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Published: 1 September 2023
Contributors: Michael Goodwin

What is provisioning?

In IT and computing, provisioning refers to the process of setting up IT infrastructure, which includes hardware, networks, virtual machines and other resources, and making resources and data available to systems and users. 

The term is used (sometimes loosely) in various ways in IT, but generally means to make something available for use. Provisioning is an early step in the deployment process and is not to be confused with configuration. Once resources like servers, network components, applications or devices are provisioned, they are then configured according to organizational or user specifications, deployed, managed and maintained over their lifecycle.

Effective provisioning is important because it helps keep IT environments secure and enables businesses to make the most efficient use of information technology resources to maximize profit and productivity.

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Types of provisioning

For IT environments to function well, all facets must interoperate seamlessly. Proper provisioning plays a significant role in the success of this endeavor. Provisioning needs vary by organization, but the following are some of the most common types: 

Server provisioning

Server provisioning is the process of setting up physical or virtual servers with the resources they need to perform their function. There are many different types of servers—file servers, web servers, application servers, proxy servers and policy servers, for example—each with their own job. Businesses will also have their own distinct server requirements.

Server provisioning includes determining how a server, whether cloud-based or on-premises, will be used and what that requires. It also includes setting up the hardware, installing software like operating systems and applications and any other steps needed to create a new machine in that desired state.

Network provisioning

Network provisioning refers to the setting up of the components that comprise an enterprise network, like routers, switches, hubs and firewalls, to create a functioning networking that authorized users, devices and servers can access.

In the network provisioning process, IT teams assign IP addresses, define which devices and user identities can access the network (and the hardware and devices it connects) and implement network security measures to help keep the network secure.  

Application provisioning

Application provisioning and service provisioning encompass the setup of enterprise applications and services that users need to do their job. This includes setting up user accounts and access credentials, granting access rights to SaaS platforms, applications, data and other resources, and even provisioning customized application configurations to more accurately suit different users and roles.

User provisioning

User provisioning, or account provisioning, is a type of identity management responsible for creating, modifying or deleting user accounts and profiles. It is usually handled between HR and IT teams.

In user provisioning, access permissions and privileges are established and authentications are granted, often using role-based access control (RBAC). RBAC grants a user access to specific resources based on their role and work requirements.

User provisioning usually occurs during the onboarding of a new employee, or when someone takes on a new role within the organization. The opposite process, deprovisioning, occurs when an employee is leaving the company, or offboarding. These processes ensure that users have access to the resources and tools that they need to do their job. These also help protect the integrity of the IT environment by verifying that access to IT resources are appropriately assigned.

Identity and access management is a crucial component of cybersecurity.

Cloud provisioning

Cloud provisioning is the process of creating the infrastructure that supports a cloud environment. It involves setting up the foundational hardware, virtualization, storage and networking components necessary for cloud computing, as well as the cloud-based resources, apps and services that users need to access.

One of the biggest issues that organizations encounter in their journey to cloud is the ballooning cloud service bills. However, you can use the IBM® Turbonomic® platform to avoid overprovisioning and the disappointing ROI that comes with it.

Turbonomic software continuously automates critical actions in real time, without human intervention, delivering the most efficient allocation of compute, storage and network resources to your apps at every layer of the stack.

Device provisioning

Device provisioning is the setup of IT equipment like phones and computers. It is often used to manage devices within the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s performed before giving an employee a device to make sure that the device operates seamlessly within the IT environment. Moreover, it is set up with access and resources appropriate for the end user to which it is assigned.

What is the difference between provisioning and configuration?

Provisioning and configuration are important, distinct operations in the deployment process. Before a resource, such as a device, server, network or otherwise, can be configured, it must be provisioned, or “provided,” in the general sense of the word.

Upon being made available through provisioning, IT infrastructure resources are configured: the components and settings are arranged to meet the specific requirements of the business.  

Just as there are many different types of provisioning, there are many types of configuration, for instance, configuring firewall, access or connectivity settings on a network, configuring a database on a server or configuring an application’s settings.

Both provisioning and configuration can be improved through automation.


Automated provisioning

Traditionally, IT teams had to manually provision and configure IT infrastructure for each new deployment or new user, a tedious and time-consuming process that is not compatible with DevOps workflows. In modern IT environments where infrastructure often consists of virtualization, containers and software, most provisioning can be done through automation. Automated provisioning provides a faster, more efficient and more consistent way to create IT infrastructure and is often accomplished through infrastructure as code (IaC).

Infrastructure as code allows for the provisioning, configuration and management of IT infrastructure using code and templates. This means that developers no longer need to manually provision and manage infrastructure components each time an application is developed or deployed, a new hire is brought on or a new network or cloud deployment is needed. With IaC, infrastructure can be provisioned, modified or taken down simply by running a script.

Benefits of automated provisioning

Automated provisioning solutions can help organizations save time and money. They also help improve the security of their IT environment in several ways:

Boost productivity

Automated provisioning can deliver significant productivity gains across an organization by helping streamline processes and optimize how employees spend their time. Obviously, it benefits IT teams that, when freed from the burden of repetitive manual provisioning, can focus their efforts on higher-level strategic work.

Automated provisioning helps developers deliver new applications and services faster, as the environments they need to do so are automatically and consistently provisioned. It also helps ensure that end users companywide have access to the resources they need to do their job, eliminating workflow slowdowns and similar drags on productivity.

Scale more easily

As your business grows, so will your provisioning needs. Automated provisioning allows you to scale efficiently, and with confidence, knowing that servers, network components, devices and other resources are being provided and accessed as intended.

The Turbonomic platform’s full-stack visualization, intelligent automation and AI-driven insights can help you make sure that you are making the most efficient use of your resources as you scale up or out.

Enhance compliance

Automated provisioning allows you to better maintain compliance because it enables you to centralize standards and governance, and implement those policies and procedures consistently across the entire IT ecosystem. When changes need to be made, they can be rolled out automatically (and uniformly) across all resources.

Reduce errors

Like all things human-powered, manual provisioning is susceptible to human error. With automated provisioning, resources (and access to them) are consistently provisioned to predefined standards. Also, an automatic audit trail is maintained, showing how access was defined, how authentication was granted, what resources were accessed and when. This way, automated provisioning reduces misconfigurations, lessening the time that it takes to troubleshoot and correct them and mitigating the security perils that accompany such errors.


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