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What's the difference between automation and orchestration in DevOps?


By: Ronda Swaney


To understand how automation and orchestration differ, imagine an orchestra that performs a symphony. Each musician in the orchestra plays the part written for his or her instrument. He or she can play the part from start to finish without aid from any other members of the orchestra. Think of the musicians and the individual parts they play as codified tasks—this represents automation.


DevOpsEach musician knows his or her part, but it's the conductor who gathers everyone together with a goal to perform the symphony. The conductor sets the piece in motion and directs the timing, tempo, volume, frequency, and so on. This is, quite literally, orchestration. Orchestration ties together a series of tasks into a larger codified process. The results create a seamless workflow when all the assembled pieces work together as they should.


Building the Harmony of Automation

What does either have to do with DevOps? Automation and orchestration enable DevOps and, therefore, business success. Yes, DevOps is a philosophy, but it's a philosophy of how work gets completed. Automation and orchestration are where the philosophical meets the practical. The DevOps cycles—continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous operations—are powered and empowered by automated tasks and orchestrated processes.


Automation and orchestration enable lower IT costs, faster delivery, lower friction between teams, greater productivity, and more consistent processes and products. But how do you choose what to automate?


Applying automation to processes

When describing HP's DevOps journey, James Chen, VP of R&D IT at HP said,"There's no magic formula where you decide this application or this capability can be transformed by DevOps. Focus on business outcomes to choose which applications should go through DevOps. If you can show improved business metrics to the customer, that adds motivation."


Automate tasks that machines or apps can do faster and more accurately than a person. Orchestrate workflows to free up your team to tackle other projects. But—and perhaps most importantly—choose projects that create significant and measurable business value. As Rafael Garcia, director of R&D IT at HP says, "If all you've done is drop processes for the sake of speed, then you haven't received true business value from the change."


Start with a business goal and think strategically through the steps needed to achieve that goal. Choose something with obvious value to the business.


If you're just beginning this process, Nimish Shelat describes how you can create a roadmap for automating and orchestrating your data center. Shelat describes the process in detail, showing exactly how to find which areas to focus on and choose what will deliver the highest value.


To learn more about improving the efficiency of your data center through automation, download the white paper How IT automation translates to business acceleration.



About the author

Ronda SwaneyRonda Swaney


Content marketer focusing on IT, technology, and healthcare for CXOs, consultants, and entrepreneurs. Ronda advises clients on how to best communicate their messaging by taking complex material and simplifying it to engage both tech geeks and the uninitiated.

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