Home » Blog » IT Automation vs Orchestration: What’s the Difference?

IT automation and orchestration are two important concepts in the field of information technology that are often used interchangeably but are actually quite different. IT automation focuses on individual tasks, whereas orchestration encompasses multiple tasks or even entire workflows. Each approach produces different results and helps teams meet different goals. They also have their own benefits and challenges that must be considered. This guide compares IT automation vs orchestration to clear up misconceptions and help organizations choose the right approach to streamlining their IT operations.

IT Automation vs Orchestration: What’s the Difference?

IT Automation vs Orchestration

IT automation refers to the use of technology to automate repetitive tasks and processes, including things like automated backups, software updates, and monitoring systems. The goal of IT automation is to free up time and resources for IT professionals by automating routine tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Orchestration, on the other hand, is the coordination and management of multiple processes or entire workflows. This can include things like configuring and deploying new servers, managing network connections, and monitoring the performance of many different systems. The goal of orchestration is to improve the overall efficiency of IT operations, reducing costs and enabling greater scalability.

The benefits of IT automation vs orchestration

Benefits of IT Automation vs Orchestration

IT Automation

  • Saves time
  • Reduces human error
  • Improves compliance


  • Increases operational efficiency
  • Improves network scalability
  • Ensures IT system reliability

One of the main benefits of IT automation is that it can save time and resources for IT professionals. By automating routine tasks, IT teams can focus on more strategic initiatives and projects. Additionally, automation helps reduce human error and increases the accuracy, speed, and efficiency of tasks. Automation also improves compliance, as automated processes are less prone to human negligence and are easier to audit.

Orchestration, on the other hand, helps improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations. By automating the coordination and management of multiple tasks, orchestration helps ensure that different systems and processes work together seamlessly. Additionally, orchestration helps improve the scalability and reliability of IT systems by ensuring different components are configured and deployed correctly.

The challenges of IT automation and orchestration

IT Automation and Orchestration Challenges

IT Complexity

Teams can’t effectively automate IT operations unless they thoroughly understand all the tasks, systems, and workflows comprising a highly complex network.

Automation Skills Gap

A high demand for automation engineers makes it difficult and expensive to recruit, train, and retain qualified IT automation and orchestration professionals.

Supporting Infrastructure

Effective automation and orchestration deployments require a robust underlying infrastructure of specialized hardware and software solutions.

One of the main challenges of automation and orchestration is the complexity of IT systems. As organizations rely more heavily on specialized technology and grow both in size and in number of business sites, IT systems become increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Automation and orchestration help reduce complexity by automating routine tasks and coordinating the management of different systems. However, teams must understand those tasks and systems well enough to know how to automate them effectively; otherwise, mistakes will proliferate or there will be gaps in automated workflows.

Another IT automation and orchestration challenge is the need for skilled professionals to deploy and manage these solutions. As automation and orchestration become more prevalent, the demand for skilled professionals has increased, making it harder (and more expensive) to recruit and retain qualified automation engineers. The alternative is for organizations to spend time and resources training existing IT staff to work with automation and orchestration.

Additionally, organizations need to invest in the technology and infrastructure necessary to support automation and orchestration. Some examples of these automation infrastructure components include:

  • Gen 3 out-of-band (OOB) serial consoles, which allow teams to deploy third-party automation on an OOB network that doesn’t rely on production infrastructure, improving security and resilience. Gen 3 OOB also moves bandwidth-hogging orchestration workflows off the production network, which reduces latency for better performance.
  • Software-defined networking, which virtualizes the control and management processes and abstracts them from underlying LAN and WAN hardware. SDN, SD-WAN, and SD-Branch technologies enable a high degree of automation for networking workflows such as load balancing, application-aware routing, and failover.
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC), which turns infrastructure configurations into software code. IaC enables the use of version control, zero-touch deployments, automatic configuration management, automated security testing, and other tools and processes that support automation and improve network resilience.
  • Orchestrator software, which controls all of the automated workflows on a network. The orchestrator is the central hub for teams to create, deploy, monitor, and troubleshoot automated workflows and infrastructure.
  • AIOps, or artificial intelligence for IT operations, which analyzes all the logs and data pulled from automated infrastructure devices and security appliances. AIOps provides predictive maintenance insights, automatic root-cause analysis (RCA), enhanced threat detection, and other functionality to help support a complex, automated network infrastructure.

Tips for overcoming IT automation and orchestration challenges

While every organization will face unique IT automation and orchestration hurdles, there are two basic tips to help simplify any deployment. Using consolidated network hardware and vendor-neutral platforms can help reduce the complexity of network infrastructure, the need to hire additional staff, and the cost to deploy automation infrastructure.

  • Consolidated network hardware, such as all-in-one branch/edge gateway routers, significantly reduces the number of devices deployed at each business site. Fewer devices to automate means less complexity, and organizations save money on deployment costs like hardware overhead and automation license seats.
  • Vendor-neutral platforms, such as the Nodegrid infrastructure management platform from ZPE Systems, allow teams to use the automation and orchestration tools they’re most comfortable with regardless of provider, reducing the skills gap. Open platforms ensure seamless interoperability between all the various automated components to decrease management complexity. Vendor-neutral hardware also allows organizations to run software from multiple vendors on a single device, enabling even greater network consolidation to reduce the complexity and cost of automated infrastructure deployments.

Choosing IT automation vs orchestration

IT automation and orchestration are interconnected concepts that are frequently, but incorrectly, used interchangeably. Automation focuses on individual tasks, while orchestration manages multiple tasks and entire workflows. Both automation and orchestration can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations, but they have their unique benefits and challenges. Organizations must carefully consider their IT systems and needs when deciding which approach to use.

IT automation vs orchestration simplified

The network automation experts at ZPE Systems have helped Big Tech brands like Amazon and Uber improve operational efficiency and resilience with IT automation and orchestration. Learn how to use these best practices to streamline your IT operations by downloading our Network Automation Blueprint.

Download the Blueprint