Modernizing Azure Automation: A 2023 Retrospective and Future outlook
Published Jan 25 2024 05:13 AM 5,222 Views
Microsoft

Majority of the organizations are at different stages of their cloud adoption journey, as they navigate through public clouds, private clouds and on-premises data centers. Their IT landscape is often characterized by multiple applications and services, that are spread across diverse environments. Managing this complex landscape manually or with multiple orchestration services can be daunting and inefficient. Irrespective of whether organizations are completely on-premises or exploring cloud solutions for the first time or born in the cloud, all share a common goal: to enhance efficiency and agility. Orchestration has become indispensable to streamline management tasks effectively to reduce cost and allow business to focus on its core priorities.

Azure Automation has emerged as a pivotal service for managing complex hybrid environments by delivering a consistent user experience across multiple cloud platforms. Customers utilize Azure Automation for a variety of tasks, such as resource lifecycle management, mission-critical jobs that often require manual intervention, guest management at scale and other common enterprise IT operations such as periodic maintenance. It targets orchestration on a wide array of resources such as Virtual Machines, Arc-enabled Servers, Databases, Storage, Azure Active Directory, Mailboxes and much more, along with complex workflows involving many resources. Azure Automation provides a complete end-to-end solution that facilitates authoring of PowerShell and Python scripts, with a serverless platform for execution of those scripts, offers the flexibility to execute those scripts on-premises or in customer’s local environment and monitors those executions comprehensively.

 

A 2023 Retrospective

Azure Automation has made substantial investments in modernizing its platform and significantly improving user experience over the previous year and promises to continue delivering value to its customers in the years to come. Here is a summary of key enhancements so far, that have laid the foundation for even greater benefits in the future:

  1. New runtime languages: PowerShell 7.2 and Python 3.8 runbooks are Generally available. This enables Developers and IT administrators to execute runbooks in the most popular scripting languages. Customers are adopting Azure Automation to consolidate their scripts that are distributed on-premises and across multiple clouds and gaining operational efficiency by managing their Azure and Arc-enabled resources through a consistent experience.
  2. Support for Azure CLI commands: Now Azure CLI commands can be invoked in Azure Automation runbooks (preview). The rich command set of Azure CLI expands capabilities of runbooks even further, allowing you to reap combined benefits of both to automate and streamline resource management on Azure.
  3. Advanced script authoring experience: Azure Automation extension for Visual Studio Code is Generally Available. It offers an advanced authoring and editing experience for PowerShell and Python scripts. The extension leverages GitHub Copilot for intelligent code completion that provides suggestions directly within the editor, thereby making the coding process faster and simpler.
  4. Granular control through Runtime environment: Module management and runbook update has never been so hassle-free! Runtime environment (preview) allows complete configuration of the job execution environment without worrying about mixing different module versions in a single Automation account. You can upgrade runbooks to newer language versions with minimal effort to stay secure and take advantage of latest functionalities. It is strongly recommended to use Runtime environment to update runbooks on end-of-support runtimes PowerShell 7.1 and Python 2.7 since both PowerShell 7.1 and Python 2.7 have been announced retired by parent products PowerShell and Python respectively.
  5. Unified experience across diverse platforms: Hybrid Worker extension is Generally Available and supports Azure VMs, off-Azure servers registered as Arc-enabled servers, Arc-enabled SCVMM and Arc-enabled VMware VMs. This empowers organizations to orchestrate their entire hybrid environment at scale through a single interface. You can directly install the extension on Azure or Arc-enabled servers and execute runbooks for a variety of scenarios. These include in-guest VM management, access to other services privately from Azure Virtual Network, and to overcome organizational restrictions of keeping data in cloud.
  6. State-of-the-art backend platform: Azure Automation has redesigned its platform and majority of the runbooks are now executing successfully on secure and modern Hyper-V containers. With this move and additional measures taken to minimize infrastructure failures, the service has further hardened its security and improved reliability. These enhancements have established the groundwork for faster release of innovative features in the coming months. If your runbooks have taken dependency on old platform and you observe unexpected job failures, take a look at the known issues and workarounds here.

Future outlook

Azure Automation is continuously evolving and enhancing its capabilities, striving to become the best-in-class platform for resource management in an adaptive cloud. It is providing organizations with more efficient and reliable ways to navigate across different services and applications residing in multiple clouds (on-premises data centers, private clouds, and public clouds). In addition to its ongoing commitments to strengthen security, reliability, resiliency and scale, Azure Automation is building critical features to further improve customer experience. Here are some of the improvements currently under development and expected to be released soon:

  1. Aligning Runbook support with latest Runtime releases: Azure Automation is working actively to reduce the time gap between release of new PowerShell and Python language versions and their support in runbooks. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements on PowerShell 7.4!
  2. Source control integration for new runtimes: You would now be able to keep runbooks updated with scripts in GitHub or Azure DevOps source control repository. This feature simplifies the process of promoting code that has undergone testing in the development environment to the production Automation account.
  3. Native integration with Azure services: Azure Automation is already being used for creating runbooks that orchestrate across multiple resources. Keep an eye out for deeper integrations with more Azure resources for ease of management and to improve efficiency.
  4. Richer Gallery of Runbooks: Improvements are planned in Runbook Gallery to help you search runbooks effortlessly for common scenarios and boost your productivity. Contribute to the community by sharing your scripts here.

 

Reminder for upcoming Retirements

Ensure to transition to the supported services/features prior to the retirement date:

  1. AzureRM PowerShell module will retire on 29 February 2024 and will be replaced by Az PowerShell module. Update your outdated runbooks immediately.
  2. With the retirement of Log Analytics agent, following dependent services/features will retire on 31 August 2024. It is strongly recommended to migrate to supported services before retirement date:
    1. Log Analytics agent-based Hybrid Runbook Worker will be retired in favor of extension-based Hybrid Runbook Worker. Learn more.
    2. Azure Automation Update Management will be retired in favor of Azure Update Manager. Learn more.
    3. Azure Automation Change Tracking & Inventory will be retired in favor of Change Tracking & Inventory with AMA. Learn more.


For any questions or feedback, please reach out to askazureautomation@microsoft.com

 

 

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‎Jan 25 2024 05:14 AM
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