Cloud Automation and Provisioning: Streamlining the Journey

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The Background

When I speak to customers about cloud there are two points that are commonplace in every conversation:

  1. How can we maximise and extend automation to create services securely and reliably?
  2. How can we subsequently allow our platform engineering teams and consumers to provision these services via a controllable and auditable self-service mechanism

These questions ultimately boil down to turbocharging their velocity and ensuring that applications and workloads swiftly deliver business benefits in a shorter timeframe.

Automation and Provisioning are terms in the modern cloud space that tend to be used interchangeably. In reality, cloud automation is a subset of cloud provisioning and these two concepts, while related, serve distinct purposes.

Cloud automation controls a single task like building a virtual server image and involves the use of software and tools to automate many of the manual processes involved in managing and operating cloud infrastructure and services.

Cloud provisioning brings together these automated tasks and surrounds them with process workflows. It gives consumers the power to combine these automated tasks as building blocks, with which they can then construct more complex processes and workflows. It operates on a higher level of coordination, as cloud automation has already streamlined the underlying build process. Tooling can then add in a self-service element to allow consumers to pick and choose the pre-built services they need when they need them, often from a catalogue.

The convergence of cloud automation and cloud provisioning is becoming a significant trend in modern cloud and being able to successfully bring these concepts together holistically creates real synergy for customers.

The Value of Cloud Automation

Imagine this scenario - ‘A developer wants to create a virtual machine in a cloud environment. He sends a request to the Cloud Centre of Excellence group (CCoE). This email is picked up and sent to security to authorise. It is then sent back to the CCoE after which it is sent to the business unit lead to agree. It is then sent back to the CCoE to build the VM and the OS. Another team then builds the software’. And so on. This often takes days and even weeks, is often manual, repetitive and error prone. And if people are on leave? The developer is still waiting to develop his application.

Cloud automation, on the other hand, involves automating the creation and deployment of cloud infrastructure and services. It focuses on streamlining and optimising repetitive tasks and workflows, such as build, configuration, deployment, monitoring, and scaling, by leveraging automation tools and techniques. It eliminates manual intervention, reduces human errors, and accelerates the delivery of IT services. Now when our developer requests a virtual machine it can be built by script with the most up to date operating system patches, software and operational/security tools mandated by the relevant teams.

At Computacenter we have a defined best practice blueprint for automation across multiple clouds platforms using best of breed toolchains.

The need for Cloud Provisioning

Customers can then go a step further by creating a catalogue of standardised cloud and application services, where users can simply select the service they want, enter configuration parameters, and submit their request for near real time deployment. This provides a consistent, secure, and simplified way of accelerating service creation across multiple platforms. Further by ensuring role-based access, policy enforcement and the ability to self-serve, this can optimise cost, increase efficiency, reduce cloud sprawl, and reduce technical debt.

Why ServiceNow?

So how can we provide this provisioning capability? Many of our customers use ServiceNow, as their platform for IT service management (ITSM), which offers powerful capabilities for cloud automation and provisioning such as:

  • Integration with the major hyperscalers to provision and manage resources via Infrastructure as Code (IaC). This allows for versioning, repeatability, and collaboration, making infrastructure deployment more reliable and scalable.
  • Policy-Driven Automation to enforce governance policies, compliance requirements, and security controls across their cloud infrastructure.
  • Use of Service Catalogues where users can request cloud resources such as virtual machines, storage, databases, or entire environments.
  • Automation Workflows and Orchestration to trigger actions such as approval processes, resource provisioning and configuration management.
  • Self-Service Provisioning providing UI or API driven resource provisioning on-demand without manual intervention.

We have therefore created a provisioning blueprint, using ServiceNow, to manage the creation of these automated services, driven via the catalogue-based approach.

Why Computacenter and how we can help.

We see customers approach this from both angles. Either ‘we need to correctly build automation before we can provision’ or ‘we have automation but need to add the workflow and provisioning’. Both are of course equally valid and depend on a customer’s current pinch point. Computacenter’s Multi-Cloud Automation and Provisioning service helps organisations review and understand how they create and provision cloud services from assessment through to remediation.

Bringing together our expertise in ServiceNow and Cloud Platform Engineering we perform an ‘agnostic’ review, not bound to hyperscaler specific services, to examine how a platform has been built aligned against best practice and what good looks like. This is helping customers move towards the increased velocity, reduced risk, and operationally efficient benefits that automation and provisioning provide.

So, we believe this a partnership is built on solid foundations, with two highly compatible partners that will undoubtedly be more than the sum of their parts.

Paul Nearn

Chief Technologist - Cloud

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