DevOps Blog

What is Workflow Orchestration? Workflow Orchestration Explained

Stephen Watts
5 minute read
Stephen Watts
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Workflow orchestration processes aren’t simple workflow automations completing individual tasks. Instead, they’re complex series of workflow processes that depend on one another to enhance a production ecosystem. Two common types of workflow orchestration in IT are: cloud orchestration and service orchestration.

Undoubtedly, service orchestration exists on a much grander scale than cloud orchestration, although both are vital to various lines of business. Cloud orchestration refers to all of the workflows that automate tasks usually around big data in a cloud environment, while service orchestration comprises of those process that serves to create harmony in the greater IT environment.

In the following article, we’ll simplify the differences between automation and orchestration, discuss the two common types of orchestration in greater depth, and examine the benefits of orchestration for your business. Stay tuned for all you ever wanted to know about workflow orchestration.

Automation vs Orchestration

In a previous blog, we looked at the global concepts of automation and orchestration in IT. Here are some key differences summarized below:

Automation

Per the definition outlined in our previous post, automation is the act of “setting up a single task to run on its own – automating one thing.” Single tasks can be used to accomplish a wide variety of goals, from launching a piece of software to integrating two or more separate systems. Tasks can be very simple or complex, but an automated workflow accomplishes the goal of automating one task.

Orchestration

When IT organizations seek to automate multiple, interrelated tasks to aid in a single outcome, orchestration has occurred. Often, people in IT misuse the word “automation” when they really mean orchestration.

Due to the nature of orchestration, it’s a more complex technique that requires a bit of planning and coordination between IT officers to be effective. To define orchestration accurately, you have to consider a number of things to automate:

  • Arrangement: how workflow processes and tasks relate to one another in computer systems, middleware, and services.
  • Coordination: how complex computer systems, middleware, and services work with one another.
  • Management: oversight processes required for the regulation and compliance of computer, middleware, and services.

In short, orchestration requires a number of workflows and seeks to solve a larger, holistic issue within a system or organization: overall efficiency. Meanwhile, the end goal of automation is to complete a single task. These two things are markedly different, while both important to the overall success of any technology organization.

Types of Workflow Orchestration

Two common types of workflow orchestration apply to this discussion: cloud orchestration and service orchestration. In the next section, we will be looking to clearly define each one, so you can decide what your business might need in terms of one or both.

Cloud Orchestration

Cloud orchestration’s goal is to get an application to market faster and more efficiently. Tantamount to a DevOps mindset is the notion that time is of the essence in developing software products. Cloud orchestration allows IT enterprises to automate a network of tasks that will ultimately result in increased development speed.

This is particularly true for projects that include Big Data. Through proper orchestration, businesses can avoid writing bulky scripts that don’t play well together when they try to scale. Using cloud orchestration to reign in the many complexities of Big Data, DevOps teams can simplify their data projects in the cloud, reduce vulnerability and risk, ensure scalability, improve reliability, ensuring, along the way, that integration goes smoothly.

Service Orchestration

Service orchestration is a different animal completely. While both cloud orchestration and service orchestration promote greater efficiency, service orchestration relates to the interrelatedness and dependencies of foundational tools. These are tools apply to the following:

  • Applications: processes and performance
  • Backing up data
  • Compliance
  • Configuration
  • Logging
  • Monitoring
  • Provisioning
  • Security

By touching all the most important database systems and applications, service orchestration creates a tapestry of efficiency across an organization’s core by deploying bundles of automation that keep the IT organization and its team members running smoothly and harmoniously.

3 Benefits of Cloud Orchestration

Now that you know more about cloud orchestration and how coordinated workflows play a part in the overall efficiency of cloud application functioning, it’s time to understand the benefits this process has to offer:

Time to Market

By freeing up the DevOps team to perform more critical tasks, organizations make the best use of their resources resulting in a faster time to market. Workflow engines also offer businesses self-service portals, making it faster for businesses to access and customize their own services, resulting in a speed bonus.

Greater Agility and Resource Efficiency

When businesses switch to a cloud-based DevOps approach, what they are typically looking for is greater agility. Cloud orchestration allows DevOps professionals to continue the trend toward becoming more agile by scaling resources more quickly than ever before. In turn, when workflows complete menial tasks, DevOps pros are given the opportunity to focus their efforts on mission-critical processes, which, in turn, creates an environment of greater resource efficiency.

Makes Security and Compliance Less Complicated

Security and compliance are both important and complex. They require attention to detail and, for some organizations, don’t work well without a high degree of management and resource application. There’s no room for human error when it comes to security and compliance either. One mistake can be costly.

For these reasons, it makes sense to simplify it as much as possible with automation and orchestration. Using workflows, IT organizations can orchestrate routine security and compliance tasks, making the organization better regulated and secure.

3 Benefits of IT Service Orchestration

When it comes to the IT organization itself, service orchestration assists with overall efficiency. Here’s how:

Greater Cost Savings and More Revenue

Service orchestration saves businesses money by improving organizational efficiency by streamlining time-consuming and redundant tasks and activities that would otherwise slow employees down. Implementing orchestration processes ensures productivity. It stands to reason, productive businesses spend less money on labor while turning a profit faster.

Time for More Important Tasks

By design, service orchestration allows DevOps team members to focus more on the most critical tasks for accomplishing business goals. So, not only does service orchestration allow businesses to have more money, but the flipside of greater productivity is that IT employees have more time to use their skills on things necessary for achieving growth and other milestones.

Error Reduction & Organizational Speed

One benefit of service orchestration is that you reach your end goal more quickly increasing the rate of your processes while reducing errors. When automation and orchestration aren’t involved, sometimes greater speed results in higher errors. That’s not the result when you deploy a strategy of service orchestration. Instead, the orchestrated processes result in more routine tasks being automated and fewer mistakes being made. Meanwhile, IT staff focus increases, and your processes become faster and better. It’s a win-win.

Workflow Orchestration: Solutions for You

If you’ve made it this far, you might be considering orchestration solutions for your organization. But where do you start?

When you choose BMC as an IT solution partner you know you are working with expert consultants that have a deep understanding of how workflow processes impact your business. BMC offers workflow solutions with your needs in mind. TrueSight Orchestration from BMC offers:

  • Process automation: take the legwork out of routine tasks and processes
  • Pre-built content: use content that has been curated for the needs of businesses like yours
  • Visual interface: equipped with graphically-intense design capabilities
  • Connectivity and integration: of systems and applications,
  • Scale and performance: scale faster and more efficiently
  • All from one central console

Learn more about how TrueSight Orchestration could work for you.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Stephen Watts

Stephen Watts

Stephen is based in Birmingham, AL and began working at BMC Software in 2012. Stephen holds a degree in Philosophy from Auburn University and is currently enrolled in the MS in Information Systems - Enterprise Technology Management program at University of Colorado Denver.

Stephen contributes to a variety of publications including CIO.com, Search Engine Journal, ITSM.Tools, IT Chronicles, DZone, and CompTIA.