Have you ever wondered how services, workloads and resources from disparate private and public cloud environments can be harmonized effectively to create a functioning hybrid cloud environment?

It’s all a result of the special job done by sophisticated orchestration software. This article will explain what orchestration software is, how it is deployed, and how it differs from basic automated system configuration scripts, as well as the many benefits orchestration brings.

This article will also look at some of the potential issues that may come up with managing the orchestration process and how Shamrock Consulting Group’s cloud consulting services can help you make the right choice between vendors offering this type of software.

What is Cloud Orchestration?

In a nutshell, cloud orchestration is a type of specialized cloud management software designed to speed up and simplify the deployment of cloud instances and manage the connections and interactions between workflows. It is not the same as a PaaS deployment, however, since it deploys full instances, providing developers with much more control.

Unlike simple automated configuration processes, an orchestrator is responsible for the whole application stack from servers, load balancers, databases and block storage to DNS, scaling and automated scripts. Like a manager coordinating his or her team, the orchestrator decides the order in which tasks are carried out and runs all the necessary processes. These include deploying servers, assigning storage, managing networks, creating virtual machines (VMs) and controlling access to software.

To illustrate the orchestrator’s high-level function, consider server configuration. Configuration management (CM) tools, such as Chef and Puppet, are designed to handle server configurations automatically. An orchestration tool would not take over this task directly, but would instead deploy the server itself and then initiate the CM tools ready to carry out their function.

Cloud orchestration software built for a hybrid cloud environment will use monitoring agents on the different clouds to assess performance and manage their integration. This is important to ensure that the end user receives a reliable service regardless of changing circumstances. When, for example, a request to scale out is received, an orchestrator can spin up extra VMs and configure the networks and app requirements to cope with the additional demand.

Load Balancers

If you are currently running load balancer hardware for managing resource use and throughput, this function can also now be virtualized. These VM kits are often termed “application delivery controllers” (ADCs), and they can carry out many of the same functions as a hardware unit.

The basic task of a load balancer is to distribute incoming traffic between various backend servers so as to optimize resource use, avoid overload and reduce application response time. However, there are numerous specific features to consider when opting for a particular deployment. These include asymmetric load, priority activation, DDoS mitigation, HTTP compression, rate shaping and TCP buffering, among others. The specific set of features you need will depend on the characteristics of the data flowing through your netUsing Templates to Manage Orchestration.

Orchestration software can be managed through the use of text-based templates written in human-readable languages such as YAML or JSON. This gives administrators close control over how their cloud instances are deployed. Templates may be pre-built and pre-validated by the orchestration tool vendor or customized/built by DevOps staff, as preferred.

With templates, complete application stacks become portable so that they can be quickly and consistently deployed on different clouds as needed.

Administrators can access and make changes to the templates whenever necessary. This can be through a CLI, control panel or API call. Once the template has been updated, the changes can be instantly applied across instances. It is also easy to delete an entire application stack rather than risk leaving resources active but not utilized.

Templates are also a great way to ensure that processes meet industry best practice guidelines. Policy enforcement and permissions oversight can all be included, essentially making compliance watertight.

As with all virtual network functions (VNFs), ADCs need to be checked for OS and hypervisor dependencies to ensure they will run on your network.

The Advantages and Challenges of Managing Orchestration

Orchestration software can deliver even more cloud cost reduction by saving developers a lot of valuable time. Using a single pane of glass, developers can quickly and easily monitor the status of an application and then deploy, modify and delete instances as necessary. This can all be done in a fraction of the time it would take to manually make changes. Without orchestration, developers would have to think about which components they needed to run and in which order. With orchestrator software, they simply declare what application they need, and the software does the rest. This gives developers more time to actually create and build the apps that a business employs them for.

Using the correct software to manage your orchestration process can also save you from the dreaded VM sprawl. This is where numerous VMs or their components are provisioned for, even though their associated applications have been deleted. An orchestrator can be instructed to delete the whole application stack and de-allocate all associated resources, reducing the risk of missing individual components and paying for services you are not using. Orchestration software can also be set to monitor resource spend and usage.

The importance of choosing the right orchestrator for your specific hybrid cloud setup cannot be understated. Keep in mind, some orchestrators will only work within a specific public cloud or a limited range of environments. These may then need to be manually connected to the rest of your hybrid cloud.

How Shamrock Can Help

If you need assistance managing your hybrid cloud environments, Shamrock Consulting Group is uniquely positioned to help.

Shamrock’s team is filled with specialists who are highly trained in the cloud procurement, orchestration and cost reduction of the four main public clouds: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Cloud.

Shamrock’s close relationships with key software vendors help clients source the best solutions and secure the lowest prices for hybrid cloud orchestration. Shamrock experts constantly and carefully monitor the marketplace to identify which vendors provide managed support for their products in case of technical issues.

As this article points out, managing the orchestration process in a hybrid cloud environment requires making smart choices with relation to the software you choose to purchase. Shamrock can support you in that critical decision, ultimately maximizing the benefits and minimizing the headaches of your cloud deployments.

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and Voice over IP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for AWS, Azure and GCP consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton.