Buyer's Guide

Orchestration software: The functions and vendors to watch

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Rounding up orchestration services on the market and what they offer

IT professionals have many options in orchestration services in terms of capabilities, compatibility, integration and cost. These vendors are diverse in what they offer.

Once buyers understand what orchestration services are -- automating the execution of a workflow -- and what their organization needs, the next step is to explore the available vendors.

Each orchestration vendor has positives and negatives in terms of platform compatibility and capabilities.

AUTOMIC Service Orchestration

Automic offers service and application process automation and orchestration in addition to its well-known IT job scheduling software. It also has a lot of experience in vendor-neutral products that can cover operations, delivery and service. Automic has different wide-ranging product integrations, such as connections with specific Oracle and SAP offerings as well as more generic products for service and cloud automation. The platform is based on a central automation engine with integration nodes to tie in various tools and platforms, but a single control interface still manages them. This appears to give the customer the ability to add modules a la carte rather than having to purchase everything at once. Adding modules, though, still requires the core automation engine and management pieces, which could be pricey for a smaller organization. Buyers should also note that CA Technologies is planning to buy Automic this year.

AUTOMIC Service Orchestration pricing and licensing details are only available to prospective customers.

Ayehu eyeShare

Ayehu has a solid offering of workflow orchestration services with a wide-ranging subset of templates that allow it to work with most popular IT software from vendors such as VMware and Microsoft, applications and even some hardware and security elements. Ayehu removed a lot of the nebulous elements some vendors add to their offerings that may only apply to a few products or segments of the market.

Common tasks such as Microsoft Active Directory management, FTP usage, file systems changes, server restarts, clones and snapshots are all within Ayehu eyeShare'srunbooks, and even SAP orchestration if administrators have the need. Ayehu eyeShare is a product that will cover about 90% of what most organizations need, leaving out current cloud offerings. Its target users are growing organizations getting into larger-scale operations, though eyeShare can also be useful for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), commercial companies and large enterprises. Growing companies may want to use orchestration to keep runbooks but without buying an orchestration package that is too complex for their enterprise -- Ayehu would be a good fit for such an enterprise.

EyeShare and its orchestration services come in two different licenses: professional and enterprise. The license can be perpetual or subscription-based, but base pricing is not included.

BMC Control-M

Control-M is an on-site or cloud-based orchestration tool with one of the largest ranges of supported applications and platforms. This includes top-tier applications such as SAP, Oracle and Hadoop. Control-M can import other workflows and automation tasks into its native format, rather than simply interfacing with external automation. The Control-M platform allows users to import and then work with these tools natively in the same interface as the orchestration tool.

Powerful and expansive, the Control-M platform is better suited for the enterprise client rather than an SMB. Reporting, mobile interfaces and monitoring abilities for all levels of personnel are the cornerstone features of the BMC offering.

Pricing and licensing details are only available to prospective customers.

CA Workload Automation

CA Workload Automation is available for both x86 server environments and mainframes. Similar to Micro Focus software, the CA Technologies product supports IBM z Systems mainframes. The CA product supports multiple third-party applications like SAP, Hadoop, PeopleSoft human resources management tools and Oracle. Workload Automation also has built-in fault tolerance and recovery options for mission-critical jobs. Like other expansive offerings, this product is designed with the enterprise in mind.

CA Workload Automation iDash -- a management console for automation -- includes real-time system forecasts based on the current system status. This allows iDash to alert staff before the system misses thresholds rather than after the threshold is surpassed. Admins can use its predictive nature to trigger automated recovery actions as well as give the CA product additional operational abilities.

Pricing and licensing details are only available for prospective customers.

Cisco Process Orchestrator and Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator

Cisco's entry into the orchestration services field is based on a core engine in its Process Orchestrator product with additional modules such as cloud, SAP and network operations. These can plug in to the base engine.

While Cisco markets the Orchestrator as a complete package, case studies show that it fulfills orchestration needs in SAP environments with additional focus on networking.

Each orchestration vendor has positives and negatives in terms of platform compatibility and capabilities.

While SAP should not be a limiting factor, integration with SAP is clearly the product's biggest strength. The other key focus is the alignment of the IT standards in Process Orchestrator to the ITIL service delivery model. For customers with a heavy Cisco footprint in networking gear and SAP focus in applications, this product is worth a look. But for those looking to orchestrate internal server workloads, this would not be a first-round selection unless they added in the Cisco Tidal product.

Cisco Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator is another orchestration tool that contains several links into common platforms from vendors such as Microsoft and VMware, as well as several cloud providers. Why Tidal is separate from the Process Orchestrator makes little sense, as they should work hand in hand in the same product family.

As for Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud -- Cisco's cloud management software for private, public and hybrid compute clouds -- little data is available, including which clouds or services it currently supports. If Cisco pulls together these products into a cohesive offering, they can be ideal for large businesses to enterprise-sized organizations. As it stands today, though, the Cisco Process Orchestrator package requires a bit more effort to pull all of the pieces together under one roof.

Pricing and licensing details are only available for prospective customers.

IBM Cloud Orchestrator

IBM orchestration services come in a cloud-based platform with a heavy focus on deploying cloud services. The IBM Cloud Orchestrator is not limited to those offerings, but that is the primary focus. The product comes in base and enterprise editions, with the enterprise offering multi-tenant cloud reporting and dashboards as well as cost management, tiered pricing models, capacity analysis and additional health dashboards.

The IBM Cloud Orchestrator takes advantage of OpenStack to avoid vendor lock-in, but it is unclear exactly how that occurs. This tool can work with and manage Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, IBM SoftLayer and Microsoft Azure cloud platforms, which makes it a good choice for those with multivendor cloud infrastructures. The focus for IBM is on the cloud-based resources with Cloud Orchestrator, so this product may come up short for those looking to perform orchestration in their own data centers.

Pricing and licensing details are only available to prospective customers.

Micro Focus, under HPE Software

Micro Focus has a unique orchestration model. Rather than focusing on the x86- based environments, it works on the mainframe and COBOL worlds as well as the connection to mobile environments. Mainframes -- while not as popular as in the past -- have not gone away, particularly in large enterprises. Unfortunately for those IT shops that have or need mainframes, automation and orchestration services have not been targeted at big iron, making operations and migrations difficult.

Micro Focus is a unique orchestration vendor option with products designed for companies that must run COBOL applications or applications and data on mainframe servers. Mainframe orchestration services provide a huge benefit to IT shops that cannot migrate applications to distributed servers, where there are more management options. With Hewlett Packard Enterprise's (HPE) recent purchase of Micro Focus, customers are curious to see if the orchestration offerings from Micro Focus will extend as deep into x86 platforms as well. Micro Focus is in the process of joining HPE's software division.

Pricing and licensing details are only available to prospective customers.

Microsoft Orchestrator

Microsoft's orchestration tool is part of the much larger System Center 2016 suite. This complicates licensing, as customers must license System Center -- in a per-core pricing model -- to get Orchestrator. For System Center 2016 Datacenter edition, pricing starts at $3,607 for 16 cores and customers must add additional core-packs if hosts go beyond that number of cores. This makes the Microsoft offering more expensive for IT shops that do not already pay for System Center. But for Microsoft shops based on Hyper-V virtualization, with goals to move workloads to the Azure cloud, Orchestrator might be the ideal fit for them.

While Orchestrator can interface with other non-Microsoft platforms, the true strength of the product is the deep integration with the Microsoft Windows Server OS platforms and Hyper-V. Additionally, the ability to integrate existing PowerShell scripts into the environment can help to extend the ease of automation into the orchestration workflows. In addition to PowerShell, the Orchestrator tool supports a range of integration packs to interface with hardware offerings from vendors such as HPE and IBM, and with Microsoft software services such as Exchange, Active Directory and Azure, as well as third-party software from vendors such as VMware. These integrations notably do not include Amazon Web Services (AWS).

ServiceNow Orchestration

ServiceNow IT Operations Manager and ServiceWatch Suite is part of an operational-focused set of products for the modern data center. Customers cannot purchase ServiceNow Orchestration as a separate product. The ServiceNow Orchestration product allows the customer to perform many of the common IT tasks such as password resets, software deployment and file transfers from a client-facing service portal.

The ServiceNow Suite uses interfaces into a wide range of monitoring tools, such as SolarWinds and Splunk, to create orchestration-based on events and event management. While the orchestration engine can interface into many different applications and IT service requests, it's the ability to integrate with the existing monitoring tools that makes it unique.

ServiceNow also supports a wide range of cloud offerings from VMware, AWS and Azure ensuring compatibility and a common interface from both in-house systems and cloud-based resources. ServiceNow also has one unique offering that no other vendor has -- an online store for both purchasable and free plug-ins. This allows vendors and third-party developers to create interfaces without having to wait for ServiceNow to create them. While beneficial, this could be positive and negative if admins do not properly vet the third-party plug-ins.

VMware vRealize Orchestrator

VMware's entry into orchestration is based on the vRealize Orchestrator included with VMware's Virtual Center. Environments already using VMware's Virtual Center will find vRealize Orchestrator an easy sell on pricing, but it does have a few caveats.

Workflow creation is a complex endeavor with vRealize Orchestrator. While powerful, usage can be overwhelming to some IT professionals.

The vRealize Orchestrator product is focused on the VMware ecosystem. While additional plug-ins are available to support other environments, the offerings lack some general system administration for other non-VMware environments or tasks. VMware's companion offering, vRealize Automation, is included in the vRealize Suite and available as a stand-alone product. VRealize Automation is for multivendor cloud-based orchestration environments, but it can work with vRealize Orchestrator for non-cloud workflows.

Pricing and licensing details are only available to prospective customers.

Summary

Orchestration products are complex and have to interact with many systems. The only thing more complex is the cost model for orchestration services. As buyers look to implement orchestration, they must determine the base system they need as well as the plug-ins and additional components they require to enable true orchestration on their systems, all while figuring cost. The base price is often reasonable, but costs will rise exponentially as the buyer adds modules and features to make orchestration services work with their deployed software, hardware and cloud service footprint. Several vendors also require buyers to use more than one core product to perform orchestration. One product faces externally to handle cloud workloads and another is deployed for internal workloads. This can increase the cost and complexity of orchestration services setup, but may yield benefits because it provides more focus than tools that don't segment workloads.

Each IT workflow orchestration product has strengths to suit a particular enterprise's needs, as determined by the specific environment, the users and their industry. The decision should be based on an enterprise's needs today and where they want to go tomorrow.

Next Steps

How orchestration products on the market stack up against one another

The features to look for when purchasing workflow orchestration tools

Why IT departments today need workflow orchestration to keep systems moving

This was last published in January 2017

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Buyer's Guide

Orchestration software: The functions and vendors to watch

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What orchestration service did your enterprise utilize and how did it affect your workflows and processes?
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This paper is quite disappointing, as it has omitted all of the opensource solutions, as well as all the microservices orchestration tools like docker-compose, docker swarm, docker EE, Google Kubernetes, Apache Mesos, RedHat oVirt, etc.
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Good Morning, Open-Source has a great place in automation as does container tech but it simply wasn't possible to include them and give them the focus and attention in this piece without making this article piece a small book.  
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