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au2mator allows sysadmins to create services for each of the management engines that are question-driven. You can also configure the services to require an approval workflow. By answering questions in a question-driven workflow, administrators, users, and others can easily run underlying code that interacts with the management engines listed above with a simple web-based interface.
System Center Orchestrator ^
With System Center Orchestrator (SCO), you can create tasks and procedures tied together using runbooks. It allows performing many different tasks as a single process rather than a myriad of disparate individual tasks. It is accomplished with the SCO runbook designer, which enables creating runbooks and adding activities and tasks to the runbook activities.
Using au2mator, you can extend SCO's features with a self-service portal that empowers users with delegated tasks and creates workflows for IT operations troubleshooting, automated tasks, etc. The self-service au2mator solution also allows you to provide a service catalog of available automated services and tasks that users can run from the au2mator self-service portal.
Azure Automation ^
The Azure Automation service is a new service built on top of PowerShell that provides automation for Azure management tasks in both Azure and external systems from the centralized Azure Automation service. It helps to save time, manage hybrid environments, simplify configuration management in the cloud, maintain inventory, integrate services, and provide more agile operations.
With au2mator in the mix with Azure Automation, businesses can do even more with Azure Automation because au2mator provides a self-service portal for users to interact with Azure Automation code. The au2mator platform also offers ready-to-au2mate scripts in the PowerShell Gallery that enable organizations to quickly and efficiently access code snippets in their environment.
PowerShell does not have a built-in way to easily delegate PowerShell workflows to users or administrators in a way that is web-driven, secure, and full-featured. This challenge is where au2mator steps in with the self-service portal. It allows sysadmins to create PowerShell workflows with the question and answer design in a web interface that efficiently drives the underlying PowerShell code, empowering self-service from users, administrators, and others.
System Center SMA ^
System Center Service Management Automation (SMA) provides tools that are part of the SMA extension in the Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server. Developers, IT pros, and others use these tools to build, execute, and configure runbooks to automate business processes in the environment. While SCO allows automating business processes and operations without scripting or programming, SMA enables automating business processes using PowerShell.
Like the value added with SCO, au2mator allows extending the SMA functionality with a self-service portal experience that offers all the benefits mentioned above.
Setting up and running au2mator ^
After the straightforward installation procedure, navigate to Settings > Automation. Configure the automation engine settings you want to use with au2mator.
You will also need to configure a service group before you can continue with configuring your first service. The service group configuration is found in the Settings > Services > New dialog box.
Configuring an au2mator service ^
After you have configured the automation engine and service groups, you can configure your first service. For testing, I am using a simple PowerShell automation engine. You only need to point au2mator to a scripts directory containing your PowerShell scripts.
The setup of a new service is a set of boxes that you have to click in to configure the required parameters. Even if you fill in all the required parameters on the General screen, you will receive an error stating you need to configure a runbook. You'll find the runbook configuration on the Automation configuration screen. It is not a major issue. However, this was a point of confusion in the first couple of minutes trying to create a new service.
The au2mator self-service portal allows configuring approvals for a service request with three different approval modes:
- No Approver—This request is approved automatically, and the automation begins immediately.
- Single Approve or Deny Choose Users, Groups, or Manager as Approver—If the first approver denies the request, the request will be closed. The approval runbook will start if the request is approved by any approver. If the approver is a group or a manager, SCOOSP gets all members and starts the approval runbook for each user.
- Percentage Choose Users, Groups, or Manager as Approver and Configure a Percentage—If the approver is a group or a manager, SCOOSP gets all members and starts the approval runbook for each user. If a configurable percentage is reached, the request is approved, and the runbook will start. If Veto mode is on, one user can deny this entire request.
The free/trial version of au2mator is limited to two services. I have created two new services: disabling an Active Directory user and enabling an Active Directory user.
Creating and running a service request ^
Now, let's see how this will look when running the service request. To create and run a service request, click Start a request and step through the wizard. You will follow the steps below:
- Select the user requesting the service.
- Select the service.
- Answer the questions.
The screen capture below illustrates running through the service request and disabling an Active Directory user. First, we select the user requesting the service to run.
Next, select the services that are available for the user to run.
To disable an Active Directory user with au2mator, enter the username and set whether you want the user to be disabled immediately or not. There is also an expiry date as well as a comments field, which are optional.
After running the service request, the Active Directory user is disabled.
The au2mator GitHub repo ^
There is an au2mator GitHub repo to be aware of that provides a wealth of PowerShell scripts and other resources for using au2mator. You can find on GitHub repo here.
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Wrapping up and impressions ^
There are a few quirky things about the web interface and workflows when you create a service with the tool. However, after working with the solution for a while, you can easily create a self-service portal to automate all kinds of tasks in your enterprise, either on-premises or in Azure. au2mator allows you to easily provide a web workflow that hides the underlying code from users who can be delegated the ability to run tasks in a way that requires proper approvals and auditing. Be sure to download and check out au2mator here.