Tech Corner

Orchestration Vs. Automation: The Differences And Roles In IT

It’s not uncommon, even for knowledgeable IT professionals, to consider automation and orchestration the same. But the difference is quite significant when it comes to orchestration vs. automation. In essence, orchestration is derived from automation. 

Both have their place in IT operations, whether in networking, security management, or any other component of your enterprise’s infrastructure. Both are necessary to optimize workflows. 

In this article, we will provide the following: 

  • The differences between automation and orchestration.
  • How they can play into your business.
  • How best to embrace automation and orchestration.

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What Is Automation? 

Automation in IT is pretty self-explanatory — it’s the transformation of manual processes into automatic ones. In other words, automation minimizes human intervention to get something done. It doesn’t always eliminate human input, as some automatic processes may still require some input from humans. 

Automation generally applies to repetitive tasks, so they can be performed without a human providing input for every iteration. 

APIs, scripts, and even standalone tools specially made for automating different actions are the usual go-to's for automation. It’s often used for provisioning, configuration, and deployment. 


Automation offers many benefits, including:

  • More efficiency and accuracy: The main benefit of using automation is that it increases efficiency, especially in routine, repetitive manual tasks. It speeds up workflows and frees up resources for more complex tasks. Similarly, it eliminates human errors, resulting in the accuracy of results.
  • Quick deployment: Automation is a critical component of DevOps, as developers often use automation for deployments. Applications, features, and updates can be deployed faster with automated processes.  
  • Cost savings: Automation also helps save money, as automated processes free up personnel to focus on more critical and/or complex tasks.
  • Better security: IT security frequently uses automation to enforce policies. It’s also used for alerts and mitigation in case of breaches. 

Use Cases

Automation can be used in various IT applications:

  • Development: Automation is heavily used today in development, especially in DevOps practices like Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD). 
  • Infrastructure provision: Infrastructure as code (IaC) uses automation to provision and manage resources, for example, installing a database on a server. 
  • Cloud: Cloud providers heavily rely on automation for provisioning, deployment, configuration, and data collection. These processes run on minimal or no input. 
  • Network monitoring and maintenance: Automation can also enhance network monitoring and maintenance, especially for large networks. 
  • Security: Security processes like threat detection or access management often use automation to eliminate human errors. 

What Is Orchestration? 

Orchestration refers to workflow automation, wherein tasks are performed automatically simultaneously. It’s based on automation, except it’s more complex. 

With orchestration, the goal is to manage and execute different interdependent tasks. The end goal is essentially the same as automation: achieving a defined result. However, the variables are different. 

In simpler words, orchestration uses a series of automations to reach a specified state or produce a required outcome. 

Dedicated orchestration tools like Ansible, Terraform, and Puppet allow enterprises to manage various workflows. 

Orchestration typically has two phases: trigger and verification. Triggers activate the orchestration sequence, whereas verification ensures the task is finished as it was supposed to and the desired outcome is achieved. 


  • Faster operations with fewer errors: Orchestration multiplies automation's efficiency and accuracy benefits. It essentially streamlines operations that would otherwise require a lot of resources and time. 
  • More control: With orchestration through tools, enterprises have more control and visibility over their workflows and operations. They have a unified view of how specific workflows are being carried out and what results they achieve. 
  • Reliability: As the workflow processes are automated, there’s increased consistency. In other words, orchestration offers reliability, essentially reducing disruptions in operations. 
  • Scalability: With orchestration, adding or removing resources as necessary is easy. No human intervention is required to scale resources, which manually makes workflows more agile. 
  • Cost savings: The cost-saving benefits of automation also extend to orchestration. 

Use Cases

Orchestration use cases are similar to automation, except they’re more layered. For instance, in security, an application of automation could be an automatic alert if unusual activity is detected. On the other hand, an application of orchestration in security could be incident response in case of a breach — a series of automated processes to prevent data theft and loss. 

Besides security, orchestration has DevOps, cloud migration, network management, and infrastructure provisioning applications. It can also be used in business processes. For example, a retail business may use orchestration to automate order fulfillment. 

Orchestration Vs. Automation: Differences Summarized 

Diagram contrasting Automation, which shows a linear process from Input to If/Then Decision Parameters to Outcome, with Orchestration, which displays multiple Inputs leading to Multiple Decision Parameters and Multiple Outcomes, summarized by the word PIVOT.


While automation and orchestration are similar, there are subtle differences that must be understood to leverage their benefits. Here’s a table that explains the differences in different aspects:

Aspect Automation Orchestration


Automate repetitive and manual tasks to improve efficiency and productivity.

Coordinate and manage complex IT processes and workflows to ensure correct order and dependencies.


Automate individual tasks to reduce manual effort and errors.

Automate interdependent tasks and manage relationships for a seamless, coordinated workflow.

Level of complexity

Low (simple and repetitive tasks)

High (complex, interdependent processes involving multiple tasks and systems)


Often customizable to meet specific needs, may require programming or technical skills.

Typically more complex, requires advanced technical skills for customization, and offers more control over workflows. It also depends on the tools you’re using.

Human input

Requires little to no human involvement once tasks are automated.

Requires human involvement in setting up workflows and managing the overall process (task execution may be automated).


Can integrate with various systems and tools.

Requires integration with multiple systems and tools to coordinate and manage complex workflows.


Can be scaled up or down depending on the frequency of task and resources required. 

Requires a higher level of scalability due to the complexity of coordinating multiple tasks and systems.

Error handling

Can handle errors in a pre-defined manner, but may require manual intervention in case of an issue.

Built-in error handling can automatically adjust workflows in the event of an error.


Low cost due to simplicity.

More expensive due to integration with multiple systems/tools (Investing in dedicated tools for orchestration)


Where Does Automation And Orchestration Fit In Your IT Strategy?

Automation and orchestration play distinctive roles in optimizing operational efficiency in IT operations. 

Automation is best suited for scenarios where there are repetitive and straightforward tasks that can be executed without the need for human intervention. Tasks such as data entry, file transfers, and routine system maintenance are well-suited for automation. 

Enterprises can streamline workflows, minimize errors, and significantly reduce the time and effort required for mundane, routine activities by automating these processes. 

On the other hand, orchestration is preferred when dealing with complex, interdependent processes involving multiple tasks and systems. It is most effective when tasks are interconnected, rely on specific sequences, or have dependencies on the output of other tasks. 

For example, a data center can use orchestration to provision and scale virtualized resources. If there’s a spike in the demand for resources, the orchestration tool can automatically allocate more virtual machines and resources to meet the demand. 

Leveraging Tools And Professional Services

It’s important always to consider orchestration vs automation in a modern enterprise. These enterprises leverage automation and orchestration to save time and resources while improving performance. While automation is simpler to implement (with simple scripts, APIs, and built-in features in software), orchestration requires different tools and high-level technical expertise. 

Not every enterprise may have that kind of expertise onboard to automate tasks and orchestrate workflows. This is where professional services come in to provide expertise through managed services. From automating configurations to setting up infrastructure orchestrations, professional services can be used to embrace the benefits of automation. 

Don’t waste time with unqualified support. Gain access to engineers around the globe to locally access your infrastructure without ever leaving your desk when you are tackling complex projects, pressing deadlines, staffing shortages, and emergency situations. Consider SmartHands today!

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