Automation in the cloud has a number of benefits that helps you save time and eliminate human error.
Cloud automation can help you innovate faster because it frees up your engineering team to focus on innovation — rather than repetitive tasks. It can also help you save money by scaling resources up and down to match your computing needs and budget.
But is this actually cloud automation or is it cloud orchestration?
This guide will help you understand what cloud orchestration is, how it differs from cloud automation, and why it matters. We’ll also cover several cloud orchestration tools and show how they can be helpful to engineering teams looking to automate.
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Cloud orchestration is the coordination of multiple tools, processes, and APIs an organization uses in a cloud environment, from start to finish. This involves coordinating many automated tasks to occur within a single, synchronized IT process.
Automated tasks are orchestrated by aligning appropriate resources, timing, security protocols, and other deployment mechanisms to ensure they start and run correctly.
Cloud orchestration is often a complex, automated cloud infrastructure management technique. It brings together complex computing systems, including instances in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments, server instances in different physical locations, and automation at scale.
That coordination takes place in what’s referred to as an orchestration layer. The orchestration layer governs, controls, and coordinates service delivery among servers, networks, security protocols, virtual machines, and storage options.
Cloud platform users generally have no access to the orchestration layer, which is only accessible by cloud provider engineers who maintain and update it.
Picture an orchestra about to play classical music. You can spot all the different instrumentalists, percussion sections, string, brass, woodwind, and the music conductor. Each instrumentalist is good at what they do.
If each musician played their own piece, it would no longer be an ensemble. Chaos would ensue. Their conductor unifies them, shapes their sound, and controls the tempo, as well as their interpretation of the music.
Cloud orchestration uses the same principle (and name, even).
Now, when people refer to cloud automation, they are often talking about cloud orchestration. So, what’s the difference between cloud automation and cloud orchestration?
Automation refers to a single task running on its own, while cloud orchestration involves multiple automated tasks functioning in harmony.
Cloud automation involves single tasks that do not have to be related. A cloud orchestration process brings together multiple related workflows and tools. An example of a single task in cloud computing is launching a web server or terminating server instances when a task completes.
An orchestration process might include starting servers correctly, making sure they are highly available, following compliance regulations, using auto-scaling, backup, and failure recovery, and terminating the process once it's finished.
The following is a visual representation of a blue/green deployment orchestration:
However, cloud orchestration and cloud automation work together, which is why they are often used interchangeably, even if they are not the same thing.
You can use a cloud orchestration solution to deploy new apps, test environments, patch processes, and ensure compliance. It can also help eliminate the risk of human error in workflows that involve frequent, repeatable tasks.
It is interesting to note that you can orchestrate multiple automated tasks to create a standard procedure that you can repeat creating standard processes.
Here is an example.
Say you want to spin up a new environment for an application. You'll need to create tens to hundreds of automated tasks for that. Examples include OS configuration with a scripting tool, deployment automation using another tool, and automating the addition of elastic balancing, new instances during auto-scaling events, and so on.
However, those automations must be carried out in a particular order, with specific roles and permissions, and within a particular environment. Coordinating all the steps and processes manually would be time-consuming, error-prone, and chaotic.
Instead, you can use an orchestration tool to create a template for configuring, provisioning, deploying, and creating new environments. You can then add monitoring, backup, and security services to complete the repeatable process.
Orchestrating automated tasks offers cost, time-to-market, security, and compliance benefits.
Cloud orchestration benefits include:
You may also encounter a few issues when setting up and using orchestration. Some cloud orchestration challenges may include:
However, choosing one of the best cloud orchestration tools can simplify the process. It can also provide you with the visibility and control your administrators need to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Unlike cloud automation solutions which are actual tools, cloud orchestration solutions are more platforms than plug-n-play tools. Orchestration platforms offer Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) services. You can pick an open-source solution or a managed orchestration service.
Here are some orchestration tools available now.
Amazon Web Services provides CloudFormation as a platform for creating, provisioning, and managing a collection of AWS and external resources in an orderly, repeatable, and predictable manner. With AWS CloudFormation, you can deploy a broad range of legacy and modern applications.
The IBM orchestrator platform will be ideal for you if you want to use policy-based tools through a self-service portal when configuring, deploying, integrating, and adding service management to your orchestration workflows. With this tool, you can orchestrate workflows across hybrid, public, and private clouds.
The Ansible Automation Platform is a role-based access enterprise platform for implementing organization-wide automation. You can control your infrastructure using a visual interface, a human-readable automation language, and reusable content. Ansible also offers pre-composed roles so your IT staff can use it with ease.
Azure Resource Manager templates define infrastructure and configuration needs for your projects using JSON files. ARM templates use declarative syntax to do that through one command, just like AWS CloudFormation. Furthermore, ARM can deploy resources in parallel to finish faster than serial deployments.
With Terraform, users can manage cloud services using the HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL). You can build, version, and modify the infrastructure. It is also easily the most popular open-source Infrastructure-as-Code, providing support for over 200 platforms, SaaS providers, public cloud, and private cloud.
If you are interested in orchestrating Docker containers, this is a good option. Kubernetes is an open-source system that automates Linux container processes. With it, you can automate many of the manual workflows involved in deploying, scaling, and managing containerized apps.
Cloudify is also an open-source platform. It is an excellent choice if you need to configure, deploy, and remediate apps and network processes in multi-cloud and stack environments. It offers a self-service, real-time, and single CI/CD plugin you can integrate with other tools such as AWS CloudFormation, Terraform, Ansible, and Azure ARM.
The Morpheus self-service provisioning engine enables IT teams to template how they access public cloud providers such as AWS and Azure, as well as on-premises providers such as Nutanix and VMware. This platform is ideal if you are looking for multi-cloud orchestration and automation.
Cloud orchestration aims to streamline the automation of a complex infrastructure. The goal is usually to save users money and time, boost productivity, reduce time-to-market, and improve competitive advantage.
Orchestration is often the power behind the automation throne. It takes place in the backend, right on an orchestration layer. But you can use one of several excellent orchestration tools available now to enhance visibility and control through a self-service portal.
What these tools may not do is help you connect the dots between your product architecture and cloud spend. That’s where a cloud cost intelligence platform, like CloudZero, comes in.
CloudZero provides greater visibility into your cloud costs, enabling your engineering teams to drill into cost data from a high level down to the individual components that drive your cloud spend — and see exactly what AWS services cost you the most and why.
With detailed cloud cost intelligence, you can make informed product, engineering, and business decisions. Request a demo today to see how CloudZero can put your engineering team in control of cloud spend.