Cisco UCS Director and the PowerShell Agent – Part 3

In this blog post, we will be discussing how we can use the Cisco UCS Director macros (also known as variables) from either workflow inputs or from task outputs.  We will also show how these macros can be passed as arguments to our PowerShell scripts through the PowerShell Agent.

UCS Director Macros

Cisco UCS Director uses a variable system to be able to use inputs or outputs of tasks in subsequent tasks.  Based on the Cisco documentation, they call these macro variables or “macros” for short.  Not only can these macros come from workflow tasks, but there is also a slew of system macros that are available.  The orchestration within UCS Director can allow for you to not only use these macros for workflow input and task outputs, but you can also use them for many virtual machine level annotations.

When you create a workflow, you can define the inputs that you wish to either be entered in by the person running the workflow or by defining admin level inputs that require no manual entry.  You can access this functionality by navigating an admin level session to UCS Director to Policies > Orchestration.  From the Workflows tab, you can click on the +Add Workflow button to create a brand-new workflow.



Above is the first screen given to you.  From here, you can set some of the workflow settings, like name, description, and context.  You can also select some default behaviors of the workflow, like whether you want to set default email notifications to the initiating user of the workflow.  For the sake of this example, we’ll just fill out the bare basics (Workflow Name, Folder to place the Workflow).  Keep in mind that a workflow name CANNOT be duplicated, regardless of folder placement.  You will need unique names for all workflows!  Click on Next to advance.


This next screen is where the workflow input magic happens.  By clicking on the + button below the “Associate to Activity” section, you will begin the process of adding a new workflow input to the workflow.


At a bare minimum, the only thing required for UCS Director to enable an input is to give it a label (extremely important for later!) and the input type.  The input type comes in handy when dealing with task inputs that require the input to be in a preformatted type.  We will show examples of this later.  For this post, we will just show creating a Generic Text Input type.

I put in a label of Test and clicked on the Select button.  From there, a listing of all input types is available to be searched through.  In the upper right hand corner of that screen, enter in “generic” and it will filter the listing and look like this:


Clicking on the checkbox for Generic Text Input will highlight the option.  If we click on the Select button, we will see that the workflow input should look like this:


You’ll notice there are a couple of other checkboxes now available.  The first is the Multiline/MultiValue Input checkbox.  This option will allow for you to common separate multiple inputs and can be extremely useful when processing multiple values with a task that can take it as a workflow.  Otherwise, you can process this list in a Start…End loop in the UCS Director Workflow Designer.  We will get into looping in a workflow in a future blog post.

The last option that is available is the Admin Input checkbox box.  By checking this box, the admin can either select the object from the UCS Director database or enter in a hardcoded value for this variable that cannot be changed.

If neither of these checkboxes is selected, upon executing the workflow, the person executing will be presented with fields in which they will have to enter in their own text string.  Clicking on the Submit button will place this macro into the screen and you can close out the original workflow creation by clicking on Next button to the User Outputs (this comes in handy once you start implementing the concept of Parent/Child workflows, covered in later blog posts).  Lastly, click on Submit to save the workflow.

Using the Macro in a Workflow Task

Now that we’ve registered a workflow input, we can pass it to any task that accepts a Generic Text Input type for input.  Open the Workflow Designer on this new workflow we’ve created.  Let’s drag a test task over to show this.  Since I like the Execute PowerShell Command task, I’ve dragged that over and have begun filling out the task and advanced the screens to the User Input Mapping section.


In this example, we can see that PowerShell Agent takes an input type of Generic Text Input.  You can click on the Map to User Input checkbox and the User Input drop down will have all Generic Text Input macros available from either workflow inputs or other task outputs.  Since we have no other task outputs right now, the only macro to choose from was our previously created Test macro.

We can also use this macro as an inline macro for a text field.  If we click on Next, we can advance to the Task Inputs screen.  You can put the value inline by referencing the macro in the following format:  ${<macro name>}

In this case, we will place ${Test} into one of the fields.


The Label field will now automatically use whatever value is input by workflow executor.

Passing Macro Information to PowerShell

 Now that we’ve shown that you do put the macro value into inline fields, we can use this information for passing arguments into PowerShell scripts.  From this same task, let’s say that there is a PowerShell script called “HelloWorld.ps1”.  I need to pass the Test macro to it for processing.  In the Command/Script field, I would put the following:


This is a very primitive way to pass arguments to a PowerShell script.  Inside my script, to use this value, you could easily store this string information with a single command using the $args array.  You could do this like so:


You can pass many more macros this way, just remember which position you put those arguments.  From there, you can take the information in those macros and perform any of the PowerShell options you have at your disposal.

To Be Continued…

In the next blog post, we will explore some more advanced techniques using PowerShell.  One of the use cases I’ve found to be highly unique is returning multiple values from a PowerShell script and storing them into multiple task outputs for future usage using PowerShell hash tables and UCS Director CloupiaScript XML parsing, in the form of a Custom Task.


About snoopj

vExpert 2014/2015/2016/2017, Cisco Champion 2015/2016/2017, NetApp United 2017. Virtualization and data center enthusiast. Working too long and too hard in the technology field since college graduation in 2000.
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