Mastering Cloud Automation in the Cloud-Native Era

As cloud computing is increasingly getting adopted all over, automation is taking a prime stage these days in the cloud-native space to streamline and manage various IT-related tasks. In this article, we will discuss cloud automation and various aspects related in brief.

Prasen Shelar
August 31, 2021

Every company is a software company today, and every company wants to embrace DevOps best practices. DevOps gives organizations the ability to speed up their software delivery and agility. Ops automation is intricate even today. Enterprises are managing the Ops automation in a fragmented fashion, and as a result, incident management has become a bottleneck in most companies. The traditional software development methodologies used to take months to deploy the developers' code to production, but now it takes minutes. Thanks to cloud players and the services they provide. While organizations found a way to move out of their old-fashioned, rusted software methodologies and infrastructure, companies still needed a way to avoid manual intervention to speed up the software delivery. That is where cloud automation originated, and enterprises started embracing this approach.

As cloud computing is increasingly getting adopted all over, automation is taking a prime stage these days in the cloud-native space to streamline and manage various IT-related tasks. In this article, we will discuss cloud automation and various aspects related in brief.

What is cloud automation?

Cloud automation is a broad term that refers to processes and tools used by companies to reduce the manual effort involved in the delivery and management of cloud computing workloads and services. In addition, it also automates incident response for resource bottlenecks (latency, uptime monitoring, and server issues), resource steady-state management, and application outages.

Cloud automation tools can implement infrastructure code that eliminates the need to configure and manage critical resources manually. As a result, these tools help ensure the optimal performance of systems and system resources, streamline cloud computing activities, improve efficiency and reduce the need for IT teams to perform repetitive tasks and make real-time capacity and performance decisions.

Cloud-native is basically a modern approach for enterprises that intend to become more agile and speed up their software delivery life cycle to gain a competitive advantage. Modern applications follow cloud-native and DevOps practices (that involves cloud automation) to evolve fast and meet the growing customer demands.

Practices that empower organizations to build, deploy and run software applications more frequently and reliably in an automated fashion are considered cloud-native automation practices. Cloud-native tools like Docker, Kubernetes, Terraform, etc., and approaches like containerization, microservices, service mesh, CI/CD, etc., are required to facilitate this cloud-native automation. 

With a cloud-native approach, you will be able to take full advantage of a cloud platform that includes infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. In the modern cloud-native era, experts advise designing applications such that they're decoupled from physical resources. All the major cloud providers nowadays facilitate all the required cloud-native tools and services to achieve this.


Cloud automation and orchestration: old vs. new way

Cloud automation and orchestration go hand in hand. However, to witness the real potential of cloud automation, it has to be automated throughout with a single pane of glass covering the complete cloud operation life cycle. Unfortunately, the old way of automation has many drawbacks, and the tools adopted are concerned only with solving a specific problem and performing in silos. Along with cross-platform scripting to make things work, the situation gets even worse. The collaboration aspect that forms one of the critical aspects of DevOps is dead in the old-fashioned way of cloud automation. Well, the automation challenges can be solved with COAR (Cloud Orchestration, Automation, & Remediation), a new approach to cloud automation.

The COAR platform connects orchestration, automation, and remediation tools into a single platform that helps cloud engineers (DevOps and SRE engineers) perform their tasks. These tasks are often tied to top-level business goals of maintaining high availability, performance, and scale for the infrastructure and applications running on top of it.

Know more about COAR at - COAR (Cloud Orchestration, Automation, & Remediation)
SOAR for Security, COAR for Cloud?

Why cloud automation?

Through automation, IT teams automate tasks that would usually take from weeks or months to minutes. Instead of wasting time and resources that can derail a cloud environment, organizations that use cloud automation can focus their resources on activities that bring direct business benefits, such as promoting new services and customer satisfaction.

  • Cloud Automation enables IT and cloud administrators to automate manual processes and accelerate the deployment of infrastructure resources to meet the needs of users and businesses.
  • DevOps teams use cloud automation throughout the software development lifecycle, from version control, testing, network diagnostics, deployment, monitoring, to data security. It helps DevOps teams to introduce new features and security patches faster into production.
  • Cloud automation processes reduce the overhead cost that incurs from hiring and training the personnel for the job.
  • You can use inbuilt cloud automation tools and capabilities from your public cloud providers (such as AWS, Google, and Azure) or automation features from your private cloud platforms (such as OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, etc) or third-party cloud tools that automate cloud environments such as Puppet, Chef, Kubernetes, and Cloudify.
  • IT teams get back their valuable time for mission-critical tasks through cloud automation as the routine maintenance, deployment, configuration, and management of cloud infrastructure can be efficiently automated.

Cloud automation benefits

Cloud automation offers impeccable benefits like:

  • Agility: Time-consuming processes are carried out rapidly through cloud automation tools. Over and above, cloud automation extends quality assurance and testing functions, proactively automating deployments to a cloud-based environment.
  • Reduced errors: When tasks are automated, the possibility of human errors is diminished, and cloud configuration renders a clean environment. This also drives better performance by optimizing workload performance through automation and guarantees effectiveness, rapidness and curbs latency or flaws.
  • Higher security: Data breaches stop being top of mind because cloud automation has become a safety-packed approach that minimizes security risks. The top-notch security practices are baked into automated workflows, enforcing security principles in every stage of the software development life cycle through cloud automation.
  • Scalability: The benefit around scalability with automation is automatically performing tasks across distributed environments versus slowly doing these one at a time manually. Public cloud providers support a plethora of services, which is how they aid in scaling workloads up and down as per the requirements that offer greater flexibility.
  • Reduced overhead cost and expenditure: An organization’s IT Infra expenses will shrink to a significant amount because manual labor will be reduced in this case. Also, cloud automation will bring an end to the expenditure on debugging, manual testing, and extra resources. 
  • Exudes resilience: Cloud automation helps in fast disaster recovery by systems being resilient and always available. For example, a network disruption can seem to be an unfortunate situation that businesses don't want to land up in. This is where cloud automation comes to the rescue and strengthens networking through its consistent monitoring and cloud management offering. It helps in the creation of a resilient system that shifts the workloads of a failed server to a standby server that is operating well. 
  • Eases application deployment: Cloud automation handles the application deployment workflow seamlessly from start to end. It also helps in continuous delivery with efficiency and fastens release cycles.
  • Monitoring and remedy provider: Cloud automation helps supervise all the factors that can hamper the functioning of the application after configuration, provisioning, and deployment.

Cloud automation best practices

  • Formulating a realistic and attainable cloud strategy by setting realistic goals, enlist all the resources required to achieve the goals, and outline a clear budget and deadline. 
  • Mitigating the risks of high usage costs, in the case of cloud automation, you are required to pay-as-you-go, i.e., expending for what you have used and not the overall upfront costs. This helps protect you from expensive integrated solutions.
  • Being aware of the security standards used since a lot of data is in transit during cloud automation, so a background check on the security protocol adopted is essential to curtail security and data breaches.
  • Ensure that all the integration requirements and infrastructural facilities are updated for improved performance.

Cloud automation vs. orchestration

Cloud automation and orchestration might sound alike at first but are different. However, in today's ever-evolving enterprises, both automation and orchestration are considered a must and a part of a productive cloud computing workflow. So what's the difference between the two? 

Automation is an organized routine that performs a particular task. In contrast, orchestration handles multiple workloads automatically. Both unify together to achieve agility, speedy deployment, and scalability of the operations. This way, both form critical components in enabling DevOps culture in any organization. An example of how cloud automation works can be depicted through social media channels. Consider, for instance, Instagram; it is interesting to see how it automatically adjusts itself, scales the system response, and keeps its availability to end-users by continuously monitoring workloads and allocating the required resources. 

Orchestration is a step ahead of automation. Orchestration includes identifying, scheduling, and uniting automated jobs connecting distinctive systems. A notable example of cloud orchestration can be depicted through any company that is adjusting its privacy policies across various regions by utilizing the location-dependent protocol. The system can automatically identify any user's region, update privacy policies, and change them accordingly.

A consolidated process workflow that includes both automation and orchestration is needed for any organization to succeed in this competitive cloud-native space.

Cloud automation and orchestration tools

Cloud-based automation technologies such as Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) offer the ability to transform complex systems and environments into a few lines of code that can be delivered at the touch of a button. Terraform is one such tool that is trending in the industry in this space. Converting Infrastructure into code enables IT professionals and cloud engineers to automate the construction, deployment, and management of Infrastructure. Likewise, Ansible automates IT environments, whether on traditional bare metal servers, virtualization platforms, or in the cloud.



Similarly, Docker came into existence and changed the way companies used to build and ship software. After Docker, we saw Kubernetes coming into the cloud-native space as a container orchestrator when managing many containers became a headache to the developers and so on.

Cloud orchestration tools provide a single place to automate, monitor, and manage processes across the private cloud, public cloud, and on-premise Infrastructure. Puppet is one such tool in the configuration automation space. Cloud automation tools in this type of environment play an important role, allowing teams to spread workloads across multiple clouds and manage them from a central interface without having to juggle the different tools and clouds they use.

IT teams can coordinate existing infrastructure automation tools such as Terraform, Chef, and Ansible and consolidate cloud management tools such as SaltStack and Rackware to unify and control IT processes and business processes. Cloud automation also plays a role in hybrid clouds, automating tasks in private clouds based on frameworks such as OpenStack and driving integration with public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Also, there is Pulumi that provides a platform to achieve cloud-native infrastructure as code.

Fylamynt is a cloud workflow automation platform. Its ready-to-use workflows empower DevOps, SREs, and infrastructure engineers to standardize, automate, accelerate deployment, incident response, and steady-state management. You can automate your entire cloud in minutes with little or no code.


Conclusion

Cloud automation aligns with the DevOps and modern cloud-native approaches. Every organization today strives for tremendous success, and leveraging cloud automation strategy has become a must in this regard. It reduces the overhead cost, thereby increasing the overall IT team's productivity. In addition, cloud automation has become simple with platforms like Fylamynt, where teams can automate their workflows securely within minutes with little to no code.