Cloud-native automation and orchestration tools make enterprise IT administration easier — at least once you know which tools to employ and when to use them. While there are sometimes concerns among IT professionals that automation could lead to job losses, it’s more likely that, by mastering these tools and processes, they will become more valuable to their organizations. Once you successfully automate recurring IT management tasks, you can focus on more valued, high-level projects and contribute to your organization’s long-term goals.
But where should you begin when it comes to automating your cloud environment? There are many moving parts in an enterprise cloud deployment, even within specific application clusters.
These are the three easiest targets for automation and orchestration.
Patching and Compliance
Tracking software and hardware throughout an enterprise IT stack is challenging. You may not even know a device or system is out of compliance until audit time — when it is far too late. Or worse, in the case of major vulnerabilities, you could suffer a data breach.
Depending on your cloud platform, there are third-party and native tools that can help orchestrate your Patch Tuesdays by providing dashboard reports on where and when patches were installed across all discoverable devices. These tools can also help to schedule patches for specific times; stagger patch installations to avoid cascade effects or downtime; rollback failed patches; locate noncompliant devices or servers; integrate with PowerShell or System Center; run SQL queries, programs, or processes; and restart devices during patch installation.
Patching and validation require significant work cycles, so patch automation tools are a great way to boost efficiency while also further securing your environment.
The majority of cloud platforms have automated life cycle, backup, and disaster recovery tools available, and third-party software can be added for cloud-to-cloud, hybrid setups, and agnostic service delivery across platforms (as well as other added features that may not be available on native tools).
In addition to archive storage that comes at a lower price point, in which you can stash data and VM snapshots, automation tools within AWS Glacier, Azure SQL, Azure Backup, PowerShell, and vRealize can be used to schedule and maintain backups for your cloud servers and associated data. You simply define the policies and locations for when and where backups should occur. You can decide whether to stack or overwrite backups, how much data to save, and much more.
Automated backups, once tested and deployed, will save a significant amount of time. While you’ll still want to occasionally perform a recovery test, knowing that systems are regularly backing up to unlimited cloud storage certainly helps an admin sleep at night.
Provisioning and Version Controls
You can use Azure Automation, Active Directory, System Center, PowerCLI, PowerShell scripts, and third-party tools like TheForeman, Chef, and Puppet to automate and provision your VMs from end to end.
You’ll have to evaluate the best tools for your cloud environment, but, once selected, you can easily scale systems or provision complete new servers with attached storage, network settings, and any necessary software or operating systems already preinstalled.
By configuring and orchestrating your entire service catalog with these automation tools, you significantly reduce application provisioning time and create a path toward DevOps and continuous improvement/integration. Your VMs are delivered at your required security, compliance, and performance standards.
Life cycle management via automation can also help reduce cloud sprawl and “zombie” servers that eat up your operational budget while immediately offering a version control cycle that allows you to rollback if necessary.
While the possible solutions for cloud automation seem almost unlimited, these three areas are your best bet for a solid foundation. With provisioning, backup, and patching at least partly automated, you’ll be freed up to assist your end users or work on new projects and technologies.