A brief introduction into Azure Automation

Automation is essential to reduce friction and to streamline operational processes. It’s indispensable when it comes to the automation of manual, error-prone and frequently repeated tasks in a cloud or enterprise environment. Automation is the key to IT industrialization. Azure Automation is used to automate operational processes withing Microsoft Azure.

Automation account

The very first thing you have to create is an Automation account. You can have multiple Automation accounts per subscription. An Automation account allows you so separate automation resources from other Automation accounts. Automation resources are runbooks and assets (credentials, certificates, connection strings, variables, scheudles etc.). So each Automation account has its own set of runbooks and assets. This is perfect to separate production from development. An Automation account is associated with an Azure region, but the Automation account can manage Azure services in all regions.

Runbooks

A runbook is a collection of PowerShell script or PowerShell workflows. You can automate nearly everything with it. If something provides an API, you can use a runbook and PowerShell to automate it. A runbook can run other runbooks, so you can build really complex automation processes. A runbook can access any services that can be accessed by Microsoft Azure, regardless if it’s an internal or external service.

There are three types of runbooks:

  • Graphical runbooks
  • PowerShell Workflow runbooks
  • PowerShell runbooks

Graphical runbooks can be created and maintained with a graphical editor within the Azure portal. Graphical runbooks use PowerShell workflow code, but you can’t directly view oder modify this code. Graphical runbooks are great for customers, that don’t have much automation and/ or PowerShell knowledge. Once you created a graphical runbook with an automation account, you can export and import this runbook into another automation accounts, but you can modify the runbook only with the account which was used during the creation of the runbook.

PowerShell Workflow runbooks doesn’t have a graphical presentation of the workflow. You can use a text editor to create and modify PowerShell Workflow runbooks. But you need to know how to deal with the logic of PowerShell Workflow code.

PowerShell runbooks are plain PowerShell code. Unlike PowerShell Workflows, a PowerShell runbook is faster, because it doesn’t have to be compiled before the run. But you have to be familiar with PowerShell. There is no parallel processing and you can’t use checkpoints (if a snapshot fails, it will be suspended. With a checkpoint, the workflow can started at the last sucessful checkpoint).

Schedule

Schedules are used to run runbooks to a specific point in time. Runbooks and schedules have a M:N relationship. A schedule can be associated with one or more runbooks, and a runbook can be linked to one or more schedules.

Summary

This is only a brief introduction into Azure Automation. Azure Automation uses Automation accounts to execute runbooks. A runbook consists of PowerShell Workflow or plain PowerShell code. You can use runbooks to automate nearly all operations of Azure services. To execute runbooks to a specific point in time, you can use schedules Runbooks, schedules and automation assets, like credentials, certificates etc., are associated with a specific Automation account. This helps you to separate between different Automation accounts, e.g. accounts for development and for production.

A brief introduction into Azure Automation
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Patrick Terlisten
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Patrick Terlisten

vcloudnine.de is the personal blog of Patrick Terlisten. Patrick has over 15 years experience in IT, especially in the areas infrastructure, cloud, automation and industrialization. Patrick was selected as VMware vExpert (2014 - 2016), as well as PernixData PernixPro.

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Patrick Terlisten
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