cloud orchestration (cloud orchestrator)

What is cloud orchestration (cloud orchestrator)?

Cloud orchestration (cloud orchestrator) is the use of programming technology to manage the interconnections and interactions among workloads on public and private cloud infrastructure. It connects automated tasks into a cohesive workflow to accomplish a goal, with permissions oversight and policy enforcement.

Cloud orchestration typically provisions, deploys or starts servers; acquires and assigns storage capacity; manages networking; creates virtual machines (VMs); and enables access to specific software on cloud services. This is accomplished through three main, closely related attributes of cloud orchestration: service, workload and resource orchestration. An orchestration platform can integrate permission checks for security and compliance.

Cloud orchestration technology must work with heterogeneous systems, potentially servicing a global cloud deployment in different geographical locations and with different providers. Many cloud orchestrator users run public cloud and private deployments.

Cloud orchestration vs. automation

Automation is a subset of orchestration, which means that orchestration provides coordination among and across many automated activities. Automation focuses on making one task repeat rapidly with minimal operator intervention, while orchestration focuses on the whole.

A cloud orchestration workflow helps automate tasks and enhance security.
Automation and orchestration work together to deliver services and applications on cloud infrastructure.

Given the cloud's many moving parts, orchestration brings high availability, scaling, failure recovery, dependency management, and numerous other tasks and attributes into a single process to reduce staff effort. Orchestration also provides visibility into resources and processes that other cloud automation lacks. For example, a business can regulate capacity via preset resource templates for application deployment and track resource requests.

Cloud orchestration platform benefits

Cloud orchestration is of interest to many IT organizations and DevOps adopters to speed up service delivery and reduce costs. A cloud orchestrator automates the management, coordination and organization of complicated computer systems, services and middleware.

In addition to reducing personnel involvement, orchestration eliminates the potential for errors introduced during provisioning, scaling or other cloud processes. Orchestration supports the delivery of cloud resources to customers and end users, including in a self-service model where users request resources without IT's involvement.

Orchestration software helps IT organizations standardize templates and enforce security practices. It is also a good defense against VM sprawl because it provides visibility into, and control over, cloud resources and costs. Because the orchestrator platform oversees interactions of many disparate elements of the application stack, it can simplify the communication and connections from one workload to other apps and users, as well as ensure links are correctly configured and maintained. Such products usually include a web-based portal, so orchestration can be managed through a single pane of glass.

The centralized nature of an orchestration platform enables administrators to review and improve automation scripts. In advanced organizations, developers and line-of-business workers can turn to cloud orchestration software as a self-service mechanism to deploy resources. In addition, administrators can use it to track the organization's reliance on various IT offerings and manage chargebacks.

Cloud orchestration vendors

Many vendors offer cloud orchestrator products. DevOps teams can implement cloud orchestration in numerous ways via automation and management tools to fit with their processes and methodologies.

When evaluating cloud orchestration products, administrators should first map the workflows of the applications involved. This step will help the administrator visualize how complicated the internal workflow for the application is and how often information flows outside the app component set. This, in turn, can help the administrator decide which type of orchestration product will help automate the workflow best and meet business requirements in the most cost-effective manner.

In general, cloud orchestration tools or software operate similarly across public, private and hybrid clouds, though the specifics of a given use case might favor the features of one over another. VMware's vRealize Suite, for example, includes a hybrid cloud management platform that automates the delivery of cloud infrastructure, applications and services; an operations component to help with planning, management and scaling; real-time log management and analysis; and automated costing, usage metering and service pricing.

Other cloud orchestration vendors and their products include the following:

  • AWS CloudFormation.
  • Cisco CloudCenter.
  • CloudFX.
  • Fugue.
  • IBM Cloud Orchestrator.
  • Ingram Micro Cloud Orchestrator.
  • Microsoft Azure Automation.
  • Microsoft Azure CycleCloud.
  • Morpheus.
  • OpenStack Heat orchestration engine.
  • SaltStack.
  • Zymr.
This was last updated in May 2023

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