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Azeez Lukman
Azeez Lukman

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VRA API Authentication: Ensuring Secure Access and Understanding Authentication Methods

Using APIs is an effective way to programmatically access vRealize Automation (vRA). However, secure access to your API is essential when managing and automating your infrastructure. This article explores VRA API authentication using API tokens, a secure and efficient way to programmatically access vRA resources.

Understanding vRealize Automation

VMware vRealize Automation is a robust cloud management platform that empowers orga nizations to automate and orchestrate the provisioning and management of various cloud resources, including virtual machines and containers. This platform aids businesses in delivering IT services rapidly, efficiently, and securely. A key feature of vRealize Automation is its robust API infrastructure, which enables developers to seamlessly integrate vRA into their applications and workflows.

Key Concepts of VRA API Authentication

Before delving into the authentication methods, it's essential to establish some fundamental concepts:

1. Authentication: Authentication is the process of confirming the identity of a user or application. It typically involves the use of credentials such as usernames and passwords.

2. Authorization: After successful authentication, authorization determines what actions a user or application is allowed to perform within the VRA environment. It defines access permissions and rights.

3. Tokens: Tokens serve as proof of authentication in API requests. Once a user or application is authenticated, they receive a token that must be included in subsequent API requests to prove their identity.

VRA API Authentication Methods

vRealize Automation provides various authentication methods to cater to diverse use cases and security requirements. The choice of method depends on your specific needs and existing infrastructure. Here are some of the most commonly used VRA API authentication methods:

1. Basic Authentication: This is the simplest form of authentication, involving a username and password. While easy to implement, it is generally considered less secure, as credentials are transmitted in plain text. It's recommended to use this method over secure channels like HTTPS.

2. API Tokens: API tokens are a more secure alternative to basic authentication. Users generate tokens with limited access rights and use them to authenticate API requests. Tokens can be revoked or refreshed as needed, enhancing security.

3. OAuth 2.0: OAuth 2.0 is a widely adopted authentication framework that provides a standardized way to grant limited access to resources without exposing credentials. VRA supports OAuth 2.0, making it a robust choice for integration with third-party applications.

4. SSO Integration: VRA can be integrated with Single Sign-On (SSO) systems like VMware Identity Manager or external identity providers. This streamlines authentication processes and centralizes user management.

Using API Tokens for Authentication

Now, let's focus on API tokens, a secure and versatile authentication method. But why should you choose API tokens for authentication in the first place?

1. Security: API tokens are typically long, randomly generated strings that are difficult to guess. They do not contain sensitive information like passwords, making them more secure for authentication.

2. Scalability: API tokens can be easily generated and revoked as needed. This makes them ideal for managing access to your vRA resources, especially in dynamic environments.

3. Expiration: Tokens can have expiration dates, reducing the risk of unauthorized access if a token is leaked or compromised.

4. Granular Access Control: With API tokens, you can control the level of access granted to a user. For example, you can create tokens with read-only access or restrict access to specific resources.

How to Obtain an API Token for Authentication

To interact with the vRA API using API tokens, follow these steps:

Export Variables

Start by exporting the values on the command line, including the vRA hostname, your username, and password. This makes it easier to reference these values in the other steps.

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Request an API Token

VRA API authentication uses an API token to authenticate the user or client and request an access token. The API token is obtained through an initial authentication process where credentials are provided, and it does not grant access to resources directly. Instead, it is used to acquire an access token, which determines the scope of access. The API token may have a longer lifetime than the access token but is still limited and used to request access tokens periodically.

Make a request to the Identity Service API to obtain the API token. The token will be attached to your request headers for authentication:

api_token=`curl -X POST \
 "$service_url/csp/gateway/am/api/login?access_token" \
 -H 'Content-Type: application/json' \
 -d '{
 "username": "'"$username"'",
 "password": "'"$password"'"
}' | jq -r .refresh_token`

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Retrieve the Access Token

Now that you have the API token, make another request to get and assign the access token. The access token is the JSON web token that grants access to specific vRA resources and defines the scope of actions the client can perform.

access_token=`curl -X POST \
 "$service_url/iaas/api/login" \
 -H 'Content-Type: application/json' \
 -s \
 -d '{
 "refreshToken": "'"$api_token"'"
}' | jq -r .token`
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Testing Your Access

To ensure that you have successfully authenticated and can interact with the VRA API, you can perform actions like listing all cloud accounts or workflows. Here's an example using the access token:

curl -X GET $url/iaas/api/cloud-accounts?apiVersion=$api_version -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -H "Authorization: Bearer $access_token" | jq "."

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Similarly, you can list workflows or perform other actions based on your requirements.


vRA API authentication is a critical component of securing your infrastructure management and automation tasks. By understanding the available authentication methods and choosing the right one for your needs, such as API tokens for enhanced security and control, you can ensure the integrity and security of your vRealize Automation environment.


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