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Cloud orchestration is the coordination of automated cloud computing tasks, resulting in a consolidated workflow. While cloud automation usually describes a task accomplished without human intervention, cloud orchestration describes the arrangement of several cloud automation processes into a particular order to accomplish a goal. Cloud automation forms the building blocks of cloud orchestration. For example, cloud-automated scaling groups, load balancers and OS configuration tasks can be orchestrated with security roles and permissions to occur in a specific order, creating a standard process to spin up an environment for hosting a new application. Thus, cloud orchestration can replace hundreds of manual tasks involved in delivering a new application environment.

Cloud orchestration is typically used to provision, deploy or start servers; acquire and assign storage capacity; manage networking; create virtual machines (VMs); and gain access to specific software on cloud services. Enterprises use cloud orchestration to lower overall IT costs, free up engineering time for new projects, improve delivery times, and reduce friction between system and development teams. In addition to reduced personnel involvement, orchestration eliminates the potential for errors introduced into provisioning, scaling or other cloud processes. Cloud orchestration supports the delivery of cloud resources to customers and end users, including in a self-service model where users request resources without IT involvement.

Cloud orchestration tools – either native to the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform or from a third party – calculate the resources, instance types, roles and other requirements, as well as the configuration of resources and the interconnections between them. Engineers can use tools like AWS CloudFormation or VMware’s vRealize Orchestrator to create templates that orchestrate processes into a single workflow or a single API call. Well-orchestrated IT processes enable continuous integration and continuous delivery of services. Whereas cloud automation is a technical task, cloud orchestration is an IT workflow composed of tasks, and orchestrated processes enable DevOps. It allows IT and DevOps professionals to more easily deploy, manage and scale container-based applications and services.