Trilogix Cloud

Cloud: Setting up Orchestration workflows and automation

DR scenario

Source:  IDC study 2016

An ‘orchestration system’ is essentially the brains of the cloud management system.  It is also the place where any custom business logic and customized workflows are created. The cloud service provider can use the orchestrator to provision simple or multi-tiered cloud applications, send messages, customer invoices, and automatically trigger an alert for any event within the cloud.


The orchestrator is updated with new workflows, scripts, processes, and rules that facilitate automated provisioning, utilization tracking, billing and metering, and operational management. Many cloud management platforms include a service designer tool (through programming and/or a GUI interface) with which a cloud provider or a technically skilled customer can create new workflows, single or multiple VM platform applications, network segmentation, and other important architectural choices.


Often, in a private cloud deployment model, the orchestrator can be used to handle highly customized customer needs. These custom tasks could be to per- form multiple-level order approval, approver reminders after a period of time has passed, or customer notification of certain events. You can also program the orchestrator to do non-cloud-specific tasks such as opening a support ticket, gathering statistical data and sending a monthly report, or warning the cloud provider’s support personnel well in advance before they run out of available disk storage.


Key Take-Away

Some orchestration systems include a library of pre-integrated service designs and connectors to external software systems, hypervisors, network management tools, and additional cloud providers in a hybrid cloud environment.


Creating Reports and Dashboards

A cloud management system provides numerous reports for finance, service availability, performance, and service-level agreement (SLA) adherence. Reports and a dashboard displaying metrics can show customers a real-time view of the service status and utilization, which is a tremendously valuable feature for those customers that need more than a monthly written report to monitor statistics and performance metrics. Most public cloud providers give only limited reporting and dashboard views into the cloud service. You can customize private cloud systems to a significantly higher degree to meet customer needs and integrate with internal service management or business intelligence systems.


When an organization goes beyond basic IaaS and SaaS offerings, integrating legacy applications into a single cloud management system will provide huge benefits. You can truly have an “executive dashboard” of all your services and applications with metrics, statuses, and financial information in a single web portal.


These reports and dashboards provide cloud customers with visibility into their services, utilization, performance, and costs. The first generation of clouds and providers rarely provided this visibility, which still causes concern and impedes new customer adoption of cloud computing.


Managing Systems and Services

As the cloud management system handles resource allocation and provisioning of services, it is fully aware of all servers, networks, storage systems, and applications that are available and already deployed. The cloud provider or your internal enterprise support staff will use this information to detect system problems, identify systems with low remaining capacity, or take individual servers offline for maintenance. When one system is turned off, the cloud management system has the ability to move any active customer resources (e.g., virtual machines, storage volumes) to other infrastructure devices in the datacenter so that, in a perfect scenario, nobody notices the maintenance outage.


The systems management tools utilized in large datacenters are commonly used for capacity management, security monitoring and alerting, asset and configuration management, and software distribution and automated updating of applications. In a cloud environment, these traditional tools use much of the same technology but the emphasis is on forecasting, real-time updating of statistics, and automated response to events. Clouds work because of automation, so elimination of human-caused delays and eventual inaccuracies is the new paradigm for systems management.


There are many aspects of traditional IT or datacenter operations that change in an on-demand, automated, and elastic cloud environment. Capacity management and continuous careful monitoring of the automated provisioning is significantly more important in a cloud environment than ever before.


Providing Self-Service Control Panels

The cloud management system not only handles customer orders, orchestration, and provisioning functions of the cloud, it also provides a (usually web-based) portal for customers to configure their cloud services. The first generation of cloud providers and private cloud management platforms had only given customers extremely basic service administration capabilities.


Almost all cloud management portals make it possible for the customer to order new services, upgrade subscriptions, and terminate services. Depending on privileges as defined in roles-based access controls, some IaaS providers give the customer the ability to restart or reboot IaaS VMs; however, this is significantly less capability that a customer would have if it ran its own on-premises virtualization hypervisor. These limitations are further exacerbated when a cloud provider offers PaaS and SaaS that have more sophisticated software applications, configuration settings, and daily user administrative tasks.


Key Take-Away

There are significant gaps in self-service application administration capabilities in first-generation cloud providers and cloud management systems. Many SaaS- focused providers have long understood this problem, and their customer-facing cloud portals offer excellent self-service control panels for each application and cloud service. Public cloud providers and private cloud management systems are slowly understanding and catching up to this level of application self-service administration capability.


Given that the initial priority for most public cloud providers has been to offer IaaS applications, the lack of fully featured self-service application administration control panels has not been a significant problem. The entire industry and customers agree that platforms (PaaS) and applications (SaaS) will be much more of a focus in the coming years; therefore, the lack of self-service application-specific control panels must be solved.


In the meantime, early adopters of SaaS cloud services are forced to rely on submitting service tickets to the cloud provider or internal cloud operations team for routine application administrative tasks. This is a waste of time and money for everyone involved.  But this too will be resolved by automation.

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