Automation vs. Orchestration: What’s the Difference?

Whether your applications and data are housed on-premise or in the cloud, automation and orchestration make complex business processes run smoothly. The more workloads you’re managing, the more helpful these tools will be no matter what your IT strategy is.

To understand automation vs. orchestration, it’s helpful to consider each function on its own, first.

What is IT automation?

Automation, generally speaking, means completing a single task or function without human intervention. Executed wisely, automation makes traditionally time-intensive, manual processes more efficient and reliable.

In IT, it’s possible to automate a wide range of processes and tasks, from app deployment and integration, to securing endpoints and creating service tickets, for both on-premise and cloud tasks. In cloud automation, for instance, you might use automation tools and machine learning to dynamically deploy assets to the cloud, manage cloud computing workloads or classify terabytes of images—something our partner, Google Cloud, can help you do.

What is orchestration?

At its core, Orchestration is most akin to managing a large-scale virtual environment or network. Orchestrating the scheduling and integration of automated tasks between complex distributed systems and services—whether on-premise or in the cloud—streamlines and simplifies interconnected workloads, repeatable processes, and operations. Using today’s orchestration tools, you can automate the arrangement, coordination and management of complex computer systems, middleware and services within your computing environment, and direct automated processes to support larger workflows.

With modern IT teams now responsible for managing hundreds to thousands of applications and servers, manual administration simply can’t scale today’s needs. Orchestration is essential for delivering highly available, dynamically scaling, performant applications, and cloud systems, relieving your team of a very heavy burden. 

The difference between automation and orchestration

So, while automation refers to a single task, orchestration arranges tasks to optimize a workflow.

For example, orchestrating an app means not only deploying an application, but also connecting it to the network so it can communicate with users and other apps. In the cloud, orchestration is often key to ensuring that automated spin-up activities like auto-scaling take place in the right order, with the right security rules and permissions in place.

IT orchestration tools

Once you’ve grasped the basic difference between automation and orchestration, it pays to get a sense of the variety of orchestration tools out there today.

As TechTarget points out, IT orchestration tools abound. From simple script-based app deployment tools to more specialized offerings like Kubernetes’ container orchestration solution, you’ll find the right tool for your environment. Integrated solutions, like our Cloud Orchestration Platform, utilize best-in-breed third-party tools like Terraform, CloudBees and HyperCloud to can also enable teams to create templates for an entire environment or complex distributed system, in the cloud or on-premise.

Tapping into automation vs. orchestration expertise

Together, automation and orchestration can help reduce IT costs, ramp up productivity, and free up personnel focus for more strategic pursuits. However choosing the right tools to succeed with both takes time. That’s one reason that some organizations are opting to use Burwood Group’s Managed Services or Cloud Orchestration Platform—it saves time and sidesteps the need to make capital investments in automation and orchestration tools.

For questions or further guidance on automation and orchestration strategy, contact Burwood’s multi-cloud orchestration team.

March 4, 2019