With digital transformation becoming a strategic commitment for businesses, automation in different areas has gained an additional fillip as an enabler. It is now a core priority for all enterprises. Automation eliminates the hassle of repetitive tasks, reduces errors, and increases accuracies. In fact, close to three in four companies cited that they achieved success when automation was their strategic priority (source).
Cloud automation is one instance of automation that involves using automated tools and processes to execute workflows in a cloud environment that would otherwise have to be performed manually by engineers. It enables businesses to take advantage of cloud resources efficiently while avoiding the pitfalls of manual, error-prone workflows.
The global cloud automation market size is expected to triple in the next five years, from 2022 to 2027 (source)
Cloud automation can be used in a range of workflows and tasks. some of the key use cases are given below.
Cloud automation tools help configure virtual servers automatically by creating templates to define each virtual server’s configuration. Other cloud resources, such as network setups and storage buckets or volumes, can be configured automatically. These automation approaches help in agile provisioning of the required cloud infrastructure.
Releasing a new application from development environments to production environments is a critical use case of cloud automation. It becomes even more critical in a CI/CD process where teams make new releases each week. Application deployments are time-consuming besides being error-prone when done manually.
Operating enterprise workloads is time-consuming, repetitive, and painstaking with tasks such as sizing, provisioning, and configuring resources like virtual machines. These tasks are the perfect automation targets that make life easy for IT engineers besides making businesses efficient.
Monitoring and Remediation
Monitoring cloud infrastructure with the ability to provide immediate responses to incidents is critical to ensuring optimal application performance. Most public clouds offer built-in monitoring solutions that automatically collect metrics from the cloud environment. They allow users to configure alerts based on predefined thresholds.
Administration of infrastructure, network, application, and users become complex in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Further integration between on-premises and public cloud systems becomes critical in a few scenarios. Cloud automation programs synchronize assets between local data centers and cloud resources. They can automatically shift workloads to the cloud when local infrastructure faces resource limitations. It enables disaster recovery scenarios with a remote DR site mirroring the on-premises environment.
Automation can further unite hybrid and multi-cloud management under a single set of processes and policies to improve consistency, scalability, and speed.
Cloud automation is essential for DevOps maturity, and the two typically go together well. DevOps emphasizes automation and relies on practices such as automated infrastructure-as-code, continuous delivery, and tight feedback loops, all dependent on automation.
DevOps is an evolution of agile practices and applies the innovations of the agile approach to operations processes. It can be considered a missing piece of Agile since a few of its principles are realized when DevOps practices are employed. Cloud automation furthers the benefits and promise of DevOps in an agile environment.
Continuous improvement with timely feedback, a DevOps essential, can be achieved more easily with embedded automation across the workflows.
Cloud Security Automation
Automating the cloud security process enables organizations to quickly gather timely information, securing their cloud environments while reducing vulnerability risks. Areas of automation could include:
- Endpoints & Network Security
- Access Management
- Configuration Management
- Incident response management
Cloud security automation can manage risk in time, effectively deal with complexity, and keep pace with changes in the IT environment.
Intelligent automation of cloud operations at scale is the role of AI/ML. Unlike basic script-based automation, machine learning algorithms can learn from operation patterns, make predictions, and mimic human-like remediation. The application of AI/ML can range from auto-detection of anomalies to auto-healing to cloud resource optimization.
AI/ML-driven automation to manage cloud operations is still an evolving field but will play a more significant role in the coming years.
Integrating disparate automation across services and clouds is the primary goal of cloud orchestration. It creates a cohesive workflow to help the business achieve its goals by connecting automated tasks. Infrastructure-as-a-code (IaaC) approach has taken orchestration to higher automation levels by bringing together a series of lower-level automation through configuration-driven techniques.
Cloud orchestration allows users to create an automation environment across the enterprise covering more teams, functions, cloud services, security, and compliance activities.
Several tools help in implementing cloud automation, broadly classified into two categories as follows:
- Tools and services built into public cloud platforms offer the highest level of integration with their respective platforms. However, they support only the clouds of which they are a part. Examples: AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager
- Tools from independent vendors are open source in their core form, although many serve as the basis for commercial editions. These solutions work with public, private, or hybrid cloud platforms—examples: HashiCorp Terraform, Puppet, Ansible, Chef, and Salt.
Any large-scale cloud environment needs cloud automation, and it is one sure way to derive the utmost value out of the system. Management tasks that would otherwise consume tremendous time and resources get automated by cloud automation. This empowers organizations to update their cloud environments more quickly in response to business challenges.
Following customer success stories demonstrate how we applied automation techniques to transform cloud and DevOps: