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Cloud on Your Terms Part 14 of 30: System Center Orchestrator 2012

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Cloud on Your Terms Part 14 of 30: System Center Orchestrator 2012

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Consider the following chart that diagrams the delivery of “IT as a Service”.  This is what the private cloud is all about.  And the way tasks may get done in an automated fashion is going to play a very important role. 

Click to view larger

In the Microsoft solution, the tool that will allow you to create, test, and perform that automation is called System Center Orchestrator 2012.  You may know it by another name…

“Hey Kevin.. isn’t that what Opalis does?”

As I was about to say.. Yes, the current product is called Opalis.  And in the new product, coming out as a part of the System Center 2012 wave, the functionality in Opalis is brought into Orchestrator; with some additional functionality included.

Click to view largerFirst I want to summarize the main areas where Orchestrator shines.  And I like to think of it in musical terms such as an orchestra; the hall, the players, their instruments, the music, and the conductor (which would be you):

Process Integration - There’s a tight integration with the rest of System Center – particularly with System Center Service Manager 2012. It also preserves and integrates with your existing investments in other tools and processes; not just Microsoft’s.  We can think of  this connecting of heterogeneous environments together as the musical instruments and the players in our Orchestra.  Something needs to bring them together.

Orchestration – It’s not enough to have all of the players and their instruments in the same room.  Now you have to give them something to perform, and get all the different bits working together, in the right order, in the right way.  Orchestration is the sheet music.

Automation – Now that we’ve defined the symphony, we let it fly.  You are the conductor.  The music flows at your command, and in your timing. 

“But how is that different than Opalis?”

That’s a fair question.  And here’s how I have heard it described… Opalis is a tool built mainly for the IT Professional.  It allows you to author, test, and debug runbooks.

“Runbooks?”

Yes.  Runbook Automation (RBA) is the ability to define the steps that are to be performed, plus the inputs and outputs, and the order in which they are to happen. (A happens before B, C depends upon B completing successfully, etc.  A –> B –> C…)  Defining then an overall process that involves many and varied steps and dependent inputs and outputs is where Opalis really shines.  Consider the following set of steps: A folder is being monitored, and when a new file enters the folder, a task launches to copy that file to another folder, and then to make note of the operation in the event log.

Sample OIS Policy

It’s a simple, automated process that involves several steps; each depending upon the previous step. 

And the job of actually launching and running these runbooks in Opalis was primarily the IT Pros’.  But in System Center Orchestrator 2012 we take it to the next level and provide benefit for these additional “audiences”:

IT Business Manager – Orchestrator gives business managers and application owners direct visibility into the processes that they are interested in or have oversight for.  Through a web console they can gain quick access.  They can pull information from the product through the provided web service and plug it into BI or use Excel PowerPivots to work with data as a data feed.

IT Operator – Initiate, monitor, and troubleshoot automated tasks.

Developer - You can your build apps to include support for being driven by and reporting to Orchestrator in the form of Integration Packs (IPs)

IT Professional – As before, the job of authoring, testing, and debugging the runbooks is your main focus here.

System Center Orchestrator 2012, like the other parts of the System Center 2012 product set, is well integrated as a part of the whole solution, and works on behalf of the whole business and the needs of people based on their roles. 

“Is there a beta or RC available for Orchestrator 2012?  And when will it be released?”

I don’t know when exactly the release date is, though I’m fairly confident that it will come out along with the other products in the System Center 2012 suite.  And yes, there is a Release Candidate of Orchestrator 2012 that can be downloaded from HERE, along with the other prerelease System Center 2012 products.

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I hope you have found this contribution to our 30-part series useful.  Let me know in the comments.  And if you have missed any of the series posts, check out my summary post for links to all of the articles available so far at http://aka.ms/cloudseries.

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