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How does System Center Orchestrator stack up against similar tools?

Administrators who wrestle with deployment and optimization of IT resources can ease the workload by adopting an orchestration tool designed to ease this burden.

As businesses evolve and grow, administrators find themselves with more resources to manage -- a mix of old and...

new equipment that must be highly tuned to run the business. With this ever-expanding IT real estate, systems administrators have turned to various automation tools to reduce manual errors and increase efficiency.

Microsoft offers three key tools to orchestrate IT resources: System Center Orchestrator, Service Management Automation and Azure Automation. Organizations selecting one offering should consider the differences, similarities and potential interoperability among these tools.

Microsoft positions System Center Orchestrator as a workflow management and automation tool for enterprise data centers. System Center Orchestrator uses runbooks to construct complete end-to-end processes so administrators can create, deploy and monitor resources in the on-premises environment without scripting. Administrators can extend System Center Orchestrator functionality into the cloud with the Windows Azure Integration Pack for Orchestrator. While integration packs can extend Orchestrator's reach, administrators also can develop PowerShell scripts to integrate other tools Microsoft hasn't supported.

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System Center Orchestrator can control other tools, such as Service Management Automation, Microsoft's orchestration and automation offering in Windows Azure Pack. With SMA, administrators can automate the creation, deployment and management of IT resources in the local data center, private clouds and Azure. SMA uses runbooks that interact with System Center and Windows Azure Pack cmdlets to interoperate with data center resources. SMA can also access Orchestrator through the Orchestrator PowerShell module and Azure Automation through the Azure PowerShell module. The combination of System Center Orchestrator and SMA may be a superior choice for businesses that want seamless orchestration across both local and Azure environments.

Azure Automation automates processes in the public cloud. Azure Automation uses the familiar runbook approach for implementation and automation as well, but those runbooks only work in Azure. Runbooks in Azure Automation mainly use Azure cmdlets to interact with the public cloud, and those runbooks cannot access local resources that are inaccessible from the public cloud; the runbooks also cannot interoperate with Orchestrator or SMA runbooks. Consequently, Azure Automation suits businesses that prefer to develop and deploy workloads in Azure.

Next Steps

System Center add-ons ease Windows management

Azure PowerShell cmdlets gives IT options

Plug in PowerShell to extend automation tool capabilities

Dig Deeper on Windows administration tools