Understanding IT Automation vs. Orchestration

automation vs orchestration

If there’s one thing IT and DevOps teams could always use more of — it’s time. With the ongoing talent shortage and ever-increasing project lists, efficiency and a keen understanding of priorities are key.

But there are only so many hours in the day and people on the team, which means it’s important to look to technology to push the boundaries of what’s possible to accomplish. This is where the concepts of automation — and ultimately — orchestration, come into play.

Across your IT infrastructure, which likely spans equipment, systems, and servers both on-premises and in the cloud, global teams are leveraging the capabilities and benefits of automation to handle routine tasks, tackle cybersecurity challenges, and get information where it needs to go around the clock.

Here we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of automation and its more advanced version, orchestration, to highlight how each provides value to your organization.

Recognizing the Initial Need for Automation

In addition to large-scale strategic initiatives such as bolstering cybersecurity defenses, upgrading critical business systems, and virtualizing environments, IT teams are charged with the everyday work of keeping things up and running. There’s a lot of information to be retrieved, packaged, and shared. Much of this occurs via manual, routine tasks with well-defined and repeatable steps.

Unfortunately, these routine projects become an expensive resource drain. IT pros are highly trained, well-paid, and readily capable of carrying out tactical and strategic projects. If much of their time becomes consumed by mindless, redundant work, your organization is missing a major opportunity to not only increase productivity, but also to improve morale.

There are bigger IT and business challenges to solve than moving information from one system to another in a wearisome rinse-and-repeat cycle. Automation, and ultimately orchestration, free companies from this legacy approach and gives critical resources time back in their days to be redeployed to more value-added initiatives.

Automation vs. Orchestration: An Analogy

The major difference between automation and orchestration is the scale of the activities involved. Automation handles simple, narrowly defined tasks, and orchestration coordinates and oversees the execution of more complex undertakings occurring across the organization.

At a high level, you can think of orchestration as an orchestra and automation as the individual instruments playing their assigned parts. Orchestration ensures all automation happens in sync to achieve a harmonious result.

What Is Automation?

Automation, often called robotic process automation (RPA) or business process automation (BPA), takes a reoccurring manual task, function, or process and condenses it into its fundamental parts to be handled by software robots. The item in question could be a script, program, custom application, or query.

Sometimes it’s obvious when it’s time to automate, like when a task consistently takes several hours every week. Even if you spend 20 hours to set up the automation script, the organization will ultimately get a fast return on the time spent.

Many tasks ideal for automation occur on a regular schedule, such as a report that needs to be generated and sent to the leadership team or information that has to be downloaded from a website. Other tasks are common but occur on a more ad hoc basis, such as provisioning new Active Directory users.

Other examples of the many tasks that can be automated:

  • File movement
  • Data collection
  • Invoice processing
  • Software testing

When it comes to what you can automate, the sky’s really the limit. Automation software gives you a blank canvas to work from but may also offer common, prebuilt bots to address popular business scenarios.

Fortra’s Automate is a no-code automation solution that uses form-based development, 600+ prebuilt actions, and a screen recorder to get organizations up and running quickly so they can solve real business problems.

What Is Orchestration?

Orchestration is automation on an enterprise scale. It leverages job scheduling to carry out complex business processes quickly and accurately from a centralized command center. IT teams typically expand beyond simple automation to orchestration when projects span multiple platforms and systems throughout the business, requiring a more robust, holistic approach.

For example: An external vendor creates an encrypted file and sends it to someone at your company. The file needs to be properly decrypted so the data can be extrapolated and uploaded to a database. Queries can be used to manage and translate the data, and you may need to stand up additional servers with the proper applications to process the results stored in the database.

Once the dataset is fully available, a third-party application can use it to process related results that can be turned into reports and sent to the right recipients. The possibilities of this type of scenario are endless and can be distributed across many different systems (web servers, databases, application servers, etc.)

In addition to the example above, orchestration can even mimic human decision-making with event-driven scheduling. This means jobs are less static from a date and time perspective and are driven more by cause and effect. The software has branching scenarios and if/then logic to handle unexpected situations around the clock, such as the actions that must be taken if unauthorized network access is detected.

JAMS is a workload automation and orchestration tool that uses a central scheduler to oversee the reliable execution of vast numbers of processes running throughout the enterprise.

Getting Started

Automation and orchestration play vital roles in enabling organizations to achieve new levels of efficiency while reducing costs, supporting business continuity, and elevating employee satisfaction.

Learn more about how Fortra can play pivotal roles in your company’s long-term automation success.