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Managing cloud infrastructure requires the completion of many mind-numbing menial tasks, but there’s good news: advancements in automation are making service delivery quicker, easier and a lot more efficient.

When it comes to cloud infrastructure, Microsoft Azure is a clear choice. Azure invests more than $1 billion annually on cybersecurity research and development, and has more certifications ↗ than any other cloud provider. Not to mention, Azure is highly successful at what it sets out to do: help organizations operate applications on the cloud on a global scale, using the frameworks and tools that best support their unique business goals.

All this being said, the time and resources required to migrate to Azure and maintain operations in the day-to-day can be overwhelming. This is where Azure Automation comes in. Automating the migration and operation of Azure is crucial for managed service providers (MSPs) and their clients who want to survive (nay, thrive!) in the cloud environment.
 

What is Azure Automation?

Azure Automation offers a framework for creating and scheduling workflows (AKA runbooks ↗), for the purpose of simplifying and streamlining the tedious and repetitive tasks Azure cloud administrators are typically saddled with.

To accomplish this, Azure Automation provides cloud-based automation, operating system updates and configuration services which support consistent and reliable management across Azure and non-Azure environments. This includes the following capabilities:

Process Automation

Process Automation automates your most recurrent and time-consuming management tasks— which also tend to be those most vulnerable to human error. When you take advantage of this service, you automatically free up time to focus more on the work that actually adds business value. Not to mention, reducing errors and increasing efficiency are both key to keeping your operational costs low. Azure Process Automation supports the integration of Azure services as well as other third-party systems used in the management of your end-to-end processes.

Configuration Management

Configuration Management is supported by two pillars: Change Tracking and Inventory ↗ and Azure Automation State Configuration ↗.

The first pillar combines functions and allows you to track changes in Linux and Windows VMs and server infrastructures—across services, daemons, software, registry and files—making it a lot easier to pinpoint operational and environmental software issues alike. Additionally, Inventory support lets you query in-guest resources for a deeper look into installed applications and other configuration items.

The second pillar allows you to write, manage and compile PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) configurations for nodes located in any datacenter, be it in the cloud or on-premises. This feature, designed for enterprise environments in particular, lets you manage DSC resources in Azure Automation while applying configurations to virtual machines or physical machines from a DSC pull server in the Azure cloud. Not ready to manage machine configuration via the cloud? Use this feature as a report-only endpoint, pushing configurations through DSC and viewing reporting details in Azure Automation.

Update Management

Update Management offers a deeper view into the intricacies of update compliance across Azure and other clouds as well as on-premises, allowing you to schedule deployments which automatically set into motion the installation of updates—within a well-defined maintenance window, of course. Need to exclude a specific machine from an update? No problem. Simply use Update Management functionality to exclude it from any given deployment.
 

Common scenarios for automation

Common scenarios requiring Azure Automation support include:

  • Scheduling tasks: Easily pause VMs or services during the night and turn them back on during the daylight hours, and schedule weekly or monthly recurring maintenance workflows as needed.
  • Building and deploying resources: Using runbooks and Azure Resource Manager templates, deploy VMs across a hybrid environment and integrate them into development tools like Azure DevOps.
  • Configuring VMs: Evaluate and configure Windows and Linux machines with all necessary configurations for the infrastructure and application at hand.

 

Learn more about Azure capabilities

While the steps to enabling your automation service ↗ are accessible enough, sometimes a little expert help is all you really need to make it work for your purposes.

Sherweb’s labor of love is helping MSP partners grow their cloud businesses. If you want to know more about how Microsoft Azure can benefit your organization, contact us today to start a conversation with one of our Azure experts. You can also explore our Partner Guide to learn more about how Sherweb can support your MSP.

Written by The Sherweb Team Collaborators @ Sherweb