April 12, 2014
IT Automation for Speed and Adaptability
by Josh Lowry
Business leaders continue to drive the speed of execution and adaptability to higher levels. Even though the pace of business is accelerating, enterprise IT’s ability to match it is lagging. According to Forrester Consulting, less than 20% of enterprise IT leaders believe that they can deliver services fast enough to meet internal and external value, speed and accuracy requirements. While enterprise IT is improving its ability to deliver, increasing demand from agile development, cloud computing, mobile and virtualization exceeds capacity. IT is overwhelmed by manual execution.
Manual execution is error prone, labor intensive and not repeatable. Automation addresses these issues. Software can perform work faster and more accurately than people. The earliest automation were scripts written to perform repetitive tasks. Today, automation generally falls into three categories: 1) Task Execution. Tasks are automatically performed; e.g., server provisioning. 2) Process Flow. Process is automatically executed; e.g., run-book automation. 3) Decision Triggers. Decisions are automatically made regarding when to take action; e.g., business analytics.
Chef is an example of task execution. Chef is an infrastructure and systems automation tool used to quickly and easily deploy applications and servers. The Chef server stores configuration and policy definitions called cookbooks used for specific scenarios; e.g., how to install and configure MySQL. The Chef client then applies a specific cookbook and recipe to each node. A recipe defines what resources to apply, including the specific order of each. When a new node is added, the Chef client only needs to know what cookbook and recipe to apply to fully automate the process.
In addition to infrastructure, automation can help solve application deployment issues. For example, developers write applications and operations maintain stable infrastructure to run them. Because continuous new code for features, updates, etc. means instability, there has historically been a wall between the two. DevOps, development and operations, is a new practice where the combined teams work together to maintain stable infrastructure that is resilient to new code being pushed to production easily and frequently, largely with the assistance of automation tools.
* Embrace Automation – Future IT services require both speed and accuracy.
* Commit to Speed – Patience is not a virtue in business.
* Be the Automator, not the Automated – Repetitive work will eventually succumb to automation.
* Adopt DevOps – Streamline the IT services life cycle between development and operations.
All contents copyright © 2014, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.