Blog Post What is Cloud Automation? Universal Guide

Everything you need to know about automation and orchestration in multi-cloud, hybrid cloud, and hybrid IT environments.

Robi's Universal Guide to Cloud Automation

Automation in the cloud is a big deal in 2023. In fact, according to the Global State of IT Automation report, cloud automation tops the list of tool investments by enterprises this year. Nearly every organization is using the cloud. As adoption increases, so do the interdependencies between different cloud providers. Automation and orchestration are natural extensions.  

In this Universal Guide to Cloud Automation, we’ll dive into what cloud automation actually means, what it does, and what’s coming next.

What Is It? Cloud Automation What Does It Do? Cloud Automation What's Next: Cloud Automation Additional Resources: Cloud Automation

What is Cloud Automation?

Cloud automation strives to reduce the complexity of cloud operations by eliminating error-prone manual IT processes across cloud service providers (CSP), SaaS applications, databases in the cloud, and more.

Important Terms to Know in Cloud Automation

Cloud Infrastructure

According to TechTarget, “Cloud infrastructure refers to the hardware and software components, such as servers, storage, networking, virtualization software, services and management tools, that support the computing requirements of a cloud computing model.” Cloud environments can be public, private, or a combination of both, differentiated as:

  • Multi-cloud infrastructure is “the practice of using cloud services from multiple heterogeneous cloud services, as well as specialized platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers,” per TechRepublic.
  • Hybrid cloud infrastructure takes one or more of the public cloud platforms listed above and combines it with at least one private cloud.
  • Hybrid IT infrastructure combines any kind of cloud (public or private) with on-premises systems (mainframe or server-based).

Cloud Scheduler

Cloud schedulers automate IT processes for cloud service providers. End-users leverage schedulers to automate tasks, or jobs, that support anything from cloud infrastructure to big data pipelines to machine learning processes. Most often, they are stand-alone tools offered as-a-service by cloud providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

Cloud Orchestration

Cloud orchestration is the practice of organizing multiple automated tasks into a single harmonious workflow, making IT processes simpler and more efficient. 

Cloud Meta-Orchestration

Cloud meta-orchestration solutions connect to existing automation tools — such as cloud schedulers, open-source schedulers, built-in application schedulers, and even legacy on-prem focused schedulers —  allowing end-users to centrally manage all IT automation enterprise-wide from a single platform.

Benefits of Cloud Automation

There are a few reasons why cloud automation is important to IT teams:

  1. Gain control of all automated processes from a single platform, bypassing their dependency on disparate job schedulers. Integrate and control any cloud service provider, SaaS application, or infrastructure management platform
  2. Orchestrate advanced workflows such as updating applications en-masse or spinning up cloud resources.
  3. Empower end-users to run automation without the help of IT. Advanced orchestration platforms support this with low- or no-code features such as intuitive drag-and-drop workflow creation and role-based access permissions.

Cloud Automation Tools

Many kinds of schedulers can be used in cloud automation:

  • In-built schedulers are very powerful when it comes to scheduling tasks within their own platforms, but don’t do as well when scheduling jobs in other tools.
  • Cloud schedulers focus on their own ecosystems and contribute to vendor lock-in.
  • Open-source schedulers are easily accessible and have a low barrier to entry, however, they’re often limited to batch- or time-based automation.

Legacy on-prem job schedulers don’t make the list because they typically struggle to automate jobs in the cloud.

The disparity between these kinds of schedulers leads to a cobbled-together automation system setup, where multiple point-automation tools are leveraged. Such work is challenging and complicated as today’s applications have various interfaces. Once the work is done, firms find themselves supporting CSP cloud schedulers, custom scripts, and a growing number of application-specific job schedulers. As most enterprises run in a hybrid It environment, IT teams also find themselves supporting on-premises focused automation platforms. Managing all of these tools individually gets complicated.  

Service orchestration and automation platforms (SOAPs) offer a more comprehensive approach to meta-orchestrate cloud automation workflows across any variety of tools, applications, or systems. The SOAP category was coined by Gartner in 2020 to recognize the evolution of traditional workload automation (WLA) tools to cope with the needs of event-driven business models, cloud infrastructure, and big data workloads. In fact, by the end of 2025, Gartner expects 80% of organizations will replace their WLA tool with a SOAP to orchestrate their cloud-based workloads in real-time.

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What Does Cloud Automation Do?

Cloud automation can certainly do everything a traditional on-premises job scheduler can do. But it doesn’t stop there. Cloud automation also maximizes the inherent benefits of the cloud and ideally, extends those advantages to legacy on-prem systems. Keep reading for cloud automation use cases every IT pro should know, plus real-world examples of each.

multi-cloud orchestrationMulti-Cloud Orchestration

Multi-cloud orchestration centrally automates and schedules workloads across leading public cloud providers like AWS, GCP, and Azure, as well as SaaS tools, cloud storage, infrastructure management, cloud-native database tools, and a whole lot more.

Real-World Example of Multi-Cloud and Hybrid IT Orchestration

  • Denmark’s largest grocer, Coop, uses a universal solution to orchestrate workloads across its mainframe and the many distributed, open systems that make up its complex hybrid IT infrastructure. Stonebranch Universal Automation Center (UAC) offers observability while seamlessly integrating across platforms like SAP, Azure, Teradata, Linux, and Windows.

Hybrid Cloud Data TransferMulti-Cloud and Hybrid-Cloud Data Transfer

Multi-cloud data transfer allows you to move data to, from, and between any of the major private and public cloud providers, as well as popular cloud applications and distributed file systems. Hybrid-cloud data transfer goes a step further to connect on-premises and cloud environments in the same way — in real-time and without intermediate storage.

Real-World Examples of Multi-Cloud and Hybrid-Cloud Data Transfer

  • Financial services provider Achmea consolidated to a single workload automation and orchestration solution that includes an integrated, state-of-the-art file-transfer component.
  • Curious to see what multi-cloud data transfer looks like in action? Watch this detailed inter-cloud data transfer demonstration to learn more.

Cloud Infrastructure AutomationCloud Infrastructure Automation

Also referred to as cloud infrastructure-as-code (IaC), cloud infrastructure automation uses software and code to monitor, provision, configure, and deploy complex infrastructure services. Cloud infrastructure automation unifies processes across all cloud tools, providers, and solutions you use across your entire IT system.

Two Approaches to Cloud Infrastructure Automation

  1. Meta-orchestrate workflows across pure-play integration management solutions (such as Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Terraform) that automate different aspects of your IT infrastructure.
  2. Directly automate and schedule workloads across CSPs when there are no pure-play integration management solutions in place. Simply connect a service orchestration and automation platform (SOAP) to AWS, GCP, and Azure, then create workflows using IaC techniques.

Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-ServiceCloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service

Today’s SOAPs, which are a direct evolution from yesterday’s WLA tools, enable federated IT model to deliver automation-as-a-service (AaaS) to stakeholders. In this model, the central IT team collaborates with business teams to accomplish broader business objectives. SOAPs help achieve this goal by creating a central platform that anybody in the business can access to develop automated tasks and processes on any application. Access to automation capabilities now extends beyond the select few IT-centric automation owners. Employees who once might have subverted IT procedures to deploy shadow automation applications (or worse, were not able to automate at all) are now empowered as citizen automators who work in harmony with IT.

Real-world Examples of Cloud IaaS

Cloud MigrationsSimplify Cloud Migrations

To make the most of the cloud, organizations must solve how to manage a growing ecosystem that now includes their on-premises legacy systems alongside new cloud services. Management of this hybrid infrastructure is made possible by introducing a new level of orchestration and automation to make sense of the chaos.

There are a number of reasons that companies continue to use the mainframe. However, when a cloud-first stategry is put in place, it's time to re-platform, refactor, or rearchitect applications in the cloud. AWS offers their AWS Mainframe Modernization service, which combines both their cloud services with third party providers to help move mainframe applications to the cloud. Other major cloud vendors, like Microsoft Azure, are heading down the same path. When making this change, there is typically a period of transition. As a result, enterprises look to automation both the mainframe and the cloud together

Real-World Example of On-Prem to Cloud Migrations

  • During its mainframe modernization project, a leading European bank replaced its mainframe scheduling tool to drive mainframe decommissioning, while also integrating automations across other platforms and applications in its new distributed network setup.

Containers / Microservices AutomationContainers / Microservices Automation

Using container technology is a way to help manage and simplify an enterprise transition between on-premises and cloud environments. Deploy automations directly inside containerized applications to move data to and from on-premises data centers and cloud deployments.

Real-World Example of Container and Microservices Automation

  • Multinational insurance company AXA deploys a combination of Stonebranch UAC, Kubernetes, and Red Hat OpenShift to connect applications running on their IBM mainframe to applications running in AWS, Azure, and GCP services.

What’s Next in Cloud Automation: Trends and Strategies

2022 State of IT Automation Report

Multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud, and hybrid IT environments are here to stay, yet they offer up complexities that are hard to manage without a strategy and tools to help mitigate risk and, as we found in our State of IT Automation research, control cost and improve efficiencies.

Master Your Hybrid IT Environment for a Multi-Cloud World
Dr. Roland Kunz, Dell Technologies

Don’t be cloud first — be cloud smart. Dr. Kunz shares his cloud-smart approach and recommends four key factors to consider when evaluating whether to put a specific workload in the cloud. These considerations help you right-place your workloads to optimize cost savings and efficiency. Watch the webinar now.

Benchmark Report: Analytics in the Cloud

This SAPinsider benchmark report explores how organizations evolve their cloud-based data and analytics portfolios to overcome their challenges and meet rising customer expectations.

2021 Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAP)

This is a must-read market guide for anybody in IT Ops, DevOps or DataOps — it explains how traditional workload automation solutions are evolving to cope with the needs of event-driven business models, cloud infrastructure, and big data workloads.

Democratizing IT Automation in a Multi-Cloud World: Tools, Teams, Culture, and Best Practices for Automation Success
Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)

Survey data and analysis by industry analyst EMA shows that enterprises are now using modern WLA platforms to orchestrate a broad range of use cases supporting a broad range of stakeholders across on-prem, private cloud, and multi-cloud environments. At it's core, democratizing automation to make self-service available to all is one of the fastest growing automation features.  

Additional Cloud Automation Resources

Cloud automation enables everything from cross-team collaboration to citizen automators to infrastructure-as-code. SOAPs like Stonebranch Universal Automation Center (UAC) enable cloud automation. Learn more about UAC’s solution for cloud automation and SaaS-based workload automation.

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Further Reading

Jobs-as-Code: Automating Job Configuration Updates with Version Control

Jobs-as-Code: Automating Job Configuration Updates with Version Control

Jobs-as-code simplifies job configuration management through version control. Automation rules can be managed like any other code, making it easier to share and…

Jobs-As-Code Demonstration: Managing UAC Definitions in an External Git Repository

Jobs-As-Code Demonstration: Managing UAC Definitions in an External Git Repository

Watch this on-demand webinar to see how a modern workload automation solution can support a jobs-as-code management model.

Header Card Analyst Report: 2022 Global State of IT Automation Report

Stonebranch 2023 Global State of IT Automation Report

The results are in! New research reveals 2023's IT automation and orchestration benchmarks for IT Ops, DevOps, CloudOps, and DataOps teams.

Automation Trends 2023: Top 7 Takeaways from the Annual Global State of IT Automation Report

Automation Trends 2023: Top 7 Takeaways from the Annual Global State of IT Automation Report

Discover the top 7 findings of the 2023 Global State of IT Automation Report and see how automation intersects with DataOps, DevOps, Cloud Ops, and IT Ops.