Cloud Orchestration vs. Cloud Automation Explained

Cloud computing is increasingly becoming the most relevant technology of the modern age. Take a look at these three key facts:

  1. Cloud platform scalability features provide companies with enough resources to implement complex big data machine learning neural networks with immense databases;
  2. The use of cloud is much more cost-effective, as you are only paying for the resources you are actually using and not the whole package. 
  3. Cloud automation and orchestration tools allow organizing workflow to maximum efficiency.

Workflow efficiency is especially important, as this is an element that makes cloud technologies so valuable. The ability to automate as much of the workflow as possible brings in more insights, and as a result, a bigger competitive advantage for the company.

However, despite the prominent use of automation and orchestration in business, there is a lot of confusion regarding what is doing what and why. 

In this article, we will explain the difference between cloud automation and cloud orchestration and its benefits to workflow.

The difference between cloud automation and cloud orchestration

Let’s start from the basics:

  • Automation is an arranged routine that performs a single specific task (like doing stats updates every 5 minutes);
  • Orchestration is the fine-tuning of several automation routines into a cohesive workflow (for example, gathering data from sources, updating the stats and sending notification regarding changes);

Together, cloud automation and orchestration pave the way for greater things. 

Now let’s go into the specifics.

What is Cloud Automation?

Cloud automation is a term that describes a set of tools and processes used to replace manual work with automated routines within a cloud environment.

Why? The reason for that is simple - maintaining an operating system requires the performing of multiple repetitive manual processes. 

The thing with “repetitive” and “manual” parts of the tasks is that it is inefficient and time-consuming. Also, it paves the way for various errors and oversights. 

The emergence of errors in the system leads to setbacks that hold back the availability of the system and negatively affects the overall performance,or simply breach sensitive information. In other words, all-round bad stuff.

Cloud automation allows avoiding these kinds of problems while making the system more transparent and reliable. It is a key methodology of the agile development approach and DevOps proceedings that enables rapid resource deployment and scalability for continuous delivery and continuous integration.

Here’s how cloud automation works:

  • You have a set of connectors responsible for different tasks (for example, monthly database back-up). 
  • Upon triggering, the connectors perform a specific course of action.

The automation routines cover all sorts of provisioning or managing tasks with a high level of organization and clearly stated requirements. It is very reminiscent of putting the workflow on railroad tracks. 

Let’s go through the most common use cases:

  1. One of the key fields of use for cloud automation is the establishment of an Infrastructure as Code (IAC) environment that streamlines the system’s resource management and enables more efficient workflow. 
  2. On the other hand, cloud automation is used for workload management. Such tools can be configured to monitor the proceedings in the system and allocate resources according to the situation (i.e. getting more or fewer resources on the spot). 
  3. Cloud automation is also used for workflow version control. In this case, the automation tools are used to audit the processes and monitor changes in the system.
  4. Cloud automation is one of the integral components of the hybrid cloud environment. In this case, it is used to tie disparate elements (i.e. applications on public and private clouds) together into a cohesive system.
  5. Finally, cloud automation tools are used in Data Loss Prevention tools to provide frequent data back-ups.

The automation itself is made possible with an array of orchestration (more on that later) and automation tools that manage the operation.

  • Orchestration tools are used to write down the deployment process and its management procedures.
  • Automation tools are used to perform the aforementioned routines.

A good example of cloud automation is Facebook. This social media platform uses cloud automation to scale the system and maintain its availability to users without significant hiccups. The system monitors the workload and allocates resources accordingly. 

Now let’s explain what cloud orchestration is. 

What is Cloud Orchestration?

Cloud orchestration is the framework that ties together all of the automation routines across various services and clouds. Combined with automation, orchestration enables efficient service of the cloud infrastructure.

In essence, cloud orchestration is a coordination of the automated routines. 

  • The automation is the tactical operation;
  • The orchestration is the strategy, the big picture of how things should co-operate with one another.

Cloud orchestration is the automation of the system on a global level, encompassing every element and process. Among other things, this includes:

1. Resource management, including: 

  • Service availability, 
  • System scalability, 
  • Failure recovery, 

2. Dependency management of the infrastructure elements.

  • Security protocols; 
  • compliance activities for automated processes;

A good example of cloud orchestration is the regional adaptation of privacy policies. Amazon is an avid practitioner of this due to its worldwide presence. Here’s how it works - there is a location-dependent protocol going on top of the system. It identifies the location of the particular user and changes the privacy policy accordingly.

Benefits of Automation and Orchestration

Automation and orchestration are the cornerstones of efficient and productive cloud computing workflow. They streamline complex systems with multiple moving parts into a tight knot of processes that work together like an orchestra. 

Automation takes over the routine tasks and leaves human resources for more important aspects of the development process. 

Orchestration creates a system out of numerous automation processes and arranges their operation in clearly defined and optimized sequences.

Together, automation and orchestration sustain a high level of productivity and enable the growth of the product and system behind it.

The benefits of implementing automation and orchestration in the cloud infrastructure are as follows:

  • Cost-effectiveness - lowering IT costs and saving resources for innovation and new projects;
  • Automation requires clearly defined and regulated processes. This brings more transparency and clarity to the workflow;
  • Higher productivity - automated routines deliver consistent and reliable results with fewer resources and supervision;

How to make an effective cloud automation/orchestration?

Effective implementation of cloud automation, and subsequently cloud orchestration, require an understanding of the capabilities of the system and its potential for growth.

There are several ways to identify how to do this in the most effective manner:

  • The automation task can be identified by its role in the workflow. The key credential is the recurrence and highly organized structure of the particular process. For example, you have a routine database back-up. It happens each month. The process is pretty straightforward and doesn’t involve significant variations - thus it can be automated. 
  • Consider measuring the impact of task automation. Does it simplify the workflow? Is it more effective than the manual approach? The key factors are speed and accuracy. Let’s take data preparation for example. Wrangling data by hand takes a lot of time and manpower, but doesn’t guarantee the data is accurate through and through. There might be missed errors. Automated data mining turns this process into a walk in the park. One algorithm scrapes the data from the source, a second algorithm clusters it, a third classifies it and so on.
  • Once the individual tasks are automated, you can integrate the automation routines into sequences, thus enacting orchestration. The sequences form logically. For example, you have a data mining routine. It is followed by pattern evaluation. Then comes visual presentation of results. 

What’s next?

The implementation of cloud automation and its expansion into cloud orchestration streamlines the workflow and makes it more efficient. 

By taking over and refining the routines, automation and orchestration free resources for  improvement and innovation. This allows the company to concentrate on what really matters, instead of being held back by a poorly organized system.

This leads to a more cost-effective business pipeline and much better use of system resources and, as a result, a significant advantage over the competition. 

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Volodymyr Bilyk

Content Manager

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