to the Automate Datastore, takes us on a tour of the objects that we work with when we use the Automate capabilities of CloudForms and ManageIQ.

Chapter 3, Writing and Running Our Own Automate Scripts, introduces us to writing automation scripts in Ruby, with a simple "Hello, World!" example.

Chapter 4, Using Schema Variables, shows how we can use our instance’s schema to store and retrieve variables.

Chapter 5, Working with Virtual Machines, demonstrates how to work with an Automation Engine virtual machine object, and how to run an automation script from a custom button in the Web User Interface.

Chapter 6, Peeping Under the Hood, introduces some background theory about Rails models, and how CloudForms and ManageIQ abstract these as Service Models that we work with when we write our automation scripts.

Chapter 7, $evm and the Workspace, takes us on a tour of the useful $evm methods that we frequently use when scripting, such as $evm.vmdb and $evm.object.

Chapter 8, A Practical Example: Enforcing Anti-Affinity Rules, is a real-world full-script example of how we could use the techniques learnt so far to implement anti-affinity rules in our virtual infrastructure, based on tags.

Chapter 9, Using Tags from Automate, describes in detail how we can create, assign, read, and work with tags from our Ruby automation scripts.

Chapter 10, Investigative Debugging, discusses the ways that we can discover which Automate objects are available to us when scripting. This is useful both from an investigative viewpoint when developing scripts, but also for debugging our scripts when things are not working as expected.

Chapter 11, Ways of Entering Automate, shows us the various workflow entry points into the Automate Datastore. It also illustrates how we can determine programmatically the way that our automation script has been called, so enabling us to create re-usable scripts.

Chapter 12, Requests and Tasks, illustrates how more advanced Automate operations are separated into a Request stage, which requires administrative approval to progress into the Task stage. The corresponding request and task objects are described, and their usage compared.

Chapter 13, State Machines, introduces us to state machines, and how we can use them to intelligently sequence our workflows.

Chapter 14, More Advanced Schema and Instance Features, discusses the more advanced but less frequently used schema and instance features; Messages, Assertions, Collections, and the .missing instance.

Chapter 15, Event Processing, describes the way that CloudForms and ManageIQ respond to external events such as a virtual machine shutting down, and traces the event handling sequence through the Automate Datastore. It also shows how Automate manages its own internal events such as request_started.

Part II "Provisioning Virtual Machines"

Chapter 16, Provisioning a Virtual Machine, introduces concept of virtual machine provisioning, the most complex out-of-the-box Automate operation that is performed by CloudForms and ManageIQ.

Chapter 17, The Provisioning Profile, describes how the provisioning profile is referenced to determine the initial group-specific processing that is performed at the start of a virtual machine provisioning operation.

Chapter 18, Approval, shows how the approval workflow operates, and how we can adjust the auto-approval criteria such as the number of virtual machines to be provisioned, or the amount of storage, to suit our needs.

Chapter 19, Quota Management, gives details of the CloudForms and ManageIQ quota handling mechanism, and how it enables us to establish quotas for tenants or groups.

Chapter 20, The Options Hash, explains the importance of a data structure called the options hash, and how we can use it to retrieve and store variables to customise the virtual machine provisioning operation.

Chapter 21, The Provisioning State Machine, discusses the stages in the state machine that governs the sequence of operations involved in provisioning a virtual machine.

Chapter 22, Customising Virtual Machine Provisioning, is a practical example showing how we can customise the state machine and include our own Methods to add a second hard disk during the virtual machine provisioning operation.

Chapter 23, Virtual Machine Naming During Provisioning, explains how we can customise the naming logic that determines the name given to the newly provisioned virtual machine.

Chapter 24, Virtual Machine Placement During Provisioning, explains how we can customise the placement logic that determines the host, cluster and datastore locations for our newly provisioned virtual machine.

Chapter 25, The Provisioning Dialog, describes the WebUI dialogs that prompt for the parameters that are required before a new virtual machine can be provisioned. The chapter also explains how the dialogs can be customised to expand optional ranges for items like size of memory, or to present a cut down bespoke dialog to certain user groups.

Chapter 26, Virtual Machine Provisioning Objects, details the four main objects that we work with when we write Ruby scripts to interact with the virtual machine provisioning process.

Chapter 27, Creating Provisioning Requests Programmatically, shows how we can initiate a virtual machine provisioning operation from an automation script, instead of the Web User Interface.

Part III "Automation using Ansible Tower"

Chapter 28, Automation using Ansible, introduces some Ansible concepts and describes the Tower features that we use when automating using Ansible, such as inventories, roles and job templates.

Chapter 29, Tower-Related Automate Components, describes the Automate datastore components and service models that are used when using Ansible for automation tasks.

Chapter 30, Running an Ansible Tower Job from a Button, is a practical example of creating a job template on an Ansible Tower server, and then running it on a VM from a WebUI button in CloudForms. Chapter 31, Integrating with Satellite 6 During Provisioning, is an example showing how an Ansible playbook can be used to register a newly created virtual machine with Red Hat Satellte 6, either as a host or content host (or both).

Part IV "Working with Services"

Chapter 32, Service Dialogs, introduces the components that make up a service dialog, including elements that can be dynamically populated by Ruby methods.

Chapter 33, The Service Provisioning State Machine, discusses the stages in the state machine that governs the sequence of operations involved in creating a service.

Chapter 34, Catalog{Item,Bundle}Initialization, describes two specific instances of the service provisioning state machine, that have been designed to simplify the process of creating service catalog items and bundles.

Chapter 35, Approval and Quota, shows the approval workflow for services, and how the new consolidated quota handling mechanism also applies to services.

Chapter 36, Creating a Service Catalog Item, is a practical example showing how to create a service catalog item to provision a virtual machine.

Chapter 37, Creating a Service Catalog Bundle, is a practical example showing how to create a service catalog bundle of three virtual machines.

Chapter 38, Ansible Tower Services, describes the Automate datastore components and service models that are used when we create services that run Ansible Tower job templates.

Chapter 39, Creating an Ansible Tower Service Catalog Item and Bundle, illustrates how to create a service catalog bundle that provisions a new virtual machine, and runs an Ansible Tower job template on it afterwards to configure the LAMP stack software components.

Chapter 40, Service Objects, is an exposé of the various objects that work behind the scenes when a service catalog item is provisioned.

Chapter 41, Log Analysis During Service Provisioning, is a step-by-step walk-through, tracing the lines written to automation.log at various stages of a service provision operation. This can help our understanding of the several levels of concurrent state machine activity taking place.

Chapter 42, Service Hierarchies, illustrates how services can contain other services, and we can arrange our service groups into hierarchies for organisational and management convenience.

Chapter 43, Service Reconfiguration, describes how we can create reconfigurable services. These are capable of accepting configuration parameters at order time via the service dialog, and can later be reconfigured with new configuration parameters via the same service dialog.

Chapter 44, Service Tips and Tricks, mentions some useful tips to remember when developing services.

Part V "Retirement"

Chapter 45, Virtual Machine and Instance Retirement, discusses the retirement process for virtual machines and instances.

Chapter 46, Service Retirement, discusses the retirement process for services.

Part VI "Integration"

Chapter 47, Calling Automate from the RESTful API, shows how we can make external calls into CloudForms or ManageIQ to run Automate Instances via the RESTful API. We can also return results to our caller in this way, enabling us to create our own pseudo-API endpoints within the two platforms.

Chapter 48, Automation Request Approval, explains how to customise the default approval behaviour for automation requests, so that nonadministrators can submit RESTful API requests without needing administrative approval.

Chapter 49, Calling External Services, shows the various ways that we can call out from Automate to integrate with our wider enterprise. This includes making outbound REST and SOAP calls, connecting to MySQL databases, and interacting with OpenStack using the fog gem.

Part VII "Miscellaneous"

Chapter 50, Tenancy and Automate, describes the CloudForms/ManageIQ tenancy model, and how we sometimes need to adapt our automation scripting to work with the tenancy concept.

Chapter 51, Distributed Automation Processing, describes how Automate has been designed to be horizontally scalable. The chapter describes the mechanism by which automation requests are distributed between multiple appliances in a Region.

Chapter 52, Argument Passing and Handling, explains how arguments are passed to, and handled internally by Automate methods for each of the different ways that we’ve called them up to this point in the book.

Chapter 53, Miscellaneous Tips, closes the book with some useful tips for Automate Method development.

Online Resources

There are several online resources that any student of CloudForms or ManageIQ Automate should be aware of.

Official Documentation

The official documentation for CloudForms is here:

The official documentation for ManageIQ is here:

Code Repositories

One of the best sources of reference material is the excellent CloudForms_Essentials code collection maintained by Kevin Morey from Red Hat ( This contains a wealth of useful code samples, and many of the examples in this book have originated from this source.

There is also the very useful Red Hat Consulting ( GitHub repository maintained by several Red Hat consultants.


The ManageIQ project hosts the ManageIQ Talk forum at


There are several blogs that have good CloudForms and ManageIQ-related articles, including some useful notes from the field. These include:

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions, path and object names within the Automate Datastore, Schema field values


Indicates WebUI components, event names, Schema field names

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This icon signifies a general note.


This icon signifies a tip or suggestion


This icon indicates a warning or caution.

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