Nutanix Glossary

What is Cloud Automation?

January 29, 2024 | min

What is cloud automation?

Cloud automation is the use of diverse tools and services by businesses to eliminate the laborious and time-consuming tasks associated with manually operating components of the cloud. Managing cloud operations and workloads manually can divert IT teams from more critical, high-value projects, prompting an increasing number of businesses to invest in cloud automation to alleviate this burden. Furthermore, cloud automation is applicable across various cloud types, including private, public, hybrid, multicloud, and beyond.

Without cloud automation, IT teams must manually deploy cloud workloads on their own. This responsibility is, unsurprisingly, tedious and slow, and IT admins must perform repetitive, laborious tasks like:

  • Managing cloud resources

  • Setting up virtual machine (VM) clusters

  • Creating virtual networks

  • Deploying cloud workloads

  • Staying on top of availability and performance standards

Over the course of performing these tasks, human error is bound to spring up. On top of being repetitive and unexciting, the risk of error is always present, which can potentially expose security vulnerabilities that can put the cloud architecture and even the enterprise itself at risk. These errors also necessitate troubleshooting, a task that delays the workload's availability.


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Why should businesses implement cloud automation?

Cloud automation doesn’t only impact an IT team. On the corporate level, businesses can be far more productive and innovative when their IT department isn’t focused on completing menual tasks. Instead, IT can allocate its resources into more important projects that can strengthen their business’s competitive standing.

Not to mention, when IT admins and engineers are reassigned and up-leveled onto more high-level, engaging activities, they benefit from watching their skills grow in their role. And for the business overall, they’re able to enjoy improved employee retention.

Benefits of cloud automation

There are numerous benefits that come with automating routine, time-consuming cloud operations. Below is a list of the main benefits organizations with cloud automation have realized.

  • Cost efficiency - Cloud automation reduces operational costs since less administrative and IT time needs to be spent on once-manual tasks. Also, cloud automation allows for better control over resource allocation, ensuring that you pay only for what you use.

  • Better scalability - With cloud automation scaling resources becomes faster and more efficient. Automated cloud tasks enable organizations to adapt to changing demands without manual intervention.

  • Enhanced security - Cloud automation can self-detect, self-heal, and auto-correct security threats. When a business grows, some of these security concerns can slip by, so automating threat detection is key.

  • Resource optimization - Cloud automation plays a crucial role in optimizing employees' time by automating routine tasks, improving efficiency, and enabling a focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their roles.

  • Compliance adherence - In a private cloud, which often has specific regulatory requirements, cloud automation helps implement and enforce tailored compliance measures and policies.

Cloud automation use cases

There are multiple use cases for cloud automation, and while all cloud automation tools and frameworks accomplish the same goal, every business has unique goals and use cases to consider when pursuing a cloud automation service. 

Infrastructure as code (IaC)

The first and most common use case for cloud automation is establishing infrastructure as code (IaC). First, the cloud will find and categorize compute resources into pools, which then lets users add and deploy more resources no matter where they live in the datacenter. Cloud automation services can then use these pulls to identify common configuration items—VMs, containers, storage logical unit numbers (LUNs), and virtual private networks. From there, these services will place application components onto configuration items. Alternatively, they can create instances. Finally, those items come together to form a unified, deployable environment.

Workload management

Cloud automation can also be applied to workload management. Take, for example, an Application Performance Management (APM) tool, which can be configured to monitor a deployed workload and assess its performance. Alerts will then automatically trigger adjustments to the environment, such as adding clusters, removing container instances, and implementing other features to optimize resource consumption. Furthermore, cloud automation plays a crucial role in workload lifecycle management. Workloads in the cloud are seldom present for the long term, and cloud automation can promptly remove them when they are no longer needed.

Multicloud and hybrid cloud automation

Hybrid and multicloud environments can realize benefits from cloud automation. Because these kinds of cloud environments are most prone to human error and complexity, it’s imperative to implement cloud automation to reduce the strain. By automating private cloud tasks and driving integration with the public cloud, businesses will realize decreased complexity.

Continuous integration and deployment

Application developers can have their busy schedules freed thanks to cloud automation. Certain application development methods require rapid resource deployment and scaling. These include methods like continuous delivery (CD), continuous integration (CI), and DevOps. Used to test new software releases, cloud automation allows these resources to be reused.

Process automation

Cloud automation can let businesses create consistent setups for their workflows, delivering ultimate visibility into the business’s resource consumption. Businesses can then see what’s being used, who’s using them, and plan accordingly to improve their resource consumption. From there, businesses can also predict their future resource use and deliver a reliable service quality.

What is the difference between cloud automation and orchestration? 

Cloud automation and cloud orchestration are two key components in the realm of cloud computing, each serving distinct purposes. Cloud automation is centered around the utilization of automated processes to execute specific tasks, such as resource provisioning, configuration, and management, without the need for manual intervention. 

Cloud orchestration takes a more holistic approach by coordinating and managing multiple automated tasks and processes to achieve a comprehensive outcome or workflow. It involves the integration of various cloud services and resources, orchestrating their interactions to deliver more complex and sophisticated services or applications. In essence, while cloud automation focuses on automating individual tasks, cloud orchestration is concerned with the harmonious coordination of these automated activities to create a seamlessly integrated and optimized cloud environment. Both cloud automation and cloud orchestration play pivotal roles in driving efficiency and scalability within cloud computing environments.

Cloud automation and hybrid/multicloud

Cloud automation is pivotal in the era of hybrid and multicloud architectures, where organizations leverage a combination of on-premises infrastructure and services from multiple cloud providers. In this landscape, automation becomes the linchpin for seamless integration, scalability, and efficient management. In a hybrid cloud setup, where on-premises infrastructure is integrated with public cloud services, automation tools and processes play a pivotal role. They can be configured to efficiently manage and orchestrate workloads, ensuring consistency, scalability, and overall operational efficiency across the hybrid infrastructure. Similarly, in a multicloud environment involving services from various providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, cloud automation tools demonstrate their cloud-agnostic nature. This design allows organizations to deploy, manage, and optimize workloads across different cloud platforms, fostering flexibility, avoiding vendor lock-in, and capitalizing on the unique strengths offered by each cloud provider.

Cloud automation and security

While cloud automation offers numerous benefits for efficiency and scalability, there are potential risks and challenges that, if not managed properly, could lead to negative impacts on security. One concern is the risk of misconfigurations during the automated deployment and configuration processes. If security controls are not appropriately defined or if there are errors in automation scripts, it could result in unintended exposures and vulnerabilities. Automation, if not implemented securely, may inadvertently propagate misconfigurations across multiple instances, amplifying the impact of a security lapse.

Furthermore, the centralized control and interconnected nature of automated processes could become a point of vulnerability. A single compromise in the automation system could potentially expose a wide range of resources and compromise the integrity of the entire environment. Additionally, rapid and automated scaling, while beneficial for accommodating dynamic workloads, could pose a challenge in terms of monitoring and managing the expanded attack surface. It becomes crucial for organizations to implement robust security practices within their automation workflows, conduct regular security audits, and ensure that security considerations are integrated into the design and implementation of automated processes to mitigate potential negative impacts on security.

Industry-specific considerations for cloud automation

Yes, industry-specific considerations for cloud automation exist, as different sectors have unique requirements, compliance standards, and operational challenges. Cloud automation solutions must be tailored to meet these specific needs, ensuring that the automation processes align with industry regulations, enhance efficiency, and address unique challenges within the respective sectors. Here are some industry-specific considerations for cloud automation:

  • Healthcare - Healthcare organizations need to comply with regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Cloud automation must address data privacy, security, and ensure that healthcare applications are compliant with industry standards.

  • Finance - Financial institutions, governed by regulations like PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), need robust security measures. Cloud automation should enforce strict access controls, encryption, and audit trails to safeguard sensitive financial data.

  • Government - Government agencies often have stringent security and compliance requirements. Cloud automation must align with government standards, such as FedRAMP in the United States, and ensure data sovereignty, integrity, and confidentiality.

  • Manufacturing - Manufacturing industries may have complex supply chain processes. Cloud automation can optimize supply chain management but should also address data integration, real-time monitoring, and connectivity with IoT devices on the factory floor.

  • Retail - Retail organizations require agile systems to handle dynamic demand. Cloud automation can assist in inventory management, but considerations include secure online transactions, data analytics for customer insights, and compliance with payment industry standards.

  • Legal - Legal firms handling sensitive client information require robust security in cloud automation. Compliance with data protection laws, secure client communication platforms, and document management are key considerations.

  • Pharmaceuticals - The pharmaceutical industry must adhere to regulations like Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Cloud automation should support traceability, quality control, and secure collaboration among stakeholders.

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