We may not have fleets of robots waiting on us hand and foot yet, but the automation revolution is in full swing. With automation becoming more apparent in daily life, some of the misguided fears over the concept and its potential to eliminate jobs are slowly being replaced with the view of automation as an opportunity. And given that IT departments are powering today’s businesses, few can capitalize on this opportunity more than enterprise IT.
Across industries, the pressure to deliver innovation faster continues to grow, and with budgets and headcounts remaining relatively stagnant, organizations not adopting an automation strategy are being set up for failure. Automation allows computers to do the mundane tasks—and increasingly, even the not so mundane—freeing staff to focus on innovation.
While 2017 demonstrated that automation is key to IT optimization and digital transformation, 2018 will be the year IT automation truly hits its stride, with widespread, systematic adoption across industries. So what trends in automation should organizations be looking to embrace next? These five areas in enterprise IT are prime to be automated in 2018:
Networks are arguably the bedrock of enterprise IT, yet true automation of the network stack has been nearly nonexistent. In fact, managing networks hasn’t changed significantly in the past 30 years. Network engineers still are logging in to individual devices and hand-crafting configurations, leaving network teams increasingly isolated from the DevOps revolution and slowing digital transformation.
This year, network automation will move full steam ahead in the enterprise—and there isn’t really an option for it not to.
With the ongoing march to cloud, new and potentially massive IoT deployments and increased pressure to modernize internal IT for efficiencies, network engineering must have the same focus and attention that server and app engineering has had in recent years. Network teams cannot remain isolated and resigned to merely maintaining the status quo; we should embrace them and show them how to reap the same benefits combining Dev and Ops has provided.
Bringing the automation of networks into the fold of DevOps will enable tasks to be executed with increased cadence and with a higher degree of accuracy, while increasing collaboration between teams that are critical to the success of modern application architectures.
To run business systems, you need infrastructure, and that infrastructure must be set up to have an impact on an organization’s day-to-day operations. Regardless of whether your systems are running in the cloud, virtualized environments, containers or on bare metal, if you still have to configure and provision infrastructure manually, you are moving too slow. Weeks or even days to provision systems means holding up changes that your business needs.
While automated provisioning has been around for a long time, in 2018 we will see this amplified, primarily due to the ease of use of automation tools and platforms. With automation, infrastructure can be scaled automatically or, using precanned scripts, an operations engineer can quickly affect hundreds or even thousands of devices. This type of technology will allow IT departments to rapidly expand their infrastructure without expanding manpower.
Once automated provisioning takes over the heavy lifting, focus can move to automating management, maintenance and troubleshooting.
Traditionally, in the enterprise, Microsoft environments have been managed by discrete teams. Recently the company has been doing a great job of helping users learn from wider experiences within the industry (joining the open source initiative, for example), and it’s helping break down some of the walls within IT departments. Microsoft also has focused on enabling Azure-backed services in the enterprise, offering more opportunities for customers to adopt automation.
With SQL Server accelerating in popularity—helped by installs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well the traditional base of Windows—automation is an opportunity to ease some of the traditional burdens of scale. We’re already seeing open source development of SQL Server Ansible modules, which is only going to help fit this piece of critical application infrastructure into DevOps-style workflows.
Microsoft has also taken a broader interest in open source projects. This has included contributing to the Ansible community, helping users integrate open source projects with their Windows environments.
Make anything simpler and easier and it is far more likely to be adopted. Over the last 25 years, the connection of our lives to the internet has only increased complexity. This complexity has made it more difficult for security professionals to keep us all safe.
With configuration management, we’re able to build security in from the start rather than as an afterthought. Changes can be logged and enacted rapidly, giving us the ability to respond to incidents in a timely manner—even across massive scale.
As our colleagues in cloud and networks have automated more, they’ve reached new levels of scalability. This year we’re already seeing growth of the DevSecOps movement, and expect it to continue. When we bring systems and processes together with automation, doing so securely becomes easier.
It comes as a surprise to no one when we say modern applications are complex. They comprise the latest technologies as well as legacy systems. They run in the cloud, across multiple databases and need to be accessed from a variety of devices. This makes it exponentially harder to determine root causes of issues, let alone tell these resources what to do. Since application performance can impact a company’s bottom line, maintaining it is a top priority. However, performance tuning often can’t be an IT team’s full-time job.
Orchestration is the automation of processes. It delivers relief from the administration, monitoring and help-desk chores that eat up time and resources. IT teams can define how an application is supposed to behave in its running state, and orchestration can bring about that bigger picture. Orchestrated automation is what will really set companies apart from one another, allowing teams to deploy applications quickly and reliably with an easy maintenance path ahead.