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Server automation and orchestration capabilities address two common problems with large-volume remote server management: consistency and time.
Consistency refers to a clear set of tasks -- typically based on established security and regulatory policies -- and the orchestration of those tasks to ensure that they are carried out the same way on every remotely managed system every time.
Without orchestration, administrators must manually repeat tasks across dozens -- or perhaps hundreds -- of servers. This approach is often adequate for small businesses, but the potential for system configuration and management errors is too risky for large organizations. For many businesses, automation and orchestration are essential to meet regulatory and governance goals.
Server automation gives IT administrators a way to do more within specific time constraints. It takes considerable time to manually perform the same tasks on tens or hundreds of servers.
Orchestration refers to the actual steps involved in a given task, and server automation is the ability to apply those orchestrated steps to one, many or all systems without direct administrative intervention. Admins simply select a task, choose the systems involved and launch the task. Orchestration and automation are not the same thing conceptually, but admins almost always use them together.
The question of when to use server automation and orchestration is far more subjective. There is certainly no minimum number of servers or physical criteria that delineates when to implement automation. The choice to use server automation should really be a cost/benefit/risk decision.
The problem is that server automation is not automatic; orchestration requires time and effort to translate policies into tasks, encapsulate those tasks in actionable scripts or other automation mechanisms, and find expertise to maintain those scripts. Admins can use automation whenever a task requires frequent repetition so there is value for businesses.
If the necessary work to automate a task is less than the time and effort needed to manually implement that task, then it makes perfect sense to automate it. Similarly, if the time and effort needed to automate a task are less than the perceived risk of errors and oversights for remote system management, this justifies the use of automation.
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