Just like an orchestra conductor directs a group of musicians to produce beautiful, harmonious music, cloud orchestration coordinates multiple cloud services to streamline complex processes and tasks. But what is cloud orchestration exactly? Cloud orchestration is an automated process that coordinates and manages the interconnection and interaction of multiple cloud services to create a unified, well-functioning cloud environment.
Cloud orchestration involves managing and coordinating tasks, workflows, and processes in a cloud infrastructure. It is a key part of cloud computing infrastructure management, focusing on the automation and coordination of various end-to-end processes to deliver the desired services. It’s the technology that glues together various pieces of a cloud infrastructure, ensuring that they work seamlessly and efficiently to deliver optimal performance.
Most cloud orchestration systems are based on the principle of infrastructure as code (IaC). They allow users to create human-readable templates, which can then be used to automatically create complex cloud environments. Examples of cloud orchestration solutions are Terraform and AWS CloudFormation.
Benefits of Cloud Orchestration
Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness
Cloud orchestration is a foundation of cloud optimization strategies. By automating and streamlining various cloud tasks and processes, cloud orchestration can significantly reduce the time, effort, and resources required to manage a cloud environment. This not only enhances efficiency but also results in significant cost savings.
Automated processes mean fewer errors, less redundancy, and therefore, less waste. By eliminating redundant tasks and optimizing resource utilization, cloud orchestration can significantly reduce operational costs. Moreover, the automation of routine tasks frees up your IT staff, allowing them to focus on more strategic, high-value tasks.
Cloud orchestration also allows for better resource allocation. By intelligently managing and allocating cloud resources, it ensures that resources are utilized optimally, reducing wastage and further enhancing cost-effectiveness. Whether it’s compute power, storage, or network resources, cloud orchestration ensures that they are allocated and utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
With cloud orchestration, businesses can rapidly deploy and scale applications, respond swiftly to changing business needs, and deliver services more quickly and efficiently.
By automating workflows and processes, cloud orchestration enhances operational efficiency, allowing businesses to deliver more in less time. It enables businesses to launch applications faster, respond to market changes more swiftly, and deliver services more efficiently.
Moreover, by automating routine tasks, cloud orchestration frees up your IT staff, allowing them to focus on more strategic, high-value tasks. This not only enhances productivity but also allows your IT team to focus on innovation, driving business growth and competitiveness.
Enhanced Security and Compliance
Cloud orchestration also enhances security and compliance. By automating and streamlining security processes, cloud orchestration can significantly enhance the security posture of a cloud environment. It allows for the automated enforcement of security policies, ensuring that all cloud services comply with the required security standards.
Automated processes mean fewer human errors, reducing the risk of security breaches. Moreover, by automating compliance processes, cloud orchestration can significantly simplify the compliance management process, ensuring that your cloud environment is always in line with the required regulations and standards.
Whether it’s access control, data protection, or compliance management, cloud orchestration ensures that your cloud environment is secure, compliant, and protected against threats.
5 Key Components of Cloud Orchestration
1. Orchestration Software
Orchestration software is the brain of cloud orchestration. It’s the software that coordinates, manages, and automates various cloud tasks and processes. Orchestration software is responsible for managing and coordinating the various cloud services, ensuring that they work together seamlessly to deliver an optimized, efficient, and integrated cloud environment.
Orchestration software comes with a wide range of features and capabilities, including workflow automation, resource management, process management, and much more. It’s a comprehensive solution that provides everything you need to orchestrate your cloud environment, ensuring that all parts of your cloud ecosystem work together seamlessly.
2. Cloud Resources
Cloud resources are the building blocks of a cloud environment. They include compute power, storage, network resources, and much more. In the context of cloud orchestration, these resources are managed and coordinated by the orchestration software to deliver the desired services.
Cloud resources are allocated and utilized based on the specific needs and requirements of the tasks and processes. Whether it’s allocating compute power for a specific task, provisioning storage for a particular application, or managing network resources to ensure optimal performance, cloud orchestration ensures that cloud resources are managed and utilized optimally.
3. Templates or Scripts
Templates or scripts are pre-defined instructions that guide the orchestration software in managing and coordinating the cloud resources. They define the specific tasks, workflows, and processes that need to be automated and managed by the orchestration software.
Templates or scripts can be customized based on the specific needs and requirements of the business. They provide a framework for automating and managing the various cloud tasks and processes, ensuring that they are performed in a consistent, efficient, and standardized manner.
In modern cloud orchestration systems based on the infrastructure as code paradigm, templates are typically declarative. This means they specify what needs to be deployed on the cloud, not how it should be deployed. The cloud orchestration system understands the desired state and takes all the actions necessary to deploy the required resources.
4. Workflow Engine
The workflow engine is the heart of the orchestration software. It’s the component that executes the templates or scripts, managing and coordinating the various tasks and processes based on the pre-defined instructions.
The workflow engine ensures that all tasks and processes are performed in the correct order, at the right time, and with the necessary resources. It’s the engine that drives the automation and coordination of the various cloud tasks and processes, ensuring that they are performed efficiently and effectively.
5. Service Catalog
The service catalog is a directory of the available cloud services. It provides a central repository of the various cloud services that can be managed and coordinated by the orchestration software.
The service catalog allows for the easy discovery, provisioning, and management of cloud services. It’s a critical component of cloud orchestration, providing a single point of access to the various cloud services, making it easier to manage and coordinate them.
Examples of Cloud Orchestration Tools
There are many cloud orchestration tools available today. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Terraform is an infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that is commonly used to deploy and manage infrastructure in the cloud. It supports all common cloud platforms. Terraform provides configuration files that let you declaratively specify which components you need to run on your infrastructure. Based on these configuration files, the platform builds an execution plan and takes all the steps necessary to reach the desired state.
AWS CloudFormation is Amazon’s proprietary infrastructure as code (IaC) service. It lets you define a collection of AWS resources known as a stack, which can include any AWS services, such as Amazon S3 (object storage), AWS EFS (file storage), or EC2 (compute). Like Terraform, it automates the provisioning and updating of your stack in a declarative manner.
Amazon EMR is a web service that makes it easy to orchestrate big data processes in the cloud. It can distribute big data tasks across thousands of nodes, coordinating between them and aggregating their output. EMR clusters are based on Apache Hadoop, a framework that distributes data computation tasks across many instances for faster processing. Other popular frameworks like Apache Spark, HBase, Presto, and Flink can also be run on EMR. It also supports distributed management frameworks such as Ganglia, which performs cluster monitoring.
Azure Resource Manager (ARM)
Azure Resource Manager (ARM) is the deployment and management service for Azure. It provides a unified management layer that enables you to create, update, and delete resources in your Azure account. You use management features, like access control, locks, and tags, to secure and organize your resources after deployment.
Google Cloud Deployment Manager
Google Cloud Deployment Manager is an infrastructure management service that makes it simple to create, deploy, and manage Google Cloud resources. Write flexible template and configuration files and use them to create deployments that have a variety of Google Cloud services, such as Google Cloud Storage, Google Compute Engine, and Google Cloud SQL, configured to work together.
Cloud orchestration, though challenging to implement and manage due to its inherent complexity and the requirement of specific skill sets, presents immense potential for businesses looking to maximize their use of cloud services. By automating and streamlining various tasks and workflows, cloud orchestration enhances efficiency, agility, security, and compliance. This results in cost-effectiveness, improved productivity, and the ability to rapidly respond to evolving business needs.
The key components of cloud orchestration—orchestration software, cloud resources, templates or scripts, workflow engine, and service catalog—all play crucial roles in ensuring a seamless and efficient cloud environment. Meanwhile, tools such as AWS CloudFormation, AWS EFS, AWS EMR, Azure Resource Manager, Google Cloud Deployment Manager, and Terraform, among others, offer various capabilities to make cloud orchestration feasible and effective.
However, despite the many advantages, it’s critical to carefully consider the potential challenges before implementing cloud orchestration. Understanding the intricacies of different cloud services, managing costs effectively, and ensuring proper management of dependencies between services are all vital considerations. Nonetheless, with strategic planning, the right skill set, and proper management, the benefits of cloud orchestration can significantly outweigh the challenges, making it a powerful tool for managing complexities of cloud environments.
About the Author
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.