Applied to the cloud, the term cloud automation covers the company’s processes and tools to reduce manual tasks related to the provisioning and management of cloud computing workloads. IT teams can implement automation in private, public and hybrid cloud environments.
In the past, deploying and operating enterprise workloads was a tedious manual process. It often involved repetitive tasks:
- Provisioning and configuration of resources such as virtual machines ( VMs)
- Setting up VM clusters and load balancing
- Creation of logical units storage
- Building virtual networks
- Implementing the deployment
- Monitoring and managing availability and performance
Although significant individually, these manual and repetitive processes are generally unproductive and often contain errors. These errors may require troubleshooting, delaying the availability of the workload. They also risk revealing security vulnerabilities that pose a risk to the business.
Cloud automation helps eliminate these manual and repetitive processes for deployment and workload management. To implement this automation, the IT team must use orchestration and automation tools that run on their virtualized environment. Orchestration allows an administrator to codify the various steps and processes involved in deploying and managing workload, while automation enforces these steps without any human intervention.
Cloud automation, done right, saves IT staff time and money. As organizations can build more predictable and reliable workflows, it also helps reduce the risk of errors, which directly translates into improved governance at the IT and enterprise levels.
Cloud Automation Practices
While cloud automation tools or infrastructure all have the same overall goal, the use cases vary widely, depending on the business and its goals.
Cloud automation is commonly used for implementing infrastructure as a code (IAC). It aids cloud platforms to typically discover and organize compute resources in the form of pools. This allows users to add and deploy more resources without worrying about their physical location in the data center.
Cloud automation tools and processes can tap into these resource pools to determine common configuration objects, such as VMs, containers, storage LUNs, and virtual private networks. They can then load application components and services, such as load balancers, onto these configuration items, or create instances using templates or cloning VMs or containers. Finally, all of these pieces collectively build a complete operating environment for deploying a workload.
For example, a cloud automation model can create several containers for a microservices application, load software components into container clusters, connect storage and a database, configure a virtual network, create balancers load for clusters and then make the workload available to users.
Besides deployment, cloud automation plays a role in workload management. Thus, it is possible to configure an Application Performance Management ( APM ) tool to monitor the deployed workload and its performance. Then, alerts can trigger scaling tasks, such as adding containers to a load-balanced cluster to improve performance or removing excess containers to reduce resource consumption.
Cloud automation is a critical part of workload lifecycle management. In the cloud, workloads are rarely planned for the long term, allowing an administrator to utilize automation to remove workloads and accompanying configuration items, as soon as they are no longer needed.
Cloud automation can also play a significant role in hybrid clouds by automating tasks in a private cloud environment based on OpenStack- type infrastructures and promoting integration with public clouds.
Cloud automation is also vital for busy application developers. Agile development methods rely heavily on the speed of deployment and evolution of resources, in the context of testing new versions of the software. Once testing is complete, these resources can be published for reuse. Public clouds handle this process particularly well, and cloud automation tools allow these features to be transferred to private clouds.
Finally, cloud automation helps ensure version control of workflows, enabling institutions to align steady configurations that may pass audits or regulatory controls. The company can exactly see which resources are in use, identify which users or departments are using them, predict their future usage, and ensure a level of service quality that would be unattainable with manual processes.
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