What is Cloud Automation?
Cloud automation is a blanket term that is often used to denote specialized software, tools, and operations that help us reduce the manual effort when it comes to deploying and maintaining cloud-based IT infrastructure. Simply put, it is automating tasks programmatically.
Did you ever wonder what happens when you place an order for a new VPS via the Liquid Web Manage Interface? Cloud Automation is behind all of that. Let’s dig in a bit deeper to learn what Cloud Automation is.
One key reason why automation is so widely embraced and used almost everywhere is that automation reduces the manual effort and intervention needed to deploy a set of tasks. Again, let’s take ordering a VPS as an example. When we placed our order before automation was in place, someone would have to manually allocate both the hardware and software resources. We would then install the OS, cPanel/WHM, and the other default server software, and we would test to make sure everything is working correctly.
Today, we can make an initial selection of our configurations based on the cloud environment of our choice, and so gain the ability to perform multiple complex tasks with a single click.
Benefits of Cloud Automation
Benefits of cloud automation are many, but I’ll list some of them so that you can get a better understanding of what Cloud Automation can do for your business and why it is a must-have if you are running an enterprise.
- Agility: Businesses can scale quickly to better adapt to changing needs
- Speed: Increased deployment speed of cloud infrastructure and management
- Control: Better administration and centralized management of existing environments
- Security: Graduated levels of security provide more granularity when controlling permissions and access rights
- Resiliency: Downtime is revenue lost. The continuous monitoring of cloud services and automatic response to issues keep business processes running smoothly
- Change Management: Improving the CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) method ensures a better overall process cycle while lowering the possibility of software errors or a failure which increases development stability
- Cost: The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of our IT infrastructure is often significantly reduced
Once we have our automation system configured and ready for the delivery of programmed tasks, we will be able to deploy, integrate, and manage our systems quickly and effectively. Now that we know what cloud automation is and some of its benefits let’s talk about Cloud Orchestration.
We like to imagine Cloud Orchestration as Cloud automation evolved.
Using cloud orchestration, we can execute automated tasks at an exact time across multiple nodes. We have task A, task B, and task C. You need to run task C before B, and task A after B. Automation can handle these tasks automatically. Orchestration allows us to perform them in the correct order, in a specific timeframe with better fault-tolerant behavior.
Cloud orchestration is an ideal solution for enterprises that need to orchestrate and manage processes across hundreds of domains, systems, and teams. Now that we know the difference between automation and orchestration, it’s time to discuss some common uses of cloud automation.
Cloud Automation Usage
Load balancing is the process of routing web traffic across multiple servers to ensure that resources are utilized in the best possible way. This can limit delays and improve the overall responsiveness of a site or application. Moreover, if one of our servers in a cluster goes offline, the website or application will not stop, as the rest of the servers in the cluster will take up the work for the server that went offline. Additionally, a new server can be restarted to replace the down server or service almost immediately.
Development and Testing
In today’s world, everything around us is continually evolving and changing. Think about your favorite software. Every update that comes out has to be tested in advance on multiple environments and platforms. In many cases, whole teams of developers are testing new updates. They need new settings generated directly, and this is where automation comes into play and shines. Developers can set up new environments with an OS, browser, and other tools that they need in a blink of an eye.
IaC (Infrastructure as Code)
IaC is actually one of the most common uses of automation. This process is what manages and deploys VM’s, cloud storage volumes (when you order new CBS or Object Storage platform, for example), networks, load balancers, and many other available components and services. Basically, we create templates to manage all of these functions and services and allow IaC to oversee these processes. Now that we have provided some examples of automation and its usage let’s review some of the most common cloud automation tools.
Cloud automation tools
Kubernetes is a widely used open-source system for automation used to manage containerized workloads and services. Today, all major cloud providers are offering their own branded versions of Kubernetes, including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, to name a few.
Puppet is one of the oldest tools in use today for use in IaC. When we are looking for a server cluster and management automation tool, Puppet meets that need. It is also an open-source software but does have an available enterprise version.
Ansible is an IaC friendly tool developed by Red Hat. The enterprise version of this tool is called Ansible Tower, and it is capable of performing automation and orchestration tasks. We will conclude this article with Ansible.
Docker is a containerization software that is used for automating the deployment and management of applications within an isolated environment. This software allows us to “pack” and ship an application, along with all of its needed files, libraries, and dependencies, into a “docker container“. That container can then be easily ported to any Linux system that contain cgroups support within the kernel, and provides a container management environment. Docker is one of several containerization implementations (not to be confused with virtualization) based on this cgroups mechanisms built into the Linux kernel.
These are just a few of the essential tools used in cloud automation, but we have merely scratched the surface of the available devices and utilities available to us.
Overall, Cloud automation is a winning choice for many businesses if a stable, continuous, and permanent management of infrastructure is required.
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