Cloud Orchestration: Benefits, Tools, and Best Practices

What Is Cloud Orchestration? 

Cloud orchestration refers to the coordination and management of complex services and workflows across cloud environments. It involves the automated arrangement, coordination, and management of computer systems, services, and middleware. Cloud orchestration streamlines the provisioning of resources, managing interconnections and interactions among cloud-based computing resources.

This process encompasses not just the deployment of resources but also their ongoing operation in a cloud environment. It is particularly crucial for multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies where consistency and efficiency across diverse cloud platforms are essential. By orchestrating cloud processes, businesses can ensure optimal resource utilization, maintain service levels, and facilitate smoother operations.

This is part of a series of articles about cloud optimization.

In this article:

Cloud Orchestration vs. Cloud Automation

Cloud automation is about automating individual tasks. It’s all about taking a single task that a human would normally do, like deploying a cloud virtual machine, and automating it so that a machine does it instead.

Cloud orchestration is about automating entire workflows. It’s about taking a series of tasks that make up a process and automating them so that they work together seamlessly.

So, while cloud automation is concerned with the individual tasks that make up a process, cloud orchestration is concerned with how those tasks join to form an entire process, and how they interact with each other.

Benefits of Cloud Computing Orchestration 

Here are some of the key benefits of cloud orchestration:

  • Operational efficiency: With cloud orchestration, complex, multi-stage tasks can be performed quickly, accurately, and efficiently. This saves time, reduces the risk of errors, and makes it possible to define complex cloud operations as code.
  • Reduced costs: Cloud orchestration tools reduce the need for manual intervention, which can reduce labor costs. In addition, cloud orchestration can improve the cost efficiency of cloud environments. For example, they can help to ensure that resources are fully utilized and that unnecessary resources are quickly decommissioned.
  • Improved visibility and control: With cloud orchestration tools, operations teams have a clear view of tasks being performed in the cloud environment, and you can easily manage and control these tasks. This also provides an audit trail for auditing and compliance reports. 
  • Business agility: Cloud orchestration allows organizations to quickly adapt their cloud environment to changing business needs. They can quickly deploy new servers, scale up or down as needed, and implement new services or applications.

Types of Cloud Orchestration Technologies and Tools 

Here are some of the main technologies organizations use to implement cloud orchestration. Each takes a different approach to orchestrating cloud resources.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a method of managing and provisioning computing infrastructure through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools. IaC tools allow businesses to automate the process of setting up, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently.

IaC tools are designed to make the management of infrastructure more efficient, consistent, and reliable. They enable businesses to manage their infrastructure in the same way they manage their software—through code. This means that businesses can apply the same practices and principles they use in software development, such as version control, testing, and continuous integration, to their infrastructure.

Configuration Management Tools

Configuration management tools are essential for maintaining consistency and control over IT systems, particularly in complex cloud environments. These tools automate the management and provisioning of software and infrastructure configurations, ensuring that systems are in their desired, reliable state.

Such tools offer a systematic approach to managing system updates, enabling administrators to track and control changes in software and hardware across their IT environment. This reduces the risk of system outages or conflicts due to configuration errors. Key features include automated configuration rollout, version control for tracking changes, and reporting capabilities for compliance and auditing purposes.

By using configuration management tools, organizations can enforce consistency in their IT infrastructure, streamline deployment processes, and improve operational efficiency. This is crucial in cloud orchestration where multiple services and applications must be configured to work harmoniously across different cloud platforms. These tools also facilitate collaboration among IT teams by providing a central framework for managing configuration changes.

Workflow Automation Tools

Workflow automation involves the automation of a business process, with information or tasks passed from one participant to another according to a set of procedural rules. Workflow automation tools help businesses automate their business processes, reducing the time and effort required to perform routine tasks and processes.

In the cloud, workflow automation tools enable organizations to define, execute, and monitor workflows and processes across multiple cloud services and resources. They provide a way to automate routine tasks and processes, even if they span different aspects of the cloud environment.

Container Orchestration Tools

Container orchestration tools are specialized software designed to automate the deployment, management, scaling, and networking of containers. Containers are a lightweight form of virtualization, allowing for efficient application packaging and distribution. Container orchestration tools manage the lifecycle of containers in large, dynamic environments.

These tools, such as Kubernetes and Docker Swarm, provide features like container scheduling, load balancing, resource allocation, and health monitoring. They enable applications housed in containers to run consistently and scalably across multiple computing environments. By handling critical operational tasks, these tools significantly simplify container management, especially in complex cloud environments.

Container orchestration is essential in modern cloud infrastructure as it ensures that the applications remain resilient, scalable, and easily manageable, regardless of the complexity of the underlying infrastructure. It supports continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices, making it an integral part of DevOps strategies.

Best Practices for Cloud Orchestration 

Create Standardized Templates for Resource Provisioning

Templates enable the automatic deployment of resources, reducing the need for manual intervention and ensuring consistency in resource configuration.

A standardized template defines the configuration of each resource, including its type, properties, and relationships with other resources. It also specifies the parameters that users can input when deploying the resource. By using a standardized template, you can ensure that all resources are deployed in a consistent manner, reducing the risk of configuration errors and improving the efficiency of resource provisioning.

In addition, templates enable the reuse of configurations, saving time and effort in deploying resources. For example, if you have a template for deploying a web server, you can use it to deploy multiple web servers with the same configuration. This way, you don’t have to manually configure each server, saving time and effort.

Use Version Control to Manage Changes to Orchestration Templates

Just like developers keep track of changes in a codebase, it’s equally important to use a version control system for your orchestration templates and scripts. This will help you manage changes and keep track of different versions of your templates and scripts.

A version control system provides a history of who made what changes and when. This can be invaluable in diagnosing issues, by quickly identifying the changes that may have caused a problem. A version control system also facilitates collaboration between team members, ensuring that everyone is working on the same version of a template or script, preventing conflicts and inconsistencies.

Automate Tests to Validate Orchestration Workflows

By setting up automated tests, you can validate your orchestration workflows and ensure that they are functioning as expected.

Automated tests can be designed to simulate various scenarios and edge cases, checking that your workflows can handle them correctly. They can also be used to verify that your workflows are meeting performance and reliability requirements.

Moreover, automated tests can be run on a regular basis, allowing you to detect problems early and fix them before they affect your users. They can also be run whenever changes are made to your workflows, ensuring that these changes haven’t introduced any new issues.

Monitor the Health and Performance of Orchestrated Services

By using monitoring tools, you can keep an eye on the health and performance of your orchestrated services, ensuring that they are functioning optimally. This can help uncover issues in orchestrated deployment or modification of cloud resources.

Monitoring tools can provide you with real-time insights into your services, alerting you to any issues as soon as they arise. They can also provide you with historical data, allowing you to identify trends and patterns in service performance.

Auto-Scale to Adjust Resources Based on Demand

Auto-scaling is the process of dynamically adjusting the number of resources based on demand. This ensures that you always have the right amount of resources to meet your users’ needs, without over-provisioning or under-provisioning.

Auto-scaling can be triggered by various metrics, such as CPU utilization, memory usage, or network traffic. When these metrics reach a certain threshold, new resources can be automatically provisioned to handle the increased demand. Conversely, when demand decreases, resources can be automatically de-provisioned to save costs.

By using auto-scaling mechanisms in your orchestration templates, you can create workflows that can dynamically adjust to changing application demand, improving efficiency and reducing cost.

Cloud Orchestration with Spot by NetApp

Spot by NetApp is your one spot for CloudOps and cloud orchestration. While public cloud providers offer native tools for some cloud optimization, and even provide recommendations for potential cost reduction, they stop short of actually implementing any of those optimizations for you.

This is where Spot by NetApp’s portfolio can help. Spot not only provides comprehensive visibility into what is being spent on your cloud compute and by whom, but also:

  • Generates an average saving of 68% by showing you exactly where you can use either EC2 spot instances or reserved capacity (RIs and Savings Plans) to save costs. It lets you reliably automate workload optimization recommendations in just a few clicks.
  • Guarantees continuity for spot instances, ensuring even production and mission-critical applications can safely run on spot instances, using predictive algorithms and advanced automation to guarantee workload continuity.
  • Manages RIs and Saving Plans portfolios, providing maximum utilization and ROI with minimal risk of financial lock-in and cloud waste.
  • Maximizes savings for DevOps teams running Kubernetes with proven machine learning and automation to continuously determine and deploy the most balanced and cost-effective compute resources for your container clusters.

Learn more about enhancing your cloud operations with Spot by NetApp