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IT Automation vs. Orchestration: 5 Tips to Discover the Right Tool

More than 70% of IT professionals reported spending significant time on repetitive tasks like coordination tasks, admin, web server and platform management. 1 IT leaders can save time and direct teams to higher value-adding tasks and projects by automating manual processes and orchestrating workflows.

Figure 1: Which one to choose: IT automation vs. orchestration
Figure 1: Which one to choose: IT automation vs. orchestration

Orchestration and automation are related concepts and leading vendors tend to offer both capabilities. However, being clear about their definitions helps business and IT teams communicate more effectively and get aligned. Therefore, this article will briefly discuss IT automation and orchestration solutions and compare them against each other.

What is IT Automation?

IT automation trends show that almost 99% of IT decision-makers consider automation technologies as crucial to digital transformation. IT automation is one of these software solutions which can create direct automated processes, streamline and optimize repetitive and time-consuming tasks by deploying automation tools and scripts.

IT automation enables standardization for routine and well-defined activities, eliminating manual intervention. As a result, IT automation helps increase business agility and efficiency while reducing human errors and freeing up resources for more complex and strategic activities.

Learn more by checking out our data-driven IT automation tools vendor benchmark.

Key features of IT automation include:

  1. Configuration management: IT automation facilitates enforcing system configurations across various devices or servers. It allows for consistently applying configuration settings, reducing errors, and ensuring compliance. Review our comprehensive list for configuration management software.
  2. Monitoring and alerting: Automation platforms often include monitoring capabilities to track the status and performance of automated tasks or systems. They can generate alerts or notifications when predefined thresholds are met, or exceptions occur. Check out other IT alerting tools.
  3. Error handling and exception management: IT automation provides mechanisms to handle errors and exceptions that may arise during the execution of automated tasks. It enables the definition of error-handling routines, retries, or escalation procedures to ensure proper handling of unexpected situations.
  4. Integration with existing tools and systems:  Automation tools offer integration capabilities with a wide range of IT tools, systems, and applications. This allows for seamless communication and data exchange between different IT infrastructure components.
  5. Reporting and analytics: Automation solutions may provide reporting and analytics features to gather data on repeatable processes, task completion rates, execution times, and other performance metrics. This data can be used for optimization, troubleshooting, and decision-making.

What is IT orchestration?

IT orchestration coordinates and manages multiple automated tasks. It focuses on integrating various systems, tools, and components to work together seamlessly, often across different platforms or technologies.

IT orchestration provides a centralized control layer for complex business processes spanning multiple systems or domains. Thus, it is especially valuable in large-scale environments with interconnected systems and applications.

Top 5 Key Features of IT Orchestration

  1. Workflow design and management: IT orchestration tools provide a visual interface or workflow designer to create, modify, and manage complex workflows. This way, IT orchestration simplifies interconnected workloads by defining the sequence of tasks, dependencies, and conditions.
  2. Cross-system coordination: IT orchestration enables the coordination and integration of multiple systems, applications, and technologies within an IT infrastructure. It allows for seamless communication and data exchange between different components, ensuring a cohesive workflow.
  3. Exception handling and error recovery: IT orchestration incorporates mechanisms to effectively manage exceptions and errors that may arise during the execution of a workflow, such as error recovery procedures and fallback options. By implementing these measures, IT orchestration minimizes disruptions, promotes fault tolerance, and facilitates reliable and uninterrupted workflow operations.
  4. Centralized control and monitoring: Orchestration tools offer a centralized control panel or dashboard to monitor and manage the entire process flow. They provide real-time visibility into individual tasks’ status, progress, performance and overall workflow.
  5. Integration with external systems and APIs: Orchestration tools provide integration capabilities with external systems, APIs, and third-party tools. This enables seamless interaction and data exchange with external resources, expanding the scope of automation possibilities.

What is the difference between IT automation and orchestration?

Choosing between IT automation and orchestration depends on your specific needs and goals. Both automation and orchestration play important roles in managing IT infrastructure and processes. Yet, they have different focuses on tasks and applications.

  1. Scope: IT automation focuses on automating tasks that are repetitive, manual or error-prone. Some activities include software deployments, system configurations, and data backups. IT orchestration involves coordinating and managing multiple tasks, systems, and processes across an IT infrastructure. It focuses on integrating and aligning various components to achieve larger, end-to-end workflows.
  2. Function: Automation simplifies and accelerates routine tasks by removing human involvement. It typically involves the creation of scripts or workflows that trigger actions based on predefined conditions or events. IT orchestration brings together different automation tools or scripts and establishes a workflow that spans across systems, applications, and environments. It ensures seamless coordination and synchronization between various automated processes.
  3. Level of control: Automation typically operates at a lower level of control, focusing on individual tasks or actions. It aims to eliminate manual effort, reduce errors, and increase efficiency within isolated processes. IT orchestration operates at a higher level of control, providing a centralized view and control over the entire workflow. It monitors and manages dependencies, triggers actions, and handles exception scenarios across multiple tasks.
  4. Workflow complexity: Some IT automation tools can handle relatively simple tasks or processes but may struggle to manage complex workflows involving multiple systems or components. IT orchestration handles complex workflows that involve interdependent tasks, multiple systems, and diverse technologies. It enables coordinating different automation tools to achieve comprehensive, cross-functional processes.
  5. Human interaction: IT automation requires less human intervention since it follows predefined rules and conditions without the need for frequent decision-making. IT orchestration may involve human interaction at various stages, such as defining the workflow, setting up dependencies, configuring exception handling, and managing overall governance. It allows for decision-making and oversight of the orchestrated processes.
Figure 2: IT automation vs. orchestration comparison table

IT automation vs. orchestration: Which one to choose?

These tools work hand in hand; therefore, we recommend that organizations combine them to handle manual tasks with automation and coordinate and manage the many interconnected workloads with orchestration. However, the choice depends on the company’s complexity, the level of automation and integration, and specific goals. Here are tips to consider while deciding:

  1. Complexity: IT automation may be sufficient if you have simple and straightforward tasks that can be automated without much interdependence. However, orchestration may provide a more comprehensive solution if you deal with complex workflows involving multiple systems and many tasks.
  2. Scalability: If your infrastructure and processes are expected to grow and evolve, orchestration provides the scalability needed to manage the increasing complexity. It allows you to coordinate and automate tasks across diverse systems and cloud environments.
  3. Interoperability: In a heterogeneous IT environment with different systems, applications, and tools, orchestration helps bridge the gaps and ensures smooth integration. Automation, on the other hand, may be limited to specific tools or systems.
  4. Goals:  Consider your specific goals and requirements. Suppose your primary objective is to automate repetitive tasks and reduce human intervention. In that case, IT automation can be a good starting point. Suppose you aim to optimize end-to-end processes, improve efficiency, and achieve a higher level of integration. In that case, orchestration is the way to go.

What are SOAPs?

Gartner recommends that enterprises embrace Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAPs) to pair automation and orchestration solutions.

SOAPs function as one single platform to orchestrate and execute automation tasks across the enterprise. SOAPs can streamline the management of diverse systems across any environment and enhance overall operational efficiency. It is predicted that by 2024, approximately 80% of enterprises will adopt SOAPs to orchestrate their cloud-based workloads. 2 

SOAPs and workload automation (WLA) offer similar features, such as workflow orchestration and resource planning, especially in hybrid infrastructures. Therefore, enterprise WLA solutions can be listed as SOAPs as well.

Check out our comprehensive and data-driven lists for WLA tools and SOAPs.

Common applications for IT automation and orchestration


IT Automation in DevOps: IT automation in DevOps involves using tools, scripts, and technologies to automate manual tasks like

  • Code compilation
  • Testing
  • Build and deployment
  • Infrastructure provisioning
  • Configuration management
  • Monitoring.

IT automation ensures consistency and scalability, delivers faster and more reliable software, reduces errors, increases productivity, and enables faster feedback loops.

IT Orchestration in DevOps: IT orchestration in DevOps integrates different tools and systems, such as:

  • Version control
  • CI/CD pipelines
  • Configuration management
  • Infrastructure provisioning.

DevOps orchestration platforms provide centralized control panels to design, configure, and manage complex workflows, coordinate activities, and track changes. This way, they can synchronize end-to-end infrastructure workflows or software development workflows.

Cloud automation and orchestration

Cloud automation refers to automating specific tasks or processes within the cloud environment, such as provisioning cloud resources, configuring networking, managing storage, deploying applications, and monitoring. Cloud automation streamlines cloud operations ensures consistent and repeatable results, and enables rapid scalability and resource optimization.

Cloud orchestration refers to managing and coordinating automated processes and services in the cloud. It integrates and synchronizes cloud resources, services, and applications for end-to-end workflows. Cloud orchestration platforms automate several tasks, coordinate activities, and track changes, enabling smooth collaboration and efficient cloud operations management.

Discover more IT automation use cases and IT orchestration applications.

Further reading

Discover more on IT automation including batch automation:

Leverage IT automation by assessing each IT automation tool by checking out our comprehensive and data-driven lists:

If you need more help, let us know:

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Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Hazal Şimşek
Hazal is an industry analyst in AIMultiple. She is experienced in market research, quantitative research and data analytics. She received her master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Carlos III of Madrid and her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Bilkent University.

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