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What is cloud orchestration?

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Cloud orchestration is the process of coordinating tools, applications, application programming interfaces (APIs), and infrastructure across private and public clouds into comprehensive workflows.

Cloud orchestration platforms allow IT teams to organize the automation of cloud management tasks across teams and domains. By coordinating automation into workflows across multicloud and hybrid cloud environments, administrators can improve the efficiency and reliability of cloud computing systems, making them easier to maintain over time.

See how to deploy and manage your IT infrastructure across cloud environments. Video duration: 2:33

As microservices and containerization continue to increase the flexibility of cloud computing, they also introduce new complexity that can be difficult to manage. Since hybrid clouds are made up of so many different parts—spread from on-premise datacenters to edge locations—organizations often find it challenging to align operations and business processes, reduce provisioning errors, and limit resource sprawl.   

Cloud environments now require automation to function, because the number of complex tasks involved in their upkeep would be nearly impossible to perform without it. IT teams can use automation to execute a variety of cloud management tasks, including:

Automating these processes can reduce the chance of manual errors and free up resources, giving organizations more time to innovate and deliver services to benefit their customers. However, these gains are diminished when automation processes are isolated.

Cloud orchestration aligns various implementations of automation into unified workflows.

Learn how to automate all aspects of your hybrid cloud.

The terms cloud automation and cloud orchestration are often confused—and sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably.

Cloud automation is the automation of cloud management tasks, allowing them to operate with little-to-no human intervention. This makes processes more scalable and repeatable. 

Example: automating server instances to terminate when a task is completed.

Cloud orchestration is the coordination of multiple automated tasks into higher-order workflows, so that individual tasks can work together to serve a specific function or process.

Examples: syncing OS upgrades with required load balancer updates—or coordinating the deployment of new infrastructure with associated changes to firewall rules and on-premise network routing.

Cloud automation refers to the automation of specific tasks, while cloud orchestration connects multiple automated tasks to streamline IT processes.

This distinction is often explained via the metaphor of a musical orchestra and its conductor: if the instances of cloud automation are individual musicians in an orchestra, then cloud orchestration is the conductor. The conductor helps each musician play their part at the appropriate time and with the right intensity, so the entire orchestra can work together as a unified whole.

Just like a musician playing their part, automation can perform individual tasks just fine. But in cloud environments—with automation serving a variety of functions across an organization—orchestration is necessary to ensure that different types of automated tasks work together in service of a larger process.

Cloud orchestration is a natural progression from cloud automation; if an organization automates cloud management tasks across their hybrid cloud environment, they will eventually need to combine these tasks into more efficient automation workflows.

Cloud orchestration makes it possible to efficiently manage the automation of workload distribution, resource allocation, and service delivery across a cloud environment. Orchestration solutions coordinate automation processes across infrastructure to create cohesive workflows—regardless of where they’re running—and ensure that all related tasks happen in the proper order. 

Cloud orchestration tools allow IT teams to create, update, and manage cloud resources and their software components as a single unit, and then deploy them in an automated, repeatable way, via a template. By condensing disparate automation tasks into more efficient end-to-end workflows, organizations can eliminate provisioning errors, ensure consistent communication between applications and infrastructure, and enforce governance policies across their hybrid cloud. 

Cloud management tasks can be performed by a variety of automation tools, but individual solutions lack the connection and management capabilities offered by unified automation platforms. A unified automation platform supplies a consolidated foundation that helps teams across an organization collaborate efficiently, share automation assets and best practices, and maintain consistent workflows.

IDC MarketScape report: Red Hat a leader in cloud management

Red Hat was named a leader in IDC’s 2024 assessment of vendors for multicloud and hybrid cloud management with automation. According to IDC, enterprises can confidently choose Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, thanks to its “comprehensive capabilities and broad support in accelerating automation maturity.”

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Using Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform, organizations can use a single interface to manage, track, and optimize cloud operations—including configuration management, provisioning, and application deployment—and eliminate the need to navigate between multiple domain-specific tools. 

Ansible Automation Platform connects existing automation, configuration, and cloud tools and processes with a human-readable, YAML-based language, so that organizations can create a consistent operational framework across all cloud domains, processes, and roles, and locate automation closer to target endpoints. It also offers IT teams flexible options for orchestrating automated tasks—like connecting Ansible Playbooks or building workflows in automation controller.

Over 135 Certified Content Collections created by Red Hat and our partners provide true interoperability and support for use cases across vendors and clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and more. In addition, Ansible validated content provides a trusted, expert-led approach for performing foundational operational tasks within these cloud platforms. 

Ansible Automation Platform provides orchestration tools to better manage several key areas of a cloud environment, including:

  • Configuration. Ansible Automation Platform offers cloud infrastructure and configuration management that is security-focused, stable, and supported by Red Hat. 
  • Security. With a curated collection of modules, roles, and playbooks, IT teams can orchestrate security systems to automatically detect, investigate, and respond to threats.
  • Application deployment. Automate application deployment, create repeatable and reliable installation and upgrade processes, and manage Day 2 operations. 
  • Container deployment. Automate and manage Kubernetes or Red Hat OpenShift® deployments and scale containerized applications with the support of Kubernetes operators and frameworks.

An Ansible Automation Platform subscription provides open source innovation—hardened for your enterprise—with all the tools, services, training, and support you need to automate your enterprise at hybrid cloud scale.

Learn about the difference between certified and validated content for Ansible and what they're used for. Video duration: 1:55.

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