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Cloud Orchestration: What It Is, Why You Need It

The cloud is going to arrive in bits and pieces, not in a large uprooting of environments. When I try to explain that to some customers, they automatically change the conversation because they are not interested in cloud. Some of them view the cloud as a threat or they simply don't understand it.

The irony comes when some of them change the conversation and they want to discuss orchestration. (VMware vCenter Orchestrator and Microsoft System Center Orchestrator are examples, and are both great orchestration products.) I can't help but smile at that point because they are going down the path of a private cloud without realizing it.

Orchestration is at the heart of the private cloud. It's the tool that you will use to automate repetitive tasks that you do daily or weekly. When designing your private cloud, orchestrators are what you will need to tie in with your ticketing system so that you can automate user requests.

Your private cloud might be designed so that when a user needs a new server, he fills in a service request from the service request portal. That service request will then require one or more approvals and once approved it is then passed on to orchestrator for execution at the different levels of systems within your private cloud.

If you were building your private cloud around Microsoft technologies, Orchestrator would receive the approved service request from System Center Service Manager and execute the automation in System Center Virtual Machine manager, thereby completely automating what is otherwise a manual process of right clicking and deploying a VM from scratch or template.

It is imperative to realize that orchestration is a fundamental building block of your private cloud and while today you may only be interested in automating repetitive, boring tasks, you should recognize that you are almost half way there from a cloud perspective. What is left is integration with ticketing and change management systems, monitoring and some other components.

What admins need to understand is that the private cloud is not just about them anymore, and that they are building a framework that has built in accountability, change management, ITIL best practices, chargebacks or showbacks, etc.

I encourage you, if you have not started working with an orchestration tool, to start doing so. Once you start down the orchestration path, you are well on your way to a much more robust environment that is more agile and responds to customer needs much faster. If you have automated VM provisioning and have built the right templates, you are then simply approving requests. Imagine how much time you now have on your hands to do other things that are more exciting and important to the business, like building showback models.

Stopping at a highly virtualized environment is not good enough anymore and getting pre-occupied in whether vSphere or Hyper-V is better is also a waste of time and a very old school mindset that will not save you money and that will keep you isolated.

VMware and Microsoft both have provisions to manage one another's hypervisor. Your job now is to build the framework to automate repetitive tasks in a trackable way so that you have time to execute other projects.

I am very interested to know how many of you are working with an orchestration tool or are looking to start working with one. Share your comments here.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 01/23/2013 at 2:59 PM


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