Cloud automation is about using a single solution to connect the dots between a variety of applications and platforms within a hybrid cloud environment. Although introducing a new solution may feel like adding yet another layer into your tech stack, there are several reasons to invest. The most common goals are centralized automation management, end-user self-service, and orchestration of workflows between disparate cloud solutions.
This article will explain how automation is used to centralize control of cloud-based workloads, infrastructures, and data pipelines. Additionally, we'll demonstrate what enterprises have accomplished with a platform approach to cloud automation.
Why is Cloud Automation Important?
A typical enterprise has any number of SaaS-based applications and at least more than one cloud service provider. In addition, the volume is growing annually. Going beyond internal process improvements and cost savings, the real value of cloud automation is how it can be used to drive new revenue streams. Leading enterprises have cracked the automation code. These organizations use automation to enhance customer experiences, deliver demand-based pricing, create new product categories, and more.
IT Ops is often responsible for maintaining the integrity of automated solutions. However, cloud architects, cloud engineers and DataOps teams have a big part in the decision making process. Afterall, each cloud-based application and platform needs to perform automated IT tasks or jobs to run properly. Plus, data must be moved between these systems. Democratizing automation for the business is among a major IT automation trend in 2021 and beyond.
All of the above needs to happen in real-time in order to achieve the vision for cloud investments. This is where not all cloud automation tools are created equal. Real-time cloud automation is accomplished using event-based triggers. These triggers are event-driven, meaning that they fire at the point of of the system event. By triggering automation via system events, IT tasks run in the moment, eliminating the need for nightly batch updates. It's important to note that event-based triggers are key to enterprises that require an up to the minute flow of within their data pipeline.
Before we dive into how this is accomplished, let's take a step back and look at the options end-users have today.
From Native Cloud Schedulers to Centralized Orchestration
There are various types of IT automation solutions on the market. However, a cloud application or platform will often come with a built-in or native job scheduler. These schedulers are simple IT task automation tools. Unfortunately, none of these schedulers work outside of their native environments. As the volume of schedulers increases, the more difficult it is to connect data pipelines or centrally control automation.
To demonstrate the difficulty of managing an environment full of in-built schedulers, add up the number of cloud solutions your company uses. Hint, an enterprise with 1000+ employees, has an average of over 200 SaaS applications. Of course, not all of them require regular IT task automation. However, this number is a starting point to understand the complexity of breaking down existing data silos.
Many enterprises opt to rely on native job schedulers in the early days of their cloud transition. However, it isn't too long before they turn to a more feature-rich cloud automation solution. Some of the primary drivers of this change are:
- Centralized Cloud Automation: Simply put, disparate cloud solutions will work best when connected. Individually managing IT jobs or workloads in each cloud solution becomes overly cumbersome. So, enterprises turn to third-party solutions designed to integrate with the various cloud solutions in their environment. Once this connection is made, the IT Ops team is empowered to manage, control, and monitor all automation activity from a single solution.
- Workflow Orchestration Across the Cloud: Running workloads across a public cloud and multi-cloud environment is done by creating workflows. In a cloud environment, workflows are designed to orchestrate workloads within, as well as between systems. Workflows automate anything from moving data between systems, to updating applications in mass, to spinning up cloud infrastructure, and much more.
- Empowering End-Users with Self-Service IT Automation: Citizen automation is a growing trend in the market. Enabling employees to run automation without the help of IT support is the goal. For example, self-service automation allows an employee to provision cloud space from their own native applications. Some automation solutions have jobs-as-code and infrastructure-as-code features, which make this straight forward to accomplish.
Cloud Automation Platform Approach
Deploying and managing workloads across your cloud environment can be cumbersome. While there are several point solutions available, a cloud automation platform is designed as the glue that bonds the IT landscape together. A platform approach centralizes automation management across a hybrid cloud, a mix of private and public cloud systems. The goal is to reduce overhead while reaching continuous deployment and integration benchmarks. Everyone, including C-level management and business users, can get on board with this endpoint.
When properly used, cloud automation platforms help:
- Control installations
- Manage cloud computing resources
- Provision cloud infrastructure
- Empower Citizen Automators to trigger automation seamlessly – without IT support
- Provide automated updates to customers in real-time
- Create workflows that empower front-line employees to make data-based decisions
- Automate the data pipeline between cloud installations
- And much more
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) – Connecting DevOps and IT Ops
Infrastructure as code (IaC) is defined as using software and code to manage and provision a data center. IaC is a modern alternative to manually making these changes with a cloud service provider's native toolset. When developers use infrastructure as code (IaC) to codify their workload deployments, they are essentially making their process low or no touch for IT Ops teams.
Also, with the right platform to enable infrastructure as code, the IT Ops team maintains centralized visibility and control over the process. This creates a common platform that both DevOps and IT Ops can use to reach their respective goals of agility and stability. Plus, this is accomplished without the need for each team to have proficiency in each other’s primary applications.
Automating the Cloud and On-Prem Together
There are many flavors of automation on the market. Some solutions target only the cloud, while some target only on-prem. Then some can bridge this void, allowing enterprises to manage the entire hybrid IT environment, usually comprised of on-prem, private cloud, and public cloud.
Gartner refers to automation solutions that are capable of managing hybrid IT environments as Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAP). This category of automation solutions is an evolutionary descendent of workload automation. Gartner predicts that 80% of organizations using traditional workload automation tools will switch to SOAPs to orchestrate cloud-based workloads by 2024.
Centralizing automated workloads across a hybrid IT environment is popular amongst enterprises focused on shifting to a cloud-first approach. That said, it’s an essential aspect for any company with a standardized mix of cloud and on-prem solutions.
Enterprises that are serious about the cloud will no doubt benefit from a cloud automation platform. Integrating and orchestrating automated workflows across a cloud ecosystem is important, but it also adds true measurable value. This value goes beyond internal process improvements. Cloud automation’s real impact lies in how you use it to drive new revenue sources.