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Orchestration vs. Automation: Which One to Choose in 2024?

Picture shows the differences between orchestration and automation.

Workload automation has many benefits to businesses, from reducing costs to minimizing human errors. At least half of the businesses are estimated to own an automation or orchestration cloud automation platform by 2025. However, just automating tasks is not enough. Advanced capabilities such as orchestration can provide more flexibility and enable a higher level of automation.

Understanding the differences between automation and orchestration can help businesses to choose the right automation solutions for their needs. We’ll explore the differences between automation and orchestration, use case areas, and guide you to choose the best for your needs.

Orchestration vs. Automation: Differences and Commonalities

Automation without orchestrationOrchestration
FocusSingle tasks Entire workflows or processes
ScopeTypically within a systemAcross multiple systems
Role Performs tasks without human intervention Coordinates automated tasks and human activities
ExampleSending automatic email responses Coordinating multiple systems to deploy an application
ComplexityLess complex, deals with specific functions More complex, deals with entire systems or processes
InterconnectionsLimited, as tasks often span across only a few systemsVital, as it deals with coordinating multiple tasks and systems

Automation and orchestration are two terms that are often used interchangeably because most modern automation tools include orchestration functionality. Therefore, these concepts are increasingly converging even though they represent different information technology concepts:

  • Automation can be best defined as making a task to be done by itself. It can be either setting up regular newsletter mail to your customers, saving your orders, or creating invoices for your customers from the e-commerce marketplace. It allows employees and companies to increase their efficiency. It is typically task-oriented, focusing on automating repetitive tasks to increase efficiency and accuracy. For example, automating an email response system or a data backup process is an automated task.
  • Orchestration takes automation to a higher level by coordinating and managing multiple automated tasks to accomplish a larger workflow or process. It focuses on managing interconnections and interactions among different systems and services. For example, orchestration in a cloud environment could involve coordinating compute resources, databases, and networking configurations to deploy a complex application. Orchestration is a new but an important topic for today’s businesses. It represents automating multiple tasks as a time and cost-effective solution to challenges such as large workflows and processes.

If we consider an orchestra as an analogy, “automation” is the ability of each individual musician to play their instrument without direction or human intervention (automated tasks), while “orchestration” is the role of the conductor in ensuring all the musicians play together in harmony to create a symphony (coordinating and managing the overall process).

Today, new technologies and the developing nature of businesses make handling tasks manually impossible. Thus, businesses aim to accelerate IT processes in order to get the work done in the shortest time possible via automated processes. Automation itself may not be sufficient to address today’s time-consuming challenges in business processes. As covered above, orchestration can coordinate multiple automated tasks and provide a quicker, optimized software and deployment automation solution suitable to today’s business needs.

On the other hand, automation and orchestration offer some common benefits across many areas. Some of the common benefits of automation orchestration include: 

  • Boosts teamwork and coordination between them, 
  • Combines multiple automation and accelerates the delivery, 
  • Helps to reduce costs for resources such as human and IT, 
  • Ensures quality and transparency for the projects.

What are automation and orchestration use cases?

Automation

Automation use case areas are vast and range from IT infrastructure or cloud automation to HR processes. Some of the use case areas of automation are;

  • IT processes: Automation helps in many IT processes. Some of the areas that automation can help are:
  • HR processes: Automation can replace manual and repetitive processes such as payroll and employee onboarding.
  • Accounting processes: Automation can help in profit & loss statement creation and billing processes. It reduces the chance of mistakes and improves the quality of reports.
  • Software Testing: Automation is widely used to conduct repetitive but necessary tests on software to ensure functionality and identify bugs.
  • Customer Support: Automated email responses or chatbots can handle basic customer queries, providing instant support and freeing up human staff for more complex issues
  • Data Analysis: Tasks such as data cleaning, sorting, and basic analysis can be automated to provide real-time insights and save significant time.
  • Marketing: Email marketing campaigns, social media posts, and other digital marketing tasks can be scheduled and automated.

Orchestration

Orchestration of automated tasks can enable companies to save time and resources and free up employees’ time for more complex tasks. Orchestration has multiple use case areas, such as:

  • DevOps: Software development and operations teams working in silos can create a lack of coordination. However, effective coordination between the teams is needed to minimize the risks of errors and missing deadlines. Orchestration provides a solution by automating multiple workflows and processes and bridging the gap between the teams.  
  • IT: IT orchestration helps IT teams configure, manage and coordinate computer systems, applications, and services. Processes such as virtual server provisioning and database management or workflows that can support DevOps can be automated simultaneously by orchestration. 
  • Cloud: Cloud orchestration coordinates many automated activities across clouds and streamlines the workflows such as scaling, performance monitoring, and policy checks. Thus, cloud orchestration is essential for a sustainable business ecosystem.
  • Data Center Operations: Orchestration is used in managing the myriad tasks in data centers, such as workload balancing, disaster recovery, network configurations, and more.
  • IT Service Management (ITSM): Orchestration can help coordinate multiple IT services, ensure smooth service delivery, and quick response to incidents or service requests.
  • Business Process Management: Orchestration can manage and optimize complex business processes involving multiple organizational systems and departments.

Which one to choose?

All kinds of businesses can benefit from automation and orchestration platforms and simplify their workflows. The steps listed below can guide you in choosing the best solution for your needs.

  • Identify your needs: There are numerous automation domains and the processes that you aim to automate are important for 2 reasons:
    • There are different automation tools in different domains. For example, there are code-based IT automation tools and no code business automation tools like RPA.
    • A PoC is the best next step in vendor selection. Your target processes can be automated during a PoC.
  • Shortlist solutions with both automation and orchestration capabilities: Orchestration tools maintains the coordination of numerous automated tasks and is therefore critical.
  • Choose a suitable tool for your needs. Also, make sure that the tool has features such as data privacy and compliance with industry requirements. 

Further Reading

To learn more about automation and orchestration, feel free to read our articles:

If you are looking for automation and other orchestration platforms automation tools, you can visit our hub for the automation software landscape.

If you have other questions about automation and orchestration, we can help:

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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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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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