What is Service Orchestration?
Service orchestration refers to the unified management of IT services and resources in order to streamline end-to-end IT and business processes.
A service orchestration platform sits at the top of the IT stack, abstracting complexity away from individual systems and environments. This enables IT departments to easily manage processes, monitor resources, and to string discrete tasks into end-to-end processes from a single point of control, without having to rely on custom scripting.
Why is Service Orchestration Important?
Modern IT processes manage data across platforms, systems, and environments that are built using different technologies from different vendors. Traditionally, these tools and systems have existed in silos managed by personnel with narrow, but very deep expertise. These high-level personnel would then have to research, develop, and test custom scripts to create a cross-platform process.
This method is time-consuming and prone to errors, and even with scripts in place IT must rely on a number of manual triggers and handoffs. In an era of real-time data, heightened consumer expectations, and fluid business goals, manual methods and custom scripts are unable to provide the flexibility and speed that organizations require.
Computing environments have been trending towards higher levels of abstraction since, well, before FORTRAN. IT environments in the last 20 years have become increasingly diverse and complex, making a new level of orchestration capabilities necessary to simplify and streamline those environments.
Benefits of Service Orchestration
Service orchestration platforms are designed to unify the management of disparate processes and systems, across on-premises and cloud-based environments. This is done with the help of universal connectors and web services APIs that make it easy to manage data and dependencies across those disparate tools and environments, without the need for additional scripting.
By providing a single tool to develop end-to-end processes, IT teams are able to centralize the management and monitoring of those processes and associated resources. Real-time monitoring and auto-remediation tools can be used to avoid delays and failures in IT service delivery, while in-depth views and reports make it easier to identify usage patterns and to optimize machine resources.
There is a long list of benefits that IT can achieve through service orchestration. Those key benefits include:
- Improved SLAs – When there are delays, overruns, underruns, or failures, IT has a single location through which to identify the root cause, as opposed to checking multiple tools. This can drastically improve response times. Additionally, the service orchestration platform can reserve and provision resources to ensure that SLA-critical workflows complete on time.
- Rapid DevOps – Drag-and-drop workflow designers make it easy for IT to develop reliable new services and end-to-end processes. Instead of scripting connections between tools, APIs and existing scripts can be ingested and transformed into reusable components which in turn can be drag-and-dropped into end-to-end workflows.
(As an added benefit, look for solutions that simplify service lifecycle management with automated documentation, revision history, and change management.)
- Operational Peace of Mind – Service orchestration tools are designed to simplify IT environments. This includes reducing the time IT has to spend fighting fires by providing auto-remediation capabilities, monitoring, and timely alerting. If a job or workload is at risk of failure, the orchestrated service platforms can automatically execute a remediation workflow or send alerts to the appropriate IT teams and systems.
- Greater Efficiency and Cost Savings – With universal connectors and API accessibility, IT can automate more and manually manage less. Service automation mean that IT professionals can focus more on higher-value projects such as innovative new business services and digital transformation initiatives.
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Cloud Orchestration for Hybrid IT
Public cloud providers (including Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, VMware, etc.) often do not offer integrations with competing cloud platforms/cloud services. This vendor lock-in makes it difficult for IT to manage data across hybrid cloud and multi cloud environments.
Because of the radical extensibility offered by service orchestration platforms, these tools have become ideal for IT teams looking to simplify cloud management across multi-vendor environments.
Aside from integrating cloud-based processes, service orchestration tools are being used to manage IT infrastructure, automating the provisioning and deprovisioning of virtual machines. If a process or workflow requires additional resources, the service orchestration tool can provision the necessary cloud infrastructure, and then deprovision those same servers once the workload is complete. This saves IT time by preventing the need for manually managing resources, and reduces operational expenses by reducing idle machine resources.
Additionally, some service orchestration tools are applying machine learning (ML) algorithms to historical runtime data. These algorithms identify trends and patterns in resource usage, optimizing the allocation of resources for future runs.
Service Orchestration Examples
Service orchestration platforms include several technologies that have overlapping capabilities – extensibility, low-code automation, and centralized monitoring. As a result, service orchestration can be achieved through a variety of IT automation tools, including service orchestration and automation platforms (SOAPs), workload automation solutions (WLA), and enterprise job scheduling platforms.
Regardless of the underlying framework, these tools can support a wide range of operating systems, mainframes, databases, and software applications. This makes it possible to streamline data from the data center to the end-user, such as a claims adjuster or a customer accessing his or her banking information.
Example #1: Imagine that a financial services provider has built a new online portal that can be accessed through a web browser or a smartphone app. If a new or existing customer wishes to get a quote for a loan, or a mortgage, a new credit card, the customer will need to first enter some information.
When the customer hits submit, the service orchestration platform can kick-off an ETL process that moves the new information from the portal and to a tool that calculates quotes. When the calculation is complete, another process can be kicked-off to deliver that quote back to the portal.
Example #2: An online seller of home office goods suddenly sees a spike in online traffic. Instead of scrambling to manually provision additional servers –and taking a guess at how many servers will be sufficient– a service orchestration tool can be used to manage resources and IT infrastructure in real-time. If there is a spike in CPU demand, for example, the service orchestration tool will rapidly provision the necessary servers.
Service orchestration tools can also be used for configuration management and container orchestration. If a large organization suddenly needs to convert to an all-virtual office (for example), a service orchestration platform can be used to configure and provision containers so that employees can access their company desktops from remote locations.
The Future of Service Orchestration
As mentioned earlier, service orchestration is a part of an ongoing trend towards greater abstraction, driven by the ever-increasing complexity of IT. This complexity isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, as new technologies such as IoT, microservices, containerization (Kubernetes, Docker), and intelligent tools begin to mature and find new use cases.
Service orchestrator tools are force multipliers for both new and existing technologies. They make it easier to integrate these tools, reduce the costs associated with deployment and implementation, and increase ROI by simplifying the development of new, end-to-end processes.
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