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How do vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator differ?

VMware offers two products that can help automate cloud management tasks to provide more consistency with the distribution of IT services.

Manual handling of IT processes can introduce errors and inconsistency that could open a business to performance...

or security issues. Companies that require more consistency and speed to handle internal customer requests of IT services are looking toward tools that feature workflow automation and orchestration.

VMware's vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator are two different tools that are designed to support similar -- but different -- business needs.

Generally speaking, Orchestrator is intended to serve as a straightforward run-book automation platform using workflows that IT staff can create themselves or using pre-built workflows from VMware or its partners. The use of discrete workflows makes it possible for Orchestrator to handle almost any IT process. By comparison, Automation is intended more specifically as a cloud automation tool that relies on policy-based control and operational control used to deliver IT services to cloud-based businesses, such as self-service and new workload instance creation.

While it might seem like a cost benefit to synthesize Automation-type features in Orchestrator, the effort can potentially prove more costly than purchasing Automation outright.

Note that Orchestrator and Automation are not mutually exclusive tools. They can and do work together. Orchestrator is actually the workflow engine that is integrated into Automation; if you purchase Automation, you're getting Orchestrator at the same time.

A knowledgeable IT staff can use Orchestrator to implement some of the capabilities found in Automation such as governance policies, network security, IT service delivery, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and billing such as chargeback or showback. But it requires a significant amount of development work and integration to synthesize advanced Automation-type features through Orchestrator. Additional management capabilities such as business, operations or release management may require more tools that are already part of the vRealize Suite. However, more integration work may be needed between those tools and Orchestrator compared to Automation.

While it might seem like a cost benefit to synthesize Automation-type features in Orchestrator, the effort can potentially prove more costly than purchasing Automation outright. For example, the time and effort needed for developers to build and integrate functionality may eventually exceed Automation's purchase cost. This effort is multiplied for larger businesses or organizations with multiple groups all trying to leverage services through Orchestrator. Reviewing and updating complex processes can also impose a substantial maintenance burden on developers and IT staff.

Ultimately, no single tool is designed to automate and implement the delivery of all IT services, so potential adopters should consider each tool's feature set and intended environment carefully, and make the effort to evaluate each tool thoroughly, before making a purchase decision.

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This was last published in August 2015

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