Author

Ankur Mandal

Automated Cloud Provisioning: An Ultimate Guide

Author

Ankur Mandal

5 min read

Automated cloud provisioning is an essential component of cloud computing and infrastructure management. It helps businesses facilitate seamless data processing, security enhancement, productivity boost, and cloud cost and storage optimization. 

Cloud provisioning is done in two different ways: one where DevOps teams manually optimize, configure, and monitor cloud resources, and the other where all cloud activities are automated. This allows DevOps teams to focus on areas needing their undivided attention and efforts. 

Why Automate Cloud Provisioning?

The demand for efficient operations continues to surge in our rapidly evolving business landscape. With vast amounts of data generated daily, managing such volumes requires extensive storage capacity and human resources. Furthermore, the proliferation of applications and servers adds complexity to management processes. Cloud infrastructures have emerged as a solution to these challenges, prompting businesses to adopt cloud computing and management tools for proactive management, configuration, and provisioning of their cloud environment.

While cloud computing solutions offer benefits such as efficient data processing, enhanced security, and scalable resources, manually initiating and overseeing these processes is labor-intensive and prone to errors. Manual provisioning and configuration of cloud infrastructure pose complexities and consume valuable time. Moreover, the risk of downtime looms large with manual provisioning, leading to productivity losses and resource wastage.

Given these challenges, automated provisioning is necessary for companies relying heavily on cloud computing solutions to streamline operations. Many cloud management tools now facilitate automated cloud provisioning and configurations, empowering businesses to optimize their workflows and maximize efficiency.

How Automated Cloud Provisioning Helps Cut Costs on Cloud Bill?

Below listed are some of the major reasons explaining how automated cloud provisioning contributes to cost reduction on your cloud bill:

  1. By optimizing resource allocation: Automated provisioning tools analyze usage patterns and allocate resources accordingly. This helps prevent overprovisioning of unused resources and minimize underprovisioning, which can degrade performance levels and cause downtime. 
  2. By incorporating predictive analysis: By leveraging historical usage data, these tools employ predictive analysis to forecast future resource needs accurately. This foresight enables proactive adjustments to resource allocation, mitigating unexpected costs.
  3. By implementing resource management policies: Automated provisioning implements predefined rules for resource allocation and deallocation, allowing non-essential instances to be shut down as per policies. This practice effectively reduces unwanted costs.
  4. By automating through Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC): Utilizing Infrastructure-as-Code ensures consistent and repeated provisioning of resources, minimizing the likelihood of manual errors and associated costs. This approach also promotes greater efficiency in resource management. 
  5. By dynamically scaling resources: Automated provisioning dynamically scales resources based on demand, ensuring that you only pay for what you use. This capability prevents the overpayment of unused resources during periods of low activity, optimizing cost efficiency. 

By integrating these cost-saving measures into automated cloud provisioning processes, businesses can effectively manage their cloud expenditure while maintaining optimal performance and scalability.

Differences Between Provisioning, Configuration, & Deployment

Understanding the differences between Provisioning, Configuration, and Deployment is crucial before integrating automated cloud tools into your IT infrastructure. 

Provisioning: It represents the earliest stage in deploying servers and applications. Being a critical element of IT operations, it prepares, assigns, and activates cloud resources such as storage, networks, and applications based on user requirements. This step ensures they are readily available on demand and work efficiently without any issues. Provisioning is done in three ways:

  • Manual Provisioning: This is the most basic method, which involves manually allocating and activating IT resources. While this method offers high flexibility, it is also time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Automated Provisioning: This method automatically allocates and activates cloud resources without manual intervention. While it has the least flexibility, it consumes less time, offers higher accuracy, and is less prone to errors.
  • Self-service Provisioning: This method allows users to allocate and activate resources without IT assistance. Though it offers high flexibility, it is, however, less secure. 

Configuration: Configuration defines the deployment structure and specifies the tasks to be executed following provisioning. It maintains cloud infrastructure components in the desired state so it can handle workloads regardless of fluctuating demand and changes made within the system. This is an important step in cloud management as it:

  • Preserves the integrity of IT systems
  • Reduces the risk of errors and downtime
  • Optimizes resources for efficient use
  • Fulfils compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Improves operational efficiency

Deployment: Concluding the process, Deployment represents the final stage after provisioning and configuration, where all applications and systems within the IT infrastructure are ready for use. It can be done for new software applications, hardware systems, and network infrastructures.

Understanding these distinct phases enables efficient utilization of automated cloud tools, enhancing operational agility and performance within your IT environment. 

Benefits of Automated Cloud Provisioning

Automated cloud provisioning offers the following benefits to your cloud infrastructure:

  1. Streamlined Preparation and Configuration: This feature facilitates the planning and preparing your applications and systems for specific use cases, ensuring they are configured and readily available for use.
  2. Enhanced Visibility and Issue Resolution: Offers more visibility into your cloud infrastructure to identify any issues and redundancies and resolve them quickly.
  3. High Scalability: This feature enables dynamic scaling of resources based on workload demands without manual intervention. This promotes maximum performance and cost savings. 
  4. Efficient Task Automation: Automates complex and repetitive tasks with higher accuracy, minimizing errors and reducing time consumption.
  5. Cost Optimization: Helps in cloud cost optimization by rightsizing instances, deallocating unused resources, and identifying opportunities for cost savings,  such as reserved instances or spot instances. This ultimately reduces costs incurred on the cloud bill.
  6. Enhanced Security and Compliance: Enhances security and compliance by enforcing security policies and compliance requirements on all deployment activities to eliminate cybersecurity threats and non-compliance risks. These are achieved by automating data encryption, access control, and security configurations.
  7. Improved Agility: Improves agility by enabling your company to rapidly adapt to changing business needs and market conditions. This gives you a competitive edge in the market, where you can grab new opportunities immediately when presented. 

By leveraging automated cloud provisioning, organizations can achieve greater efficiency, scalability, security, and agility in managing their cloud infrastructure, ultimately driving business success and innovation.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Automated Cloud Provisioning Tool

Choosing the best automated provisioning tool requires careful consideration aligned with your organization’s objectives and requirements. Below listed are some of the key elements you need to assess before making a decision:

  1. Compatibility and Integration Capabilities: The first and most crucial factor to check is the tool's compatibility with your existing cloud infrastructure, applications, and resources. Your servers should be able to support automation capabilities to run configurations automatically without the need for DevOps monitoring. Also, you should ensure that your solution can seamlessly integrate with other cloud service providers and tools in your tech stack.
  2. Automation Capabilities: Evaluate the tool's automation features, such as provisioning, monitoring, scaling, and configuration management. The tool should be able to automate and streamline these processes to the point where higher accuracy is maintained with minimal errors and manual intervention is not needed. This is a crucial factor to consider when selecting the best automated cloud provisioning tool, as the solution should be able to function independently and orchestrate complex tasks, eliminating the need for DevOps to be involved so they can focus on high-value tasks that require their undivided attention.
  3. Scalability: Assess the tool's ability to scale with your business objectives and needs. It should be able to adapt to changes in demands, workloads, and future upgrades. Hence, look for a tool that supports both horizontal and vertical scaling so as the business evolves, the overall power and capabilities of the tool also evolve.
  4. Security and Compliance: Security and adherence to compliance laws have always been a primary concern for companies that build and maintain cloud infrastructures. Your data should be well-protected while your cloud resources are being automatically provisioned. Hence, look for a tool that provides robust security features like data encryption, Identity & Access Management (IAM), compliance monitoring, and auditing. 
  5. Ease of Use and Customization: Pick a tool that is easy to use and customize. It should have a simple interface with a well-designed dashboard that grants easy access to every section. It should also offer flexibility to customize it based on your business needs and for higher scalability. Doing this will simplify the provisioning process and reduce the learning curve for users.
  6. Performance Monitoring: Automated performance monitoring and analytics are crucial before choosing a cloud provisioning tool. The tool should be able to efficiently track performance, optimize resource utilization, and identify real-time discrepancies to ensure consistent optimal performance. 

By considering these elements, you can make an informed decision and select the automated provisioning tool that best suits your organization’s needs and goals.

14 Best Practices for Automated Cloud Provisioning

In a dynamic and rapidly evolving business environment, where several companies constantly adapt to new business practices and ideas, cloud services are at the epicenter of their IT infrastructure. Below are a few automated cloud provisioning practices you can implement in your cloud environment:

1. Use Automated Cost Optimization Tools

Automation is the key towards an agile future and achieving cost-efficiency also plays a major role towards that goal. While there are several automated cloud provisioning solutions that primarily focus on the cloud computing aspects of the IT infrastructure, storage optimization is not a common functionality found in these tools. According to a study conducted by Virtana titled “State of Hybrid Cloud Storage 2023,” it was revealed that 94% of the individuals interviewed within the IT industry reported a rise in cloud storage costs and 54% stated that storage expenses were increasing more than their overall cloud bill.

Ignoring their storage capabilities and cloud bills, companies tend to overprovision storage, even paying for unused capacities, which only leads to a waste of financial resources and causes downtime when storage limits have been exceeded. Following manual methods of storage provisioning are also not advised as it’s a time consuming process that could lead to errors and hamper productivity. To address these issues and facilitate the smooth automation of cloud block storage provisioning, Lucidity was created. 

Lucidity website homepage

Lucidity's block storage auto-scaler is the industry's first cloud orchestration tool that focuses on automated provisioning of cloud block storage. Companies today rely on cloud computing solutions and developing complex cloud infrastructures to process massive volumes of data, enhance security, and configure resources to improve operational efficiency. To seamlessly perform these tasks, they have to provision for an optimum level of storage, which in some cases is overprovisioned, leading to wastage of financial resources when storage is not used to its total capacity and downtime when storage is being expanded or maintained. 

Taking the traditional route for scaling storage resources means tireless manual work for DevOps teams who have to balance overprovisioning and underprovisioning, leading to downtime and performance issues. Therefore, Lucidity aims to solve this problem by empowering companies to harness the full potential of its block storage auto-scaler to seamlessly perform cloud computing while minimizing costs and maximizing operational efficiency and agility. As businesses continue to grow and evolve, solutions like Lucidity have proven to be a transformative force in driving innovation and revolutionizing the cloud storage management process. 

before and after Lucidity for storage optimization

Lucidity offers two key solutions with the sole mission of maximizing cost savings, eliminating downtimes, and alleviating the burden on the DevOps team by automating cloud block storage provisioning. They are:

  • Block storage auto-scaler: Lucidity's auto-scaler is a revolutionary and transformative tool that performs real-time expansion and shrinking of your cloud infrastructure's block storage. It automatically allocates and adjusts storage resources accordingly, thus eliminating overprovisioning and ensuring that your capacity needs align with your organization's requirements and budget.
  • Storage audit: Lucidity's storage audit is a free to use tool that identifies unused areas, provides insights on storage usage patterns, and highlights inefficiencies and redundant practices. It streamlines operations by automating the analysis of storage usage and its impact on cloud bills so that DevOps teams are freed from having to perform manual analysis, which is costly and time-consuming. Based on the storage analysis results, you can make appropriate and informed decisions on optimizing resource allocation and driving cost savings.

How does Lucidity Work?

Lucidity autoscaler benefits

Lucidity is compatible with most cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Once the auto-scaler is integrated into the cloud infrastructure, it functions as an additional layer that enhances the cloud's block storage capabilities. 

Lucidity EBS Autoscaler

Lucidity conducts a thorough storage auditing procedure at no cost to the client. The process spans a week and generates a detailed report highlighting underused and risky areas, current storage inefficiencies, and cost optimization opportunities that can be implemented. The audit report contains several key insights, such as:

  • Present disk spend analysis: The report highlights details on current disk spend and areas where cloud costs can be optimized. This segment aims to streamline operations, allocate storage resources efficiently, and reduce cloud spend by 70% while reducing downtime. 
  • Identification of disk downtime risk: Lucidity's audit report highlights risks associated with disk downtime, enabling proactive measures to mitigate such risks and protect the company's financial resources and reputation. By successfully identifying and preventing these risks, operations will remain uninterrupted, and the business will achieve long-term continuity.
  • Detection of idle resources and overprovisioned areas: Lucidity's audit report also highlights idle resources and overprovisioned areas. The tool identifies opportunities where excess capacity and underused areas can be reclaimed or removed, thus minimizing unnecessary overprovisioning expenses and optimizing resource utilization properly.

By providing all the information above, Lucidity empowers clients to analyze all this data and use it to make informed decisions regarding their cloud infrastructure. This also ensures they can improve maximum operational efficiency, performance, and cost savings while minimizing risks.

Lucidity storage audit report

Onboarding Lucidity into the cloud infrastructure is simple and takes only three steps. It takes roughly fifteen minutes to deploy and then begins the automated cloud storage provisioning process.

Key Features and Benefits of Lucidity

Lucidity offers a plethora of features and benefits that you can exploit, including:

Maximum cost savings and operational efficiency: By deploying Lucidity into your cloud infrastructure, you can save up to 70% on your cloud bill by eliminating the need to overprovision for unused storage. This is a better alternative to manual methods of storage optimization, which are expensive, time-consuming, and constantly demand the attention and efforts of DevOps teams. By automating the provisioning process, Lucidity will help you achieve maximum operational efficiency and cost savings while reducing resource wastage. The ROI Calculator is an effective tool for accurately assessing potential cost savings opportunities on storage expenses. By entering a few metrics, such as disk spend, disk growth rate, and disk utilization, you can calculate potential savings and make informed decisions about managing and configuring your cloud infrastructure.

Lucidity ROI Calculator for storage saving insights

Zero downtime: Downtime can be detrimental to your business in situations where your cloud infrastructure is being maintained or when disk utilization exceeds its predefined limits. The auto-scaler prevents this issue by automatically provisioning the storage your cloud servers need without disrupting operations and overall productivity. Moreover, this is done automatically, which makes the entire process quick and offers higher scalability.

Live shrinkage and expansion: Lucidity automatically expand or shrink block storage in very fast, eliminates the risk of downtime and reduces the manual effort of DevOps teams. 

Lucidity onboarding steps

Customized Policy: Lucidity offers a customized policy feature that enables you to create and configure your own protocols tailored to your needs. You can define your policies by inputting a few details such as policy name, buffer size, desired utilization, and maximum disk size. Once you create and launch your policies, Lucidity will adhere to them in a seamless manner, facilitating proper instance management and fulfilling your requirements.

Lucidity custom policy feature for maintaining storage buffer

2. Automate Provisioning and Configuration Processes

Manual provisioning and configuration of multiple devices not only leads to higher chances of errors committed but also has low potential for scalability. Humans are prone to make mistakes, and accuracy is also a concern during cloud provisioning. By automating these processes, you can eliminate errors and allow DevOps teams to focus on high-value tasks that can help boost overall productivity. AWS CloudFormation, Microsoft Azure Automation, and Google Cloud Deployment Manager are good examples of tools that can be used to automate cloud provisioning. 

3. Implement Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) means managing and providing cloud infrastructure through code instead of manually doing it. Cloud environments are made up of several components that include operating systems, database connections, storage, and security protocols, and developers have to manage and update them consistently. In this situation, the IaC model is very effective in quickly setting up resources, automating configuration procedures, seamless integrations with other cloud providers, and scaling infrastructure resources based on demand. 

4. Adopt a Modular Design for Templates

Modular design refers to breaking down infrastructure into smaller, reusable segments or modules to make it more independent and cohesive. This is a recommended practice in automated cloud provisioning as it promotes higher efficiency in managing and updating all applications and enhances their level of scalability without affecting the entire infrastructure stack. 

5. Reliably Orchestrate Workloads 

Workload orchestration systems such as Kubernetes are highly suited for workloads with complex orchestration, lifecycle management requirements, and multiple components. Setting up these systems can automate the completion of multiple tasks that are part of the cloud provisioning and configuration process.

6. Verify, Authenticate, and Connect Devices

When verifying your devices to external systems, it is crucial to authenticate other parties seeking access to sensitive information, and the same cannot be transmitted through unexpected channels. It is essential to verify the authenticity of any OS, firmware image, or other software and refrain from installing unnecessary applications. These maintain secure connections between devices and avoid potential backdoors for unauthorized devices. 

7. Monitor and Log all Your Devices

An excellent way to maintain a reliable cloud environment is to consistently monitor and gather information about the state of all your devices automatically without any manual labor. It will also give your DevOps teams insights into the performance and health of your cloud infrastructure by proactively detecting and resolving issues and eliminating risks early on. AWS Monitoring, Microsoft Azure Monitoring, and Google Cloud Platform Monitoring are popular examples of automated cloud monitoring tools.

8. Design and Implement Resilient Processes

In some cases, automated configuration and provisioning of cloud services can still lead to errors in the form of incomplete tasks, leading to setbacks within the system. By implementing retry and fallback mechanisms, your device will be able to recover from failed tasks automatically and get back to its working state to resume pending processes.

9. Adopt a CI/CD Model

Continuous Integration (CI) refers to frequently integrating code changes into a shared source code repository in an automated manner. Continuous Deployment (CD) involves integration, testing, and deployment of code changes. Combining these two processes form the “CI/CD pipeline” that aims to streamline the software development cycle and enhance agility in cloud provisioning. 

10. Automate Security Measures

Security is a primary concern that organizations face when maintaining a complex IT infrastructure, and robust security measures are needed to prevent unauthorized access or misuse of data. Security automation tools integrate protection policies into provisioning processes so effective threat detection and compliance enforcement are done automatically. These tools include GCP, Puppet, Microsoft Sentinel, Terraform, Cisco CloudBlock, etc., which help mitigate risks and ensure adherence to best security practices. 

11. Automate Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes

Technical anomalies within cloud infrastructures that can lead to corruption or wipeout of crucial data should be detected and eliminated early on. However, in situations where it is sudden and no immediate course of action can be implemented, automating backup processes and implementing disaster recovery solutions are very important to safeguard data. Doing these will minimize downtime and also ensure long-term business continuity. Infrascale, Rubrik, StorageCraft, etc., are a few examples of tools for backup and disaster recovery. 

12. Follow Secrets Management Practices

Secrets management tools are primarily used to confidentially and securely manage and distribute sensitive information such as API keys, passwords, and authentication codes. These solutions ensure that transferred data are automatically encrypted, audited, and accessed securely to eliminate the risk of data breaches and other cybersecurity issues. Recommended tools include HashiCorp Vault, Doppler, Confidant, Akeyless, etc. Leveraging the potential of these tools, you can adopt the following practices:

  • Regularly monitor access to your secrets and their lifecycle.
  • Backup your secrets and turn on purge protection to prevent intentional or accidental deletion of secrets.
  • Restrict specific IP addresses from accessing your secrets vault.
  • Rotate secrets such as passwords frequently to reduce the chances of unauthorized access.

13. Optimize Testing Environment and Developments on Azure

Testing environments are used to test applications to be deployed into the cloud, and this is mostly done manually. However, automating the creation and teardown of testing environments can speed up the process of testing and validating infrastructural changes. This will also enhance reliability, as risks during the Deployment of new applications are mitigated. You leverage tools such as Ansible, Terraform, Puppet, Chef, etc., to automate the creation and setup of your testing environment and deployment of the applications or software to them. 

14. Support the Whole Lifecycle of all Devices

Lastly, when automating provisioning and configuration processes, ensure that the system can also manage the entire lifecycle of all your devices. This starts with interim monitoring and management and ends with termination and disposal. Not following this will lead to increased costs, manual labor, and high rigidity, preventing you from updating your devices. 

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