Cloud computing offers organizations a reliable, scalable and cost-effective way to run their critical business applications. And given the cloud’s many advantages, it’s no surprise that a recent Gartner study forecast the cloud services industry to grow at nearly three times the rate of overall IT services through 2022.
As many IT teams have learned, the journey to the cloud is never easy, although the right practices can help a lot. Cloud automation is a wide-ranging term for the tools and processes used to reduce manual efforts to provision and manage complex multicloud environments. Automation can simplify critical business processes in the cloud and enhance the customer experience at scale.
What is Cloud Orchestration?
An essential component of cloud automation, cloud orchestration involves the organization and coordination of automated tasks to develop a consolidated, efficient workflow. With organizations increasingly using a combination of cloud offerings, including public, private, hybrid, and multicloud services, the resulting ecosystem is enormously complex, with data and applications operating across multiple environments. To control these diverse workloads in an automated, orderly fashion, organizations need cloud orchestration tools to manage everything as a single workflow.
Orchestration vs. Cloud Automation
Cloud automation and orchestration help management teams improve IT processes by limiting repetitive tasks and human errors. By managing resources that move between public and private cloud environments, they allow admins to streamline processes and reduce tedious manual work, as well as enable faster deployment of applications.
Given this harmonious union, it’s easy to think of cloud automation and orchestration as essentially the same thing. How do they differ? While individual deployment and managerial tasks can be classified as cloud automation, the arrangement and coordination of these automated processes are core components of cloud orchestration.
Major cloud providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure, as well as other third-party vendors, offer cloud automation and cloud orchestration tools, each with specific attributes. These tools often utilize leading-edge technologies such as AIOps to free IT teams from having to manually manage mundane tasks, enabling IT to focus more on complex issues that require human insight. That said, cloud service orchestration and automation tools may still require oversight from automation engineers.
3 Best Practices for Organizing Cloud Automation
1) Focus on Domains
To develop an effective cloud optimization and automation strategy, you must focus on domains. Virtualization and cloud computing create an interconnected mix of application components and resources, and it’s impossible to track and orchestration them individually, TechTarget advises. A good solution is to group these resources into domains for better management. For example, every public cloud provider you use could become a separate resource domain; in your data center, there could be a domain for each type of virtualization you use—VMware, Docker and so on. However, to make cloud orchestration and automation easier to manage, you’ll want to minimize the number of domains in your environment.
2) Get to Know Cloud Automation and Orchestration
Choosing the right mix of cloud automation and orchestration tools can be challenging. These tools, also known as cloud management platforms (CMPs) typically fall into two categories: those from a public cloud provider (e.g, AWS) or a third-party firm such as Cloudify or RightScale. According to Cabot Partners Group principal analyst Charlie Burns (formerly with Information Services Group), organizations should focus on core CMP functionality when evaluating cloud automation and orchestration capabilities.
3) Adopt FinOps Practices
A 2017 study by migration analytics firm TSO Logic (now part of Amazon AWS) found that most organizations overpay for cloud services—and that a whopping 35% of an average company’s cloud computing bill is wasted cost. A financial practice known as FinOps (Financial Operations) can help organizations adopt fiscally sound practices when migration to and maintaining a cloud platform. FinOps is a business management software-as-a-service (SaaS) designed to analyze the costs of public cloud services. It helps enterprises forecast, plan and budget future cloud spending. There’s even a non-profit trade association—the FinOps Foundation—that strives to codify and promote best practices and standards for cloud financial management.
Cloud Orchestration and Automation: Embrace the Journey
It’s not uncommon for businesses to struggle when starting their cloud migration journey, which may involve a steep learning curve toward the intricacies of multicloud and hybrid cloud environments.
Cloud components and services are added and removed continuously. As our AppDynamics colleague Subarno Mukherjee writes, unless your business is cloud-based from birth, it’s unlikely your entire application portfolio will rely solely on cloud resources. Rather, cloud adoption and automation will be gradual processes, one where your organization moves some applications to the cloud or a serverless environment, but continues to run others on-premises for various reasons, such as security or regulatory requirements like GDPR.
A successful cloud strategy requires a monitoring solution that provides robust support for managing applications in dynamic cloud environments where volume, variety and velocity of your data multiply at an exponential rate. Traditional monitoring tools won’t cut it—they’ll leave you stranded in a sea of cloud-centric data without delivering key insights. Learn how AppDynamics can help you manage your cloud journey.