The Easiest Targets for Cloud Automation
Cloud-native automation and orchestration tools make IT administration easier — at least once you know what you’re doing. While there is also some concern among the ranks of cloud technicians that automation could lead to job losses, by mastering the tools available you make yourself more valuable, while also finding and executing on efficiencies. Cloud automation is a win-win.
But where should you begin when it comes to automating your cloud environment? There are many moving parts in an enterprise cloud deployment, even within specific application clusters. These are the three easiest targets for automation and orchestration.
Patching and Compliance
Tracking software and hardware throughout an enterprise IT stack is often like finding a needle in a haystack. You may not even know a device or system is out of compliance until audit time — when it is far too late. Or worse, in the case of major vulnerabilities, you could suffer a data breach.
Depending on your cloud platform, there are third-party and native tools that can help orchestrate your Patch Tuesdays, providing dashboard reports on where and when patches were installed across all discoverable devices. These tools can also help:
- Schedule patches for specific times
- Stagger patch installations to avoid cascade effects or downtime
- Rollback failed patches
- Locate non-compliant devices or servers
- Integrate with PowerShell or Systems Center
- Run SQL queries, programs, or processes
- Restart devices during patch installation
Patching and validation can take up significant work cycles, so patch automation tools are a great way to boost efficiency while also further securing your environment.
The majority of cloud platforms have automated lifecycle, backup, and disaster recovery tools available, and third party software can be added for cloud-to-cloud, hybrid setups, and agnostic service delivery across platforms (as well as other added features that may not be available on native tools).
In addition to archive storage that comes at a lower price point, in which you can stash data and VM snapshots, automation tools like AWS Glacier, Azure SQL, Azure Backup, PowerShell, and vRealize can be used to schedule and maintain backups for your cloud servers and associated data. You simply define the policies and locations for when and where backups should occur. You can decide whether to stack or overwrite backups, how much data to save, and much more.
Automating backups, once tested and deployed, is a major weight off your shoulders. While you’ll still want to occasionally perform a recovery test, knowing that systems are regularly backing up to unlimited cloud storage certainly helps an admin sleep at night.
Provisioning and Version Control
You can use Azure Automation, Active Directory, Systems Center, PowerCLI, PowerShell scripts, and third party tools like TheForeman, Chef, and Puppet to automate and provision your VMs from end-to-end.
You’ll have to evaluate the best tools for your cloud environment, but once selected, you can easily scale systems or provision complete new servers with attached storage, network settings, and any necessary software or operating systems already preinstalled.
By configuring and orchestrationg your entire service catalog with these automation tools, you significantly reduce application provisioning time, making strides towards DevOps and continuous improvement/integration. Your VMs are delivered at your required security, compliance, and performance standards.
In addition, lifecycle management via automation can help reduce cloud sprawl and “zombie” servers that eat up your operational budget, while also immediately offering a version control cycle that allows you to rollback if necessary.
While the sky’s the limit (pun intended?) for cloud automation, these three areas are your best bet for starting off. With provisioning, backup, and patching all at least partly automated, you’re free to help your end users or work on new projects and technologies. Isn’t the future grand?