What is Cloud Automation?
Cloud automation is the practice or discipline of using specialized software tools and methodologies to automate some or all of the manual tasks associated with managing and operating cloud-based IT infrastructure. IT organizations and software development teams can leverage cloud automation in public, private and hybrid cloud environments to reduce administrative overhead and achieve workflow targets like continuous integration and continuous deployment.
Cloud automation software tools can be configured to automatically control the installation, configuration, and management of cloud computing systems, enabling businesses to make the best use of their cloud-based resources. As organizations continue to rely on the cloud for critical applications and services, the role of cloud automation as a time-saver and enabler of effective cloud management practices will become more apparent in IT organizations.
Cloud Automation Explained
While cloud service providers have made it easier for enterprise organizations to access computing power and storage space on an on-demand basis, comparatively little has been done to reduce the workloads associated with managing cloud infrastructure - until now.
Deploying and operating workloads in the cloud have traditionally been a time-consuming process that required extensive manual configuration by IT operators. Common tasks like configuring virtual machines, establishing VM clusters, setting up virtual networks and managing availability and performance were done by hand. If a workload required one hundred virtual machines, they would need to be configured one by one.
Today, IT organizations use cloud orchestration and cloud automation tools that run op top of the virtualized environment and streamline repetitive tasks such as the provisioning of virtual resources, defining common configuration items and establishing infrastructure as code. Cloud orchestration software tools allow developers to codify the process of workload deployment and management, such that routine processes can easily be repeated in the future. Cloud automation software tools take those codified steps and run them automatically, with little or no intervention from IT operators.
What are the Most Common Cloud Automation Tasks?
IT organizations that rely on cloud-based infrastructure can automate a range of tasks to lower their IT costs, reduce errors and increase their operational efficiency. Below, we list some of the common tasks that can be made more efficient through cloud automation.
Establishing Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)
The concept of Infrastructure-as-Code describes the process of managing and provisioning the technology stack using software and code, rather than by configuring individual hardware items.
Cloud platforms with virtualization capabilities can automate the discovery of computing resources on the network and organize them into pools, such that IT operators can flexibly deploy resources regardless of their physical configuration or location in the server room. Then, they can draw directly from that pool of computing resources, allocating them as a need to define virtual machines, containers, storage, VPNs and other common configuration items.
This results in an Infrastructure-as-Code architecture where users can execute automated, codified processes to achieve the desired hardware configuration without manual set-up.
Performing Data Back-ups
Even data that is saved in the cloud should be backed up on a regular schedule to prevent data loss. However, when IT operators are in charge of performing manual back-ups on a fixed schedule, it can often take a back-seat to daily operational tasks and putting out fires. Data back-ups don't always seem like a priority until you critically need one. With cloud automation, IT operators can configure data back-ups to occur automatically during off-hours with no manual intervention.
Identifying and Addressing Zombie Cloud Infrastructure
When an organization loses track of some of its cloud-deployed instances, the result is zombie cloud infrastructure. Zombie infrastructure consists of underused cloud assets that have been forgotten by the organization that purchases them. These cloud instances are still activated, still generating a monthly bill, yet the organization is deriving essentially zero value from the asset.
Cloud automation can be used to codify workflows that streamline the detection of zombie IT infrastructure and address it before it becomes a drain on the IT budget.
Establishing Version Control for Workflows
Some organizations face rigorous, industry-specific privacy and security requirements for the data they collect from users. If your organization stores sensitive data in the cloud, cloud automation tools can help you set up version control for workflows where that data is put to use. This would allow your organization to demonstrate to a regulator that the same secure configuration was used each time the data was accessed or modified.
What are the Benefits of Cloud Automation?
Cloud automation provides long-term benefits for the up-front cost of purchasing a cloud automation platform and configuring it as desired. Once a process has been defined, it can be repeated over and over with little or no manual intervention and even set to run on a fixed schedule. There are some of the benefits of cloud automation.
Cloud Automation Reduces IT Costs
As organizations introduce cloud automation into their IT infrastructure, they reduce the amount of hands-on effort needed to manage their cloud-based operations. Not only will routine processes take less time, but in some cases, they can be set to happen automatically. Fewer manual processes also mean fewer errors, so your teams will spend less time diagnosing and debugging and more time getting things done.
Cloud Automation Enables Continuous Deployment
Continuous deployment is all about automating the application deployment pipeline to increase the frequency of application updates. Software development teams striving for Continuous Deployment or working in the DevOps paradigm can benefit significantly from cloud automation tools that enable them to automate deployments to a cloud-based IT environment.
Quality assurance and testing functions are also effectively enabled by cloud automation. A cloud automation platform can allocate computing resources for the workload of tests to be completed and provision the virtual machines needed to conduct the testing.
Cloud Automation Drives Organizational Innovation
Cloud automation drives organizational innovation by streamlining repetitive tasks so your most talented developers, IT operators and security experts can do more of what they're good at instead of being bogged down with repetitive administrative tasks that drive little value. Cloud automation helps organizations leverage the creativity and expertise of their best people to solve real problems instead of performing routine fixes or daily operational tasks.
Sumo Logic Helps Monitor Cloud Automation Success
IT organizations are responsible for monitoring the performance of cloud-based applications, even when leveraging cloud automation to perform scheduled maintenance activities and updates. Even teams that do continuous deployment require a constant flow of data to support decision-making and quality control. Sumo Logic helps software development teams monitor the most important metrics and events on the network, such as:
- Virtual machine operational statistics
- Database transactions
- Network loads and volume
- Automated testing results
- Application health
As enterprise cloud environments continue to grow in scope and complexity, operational analytics solutions like Sumo Logic will play an increasing role in helping IT organizations manage application performance and security while verifying the effectiveness of cloud automation.