WILS: Automation versus Orchestration

Infrastructure 2.0 is not just about automation, but rather is about the orchestration of processes, which are actually two different things: the former is little more than advanced scripting, the latter requires participation and decision making on the part of the infrastructure involved. 

Automation is the process of codifying – usually through a scripting language but not always – a specific task. This task usually has one goal, though it may have several steps that have to be performed to accomplish it. An example would be “bring this server down for maintenance.” This may require quiescing connections if it is an application server, and stopping specific processes and then taking it offline. But the automation is of a specific task.

Orchestration, on the other hand, is the codification of a complete process. In the case of cloud computing and IT this can also accomplished using scripts but more often involves the use of APIs – both RESTful and SOAPy. Orchestration ties together a set of automated tasks into a single process (operational in the case of IT, business in the case of many other solutions) and may span multiple devices, applications, solutions, and even data centers. “Bring this server down for maintenance” may actually be a single task in a larger process that is “Deploying a new version of an application.”

The subtle difference between automation and orchestration is important primarily because the former is focused on codifying a concrete set of steps normally handled manually but that are done to a device or component. The latter often requires participation and decision making on the part of the infrastructure being orchestrated - the infrastructure is an active participant, a collaborator, in orchestration but is likely not in automation. 


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Published Sep 10, 2009
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