Gartner expects most organizations to move to a new form of workload automation to orchestrate business and IT processes by 2024. Here’s why.
Gartner’s market guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAPs) –besides coining the concept of SOAPs– outlines the reasons why SOAPs are becoming critical components of cloud-based and hybrid IT environments.
In a nutshell, Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms are modern workload automation solutions that provide integrations with a variety of other tools. But not all workload automation solutions are considered to be SOAPs, and it’s important to understand why.
How Did Workload Automation Become SOAP?
Workload automation has evolved quite a bit over the years.
1980s - 1990s: Workload automation (WLA) tools offer limited capabilities to schedule and execute batch processes in homogeneous environments.
2000s - 2010s: In order to help IT teams manage digital proliferation, some WLA vendors double-down on developing integrations. Instead of mainframe-centric batch processes, WLA tools can be used to manage workloads across data centers, ERP and CRM tools, BI platforms, and more.
2010s - 2020s: Those same WLA vendors provide API accessibility, enabling IT teams to also manage processes and resources across on-premises and cloud-based systems. Machine learning is introduced to analyze historical and real-time data for process optimization.
Modern WLA solutions have little in common with their predecessors of the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, they can still manage batch processes, but that’s about where the comparison ends.
As we’ll see in a moment, the ability to support cloud orchestration across a variety of service providers is what defines a SOAP.
What are Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAPs)?
SOAPs, as defined by Gartner, are workload automation and orchestration tools that enable IT to “design and implement business services through a combination of workflow orchestration, run book automation and resource provisioning across an organization’s hybrid digital infrastructure.”
Gartner’s market guide for SOAPs places a focus on supporting multi-vendor business processes and improving customer service. Much like digital process automation tools, SOAPs enable IT to build and optimize end-to-end processes that streamline data and service delivery.
However, in order to achieve this, SOAPs must be able to manage dependencies across virtually any other technology the organization is using, either through prebuilt, universal connectors, native integrations, or API accessibility.
Again from Gartner’s market guide: “SOAPs provide a unified administration console and an orchestration engine to manage data pipelines and event-driven application workflows.”
Think of SOAPs as a layer that sits above the organization’s applications, systems, and resources. SOAPs abstract away the complexity of end-to-end processes so that IT can manage data and resources across the organization.
SOAPs provide orchestration capabilities for a variety of use cases:
- Business applications
- IT infrastructure
- Network services/ network management
- IT service management/service lifecycle
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Common SOAP Features and Capabilities
The ability to integrate disparate applications and systems is key to orchestrating IT and business processes. SOAPs also support a range of additional capabilities and features to help IT manage and optimize those processes from a single location.
- Event-driven automation
SOAPs provide event-based triggers that can kick-off automated workflows as soon as a defined event occurs, improving on date/time scheduling methods to provide data in real time, increase business agility, and to further reduce the need for manual handoffs.
- Workflow designer
SOAPs include graphical workflow designers that can be used to assemble cross-platform processes. Workflow tools enable IT to visualize dependencies and orchestrate disparate tasks.
- Monitoring and alerting
Monitoring and alerting capabilities can help reduce mean time to remediation, help improve SLAs, and offer actionable insights that optimize processes. Users can monitor workloads in real time, receive alerts when issues arise, or leverage ML/AI to analyze historical system data.
- Resource provisioning
SOAPs can be used to orchestrate resources across on-premises and cloud-based environments, ensuring that the best resources are provisioned and deprovisioned at the right time. This can be done dynamically based on workload demand, without requiring manual intervention.
- Self-service automation
Self-service automation enables business and help desk users to manage their own processes. With role-based access controls in place, non-IT users can execute and monitor complex processes, improving IT services and reducing IT’s workload. This democratizes process automation while keeping IT in control of security, environments, and systems.
- Mobile applications
Mobile and web-based applications can be used to manage and monitor complex processes from any location. Users can schedule and execute workflows, receive push notifications, and quickly respond to issues or business requests.
Why IT Teams are Using SOAPs
It used to be enough to schedule batch processes that provided end-of-day or end-of-week reports. In contrast, today’s organizations require real-time analytics, rely on a host of cloud-based services and applications, and are required to deliver seamless customer experiences in order to maintain market share.
This proliferation of data and digital tools has made it increasingly difficult for IT to provide required services. Data must often be managed across multiple, disparate systems and applications that can span both on-premises and cloud-based environments.
As Gartner explains, “Traditional workload automation strategies are unable to meet the needs of heterogeneous IT environments that include cloud-native infrastructure and big data workloads. Digital business requires multiple teams, both within and outside of IT, to take advantage of real-time, event-driven orchestration of business services.”
SOAPs can drastically simplify the management of dependencies and data across systems, saving IT time, minimizing the risk of issues, and reducing time-to-market for innovative new services and solutions.
How to Choose the Right SOAP for Your Organization
SOAPs are designed to be the linchpin of an organization’s automation strategy, integrating and orchestrating everything from cloud-based infrastructure and applications to on-premises data centers. SOAPs should be treated as a critical component of the organization’s long-term digital transformation.
As such, there are several things IT should look for when selecting a SOAP vendor:
- Support for cloud-native infrastructure (Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud) via native integrations or low-code API accessibility
- Native integrations available for the organization’s existing platforms and technologies
- Quality of customer support
- The vendor’s long-term viability and roadmap for product development
Business is changing. Technology is changing. IT is changing.
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Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.