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Cloud orchestration tools become a must-have for hybrid IT

Some IT shops try to force-fit legacy orchestration tools to cloud -- but that can backfire. Instead, evaluate new orchestration tools, especially those built for hybrid models.

To best meet the needs of an enterprise workload, IT teams need to successfully arrange cloud resources, such as compute and storage. This is typically done using automation in the context of orchestration, which allows you to easily repeat resource allocation and provisioning, as necessary, to address specific workload needs.

Amazon Web Services CloudFormation and VMware vRealize Orchestrator are two tools, native to a specific cloud platform, which can accomplish these goals. But there are other cloud orchestration tools, such as RightScale, Scalr and Morpheus, that take a slightly different approach, and can operate within multiple cloud platforms. Most of these tools create templates that orchestrate processes and combine them into a unified workflow. This allows admins to allocate required resources for a workflow or for a workload using a single API call.

As organizations move more workloads to public, private and, increasingly, hybrid clouds, orchestration is a requirement. The good news is that most enterprises are new to cloud orchestration and are still determining the tool sets that they need. That's good news because trying to use a legacy IT orchestration tool for hybrid cloud -- where well-defined APIs are a must -- typically won't work.

Instead, enterprises need to select orchestration tools that are built specifically for cloud. For some enterprises, however, those cloud orchestration tools also need to reach inside the enterprise to manage traditional systems. In some cases, you may need to go with two or more orchestration tools to achieve this goal, which can be confusing at times, and can prevent on-premises systems from working with cloud-based systems as seamlessly as they should.

Three considerations for cloud orchestration

If you're like most enterprises, you've moved -- or plan to move -- hundreds or even thousands of workloads to public and private clouds. Orchestration and orchestration tools are in your near future, and you can do a few things to prepare:

  • Understand what your existing requirements are around your traditional systems. They need to work and play well with your hybrid cloud.
  • Define your hybrid cloud resources, such as selecting the private and public cloud for certain workloads. You need to know what resources you'll use before you can create an orchestration layer above them.
  • Explore the available orchestration tool sets, including those that are native to a specific cloud, or those that can span clouds. For the most part, the tools that can span clouds are a better bet, especially as you move toward hybrid cloud.

The role of TOSCA in cloud orchestration

Some of the purebred cloud orchestration tools may use new standards, such as the Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA), which is an OASIS standard.

TOSCA is an attempt to standardize how we define workloads, including every resource that is needed to allow that workload to run on a hybrid, public or private cloud. TOSCA defines a standard way to describe the workload, as well as any of the workload's resource dependencies.

Enterprises shouldn't limit their choice of cloud orchestration tools solely based on standards such as TOSCA, as not all of these standards are universally supported. TOSCA is interesting, but not mandatory. However, a standard like TOSCA is definitely a nice-to-have feature, as it could boost interoperability down the road.

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