What Is Cloud Automation & What Are the Benefits?

Cloud automation can reduce or eliminate the manual tasks required in today’s complex cloud environments. Find out how here.

What is cloud automation? Cloud automation refers to all processes and tools that reduce or eliminate human intervention when managing cloud computing workloads and services. Tasks include automatically provisioning infrastructure and organized compute resources, workflow version control, and performing backups.

What Is Cloud Automation?

Cloud automation uses software, hardware, or other tools to create automatic workflows that operate independently of direct administrator management. Without automation, cloud services and resources become almost impossible to control, much less do so effectively manually. Repetitive but necessary tasks like server setup, integration with cloud nodes, or sanitizing data streams essentially beg for automation.

As cloud environments grow, so does the complexity of those environments, to the point where automation is essential beyond a certain point of growth. This doesn’t even consider any attempts to scale effectively–at this point, automation is necessary.

That doesn’t mean that cloud environments just come packaged with automation tools. Some providers will offer them as part of your package, but these tools are more often tailored to your workloads, projects, and industry.

How Is Cloud Automation Different from On-Prem?

At the heart of the matter (automation), cloud and on-prem automation are basically the same. You take repetitive tasks, create workflows and pipelines to direct those tasks into complex jobs and let the automation tools run them.

However, cloud environments often have unique components that one doesn’t often find in on-prem systems. Some of the differences between cloud and on-prem automation are:

  • Automating Virtual Infrastructure: Cloud services are much different than traditional on-prem solutions. That’s because the tiers of services, from end-user applications to back-end resource access, have different requirements and workflows controlling how they operate and interact with one another.
    Following this, it’s critical for cloud automation tools to have the capacity to manage data and task flows between virtual services and across different environments, whether that’s different types of cloud infrastructure or different containerized applications.
  • Automating Scalability: The real strength of cloud computing is that it provides scalable resources that can adjust to the increasing and decreasing demands of your workloads. However, this level of scalability requires complex re-provisioning of storage and compute resources that should be automated for sanity’s sake if there is no other reason.

What Are the Benefits of Cloud Automation?

Discussing the “benefits” of cloud automation is a bit like discussing the benefits of wheels on a car. It’s possible to break down just exactly why it’s a great idea to have those wheels, but the primary reason is that the car doesn’t really function without them.

Automation is much the same. Sure, you can develop cloud applications without automation if they are small enough scale and limited in scope (so, count out anything with analytics, machine learning, or dynamic resource usage). But any enterprise or research organization heavily invested in getting the most out of their cloud will use automation.

However, it’s still important to point out why. Some of the benefits of cloud automation include:

  • Managing Resources at Scale: The cloud is a complex, distributed network of resources, from hardware to software, organized into nodes handling millions of incoming requests or powering data storage and retrieval flows 24/7. Configuring, testing, updating, and troubleshooting those resources is nearly impossible under normal working conditions, thus the benefit of automation in streamlining those operations.
  • Maintaining Correctness: While human ingenuity is always welcome and needed in cloud development when it comes to handling the minute tasks of cloud management, it’s more important to have accuracy baked into maintenance at scale. Automation can give you that accuracy, minimizing errors and allowing your engineers to focus on other things than worrying about what component might fail.
  • Speed and Time Issues: Computers work faster than humans–this isn’t debatable. Aside from just automating tasks for scalability and accuracy, administrators prefer automation because machines, when configured right, will just get the job done much quicker.
  • Standardized Security: In regulated industries, security is non-negotiable. Furthermore, human error isn’t really an excuse for non-compliance. Automated systems can accurately support key compliance controls across an entire cloud environment using centralized policies.

Where Is Cloud Automation Used?

The short answer is “everywhere.” Automation is a critical part of cloud computing in almost every context, inextricably linked to large-scale projects.

There are a few key areas where automation is commonly always found for effectively managing a cloud environment. Some of these use cases include:

  • Provisioning Resources: New server clusters are added to a cloud, and old ones are removed. A high-availability storage cluster communicates with the central infrastructure. Hot application nodes automatically replicate data to passive nodes in case of failover. In these cases, computational and storage resources enter and leave the cloud environment. Provisioning or de-provisioning resources involves much more than plugging in or unplugging servers.
    Automation is the glue that holds these together. Cloud automation will kick in to configure and connect resources to the primary environment without direct intervention and raise alerts for unexpected issues and other baseline tasks. Because of this kind of automation, clouds can scale as they do.
  • Managing Security and Compliance: Proper compliance, especially in strictly regulated industries like healthcare, government contracting, or financial services, requires centralized data protection policies that cannot be implemented ad hoc in different cloud components. Automation is used to streamline the integration of proper encryption standards, key storage, Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies, and ongoing monitoring, scanning, and auditing processes.
    Furthermore, automation can help during emergency recovery, isolating systems, shutting down non-functional resources, and rerouting traffic to working nodes.
  • Deploying Applications: Cloud applications that serve a global market aren’t centralized on a single cloud. Due to geographical and jurisdictional issues, many SaaS providers will host their applications worldwide to maintain performance and compliance with local regulations. Automation keeps these cloud environments up to date and aligned with the global network by streamlining code updates and data backups.
  • Orchestrating Workloads: Automation isn’t the same as orchestration. The former is about stringing tasks into workflows that can control repetitive tasks. In contrast, the latter is a way to control the automation flow to orchestrate bigger-picture strategies. For example, you may automate resource provisioning on a local cloud instance while orchestrating the overarching data flows between that instance and another public cloud storage service provider in a multi-cloud setup.
  • Ongoing Monitoring: Monitoring is a major part of both security and optimization. Accordingly, automation is a core part of running monitoring operations, collecting and analyzing data, and providing that data to administrators in real-time.

Build Your Cloud-Native Applications with WEKA

Automation is a core part of cloud management, but the best automation in the world won’t help much if the underlying infrastructure doesn’t meet your needs. WEKA leads the industry when it comes to high-performance workloads in areas like machine learning and AI, life science research, manufacturing, and genomic sequencing.

Our platform is a stand-alone cloud infrastructure or software package built on your preferred cloud platform (Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, AWS, etc.) that handles some of the most intensive hybrid cloud workloads.

With WEKA, you get the following features:

  • Streamlined and fast cloud file systems to combine multiple sources into a single high-performance computing system
  • Industry-best GPUDirect performance (113 Gbps for a single DGX-2 and 162 Gbps for a single DGX A100)
  • In-flight and at-rest encryption for governance, risk, and compliance requirements
  • Agile access and management for edge, core, and cloud development
  • Scalability up to exabytes of storage across billions of files

To learn more about WEKA hybrid cloud platforms, contact our experts today.