As Chris Gardner—who conducted the Forrester Wave on Infrastructure Automation Platforms—stated, “Infrastructure automation isn’t just on-premises or in the cloud. It’s at the edge and everywhere in between.” And that’s because, well, it needs to be.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that IT automation is a must-have for organizations today. With infrastructure spread across on-premises data centers, multiple clouds and a multitude of technologies, the complexity of IT long ago outgrew manual management. Automation is the only way to keep pace with constantly changing environments that need enhanced security, greater compliance and be easily adaptable to changing business and market conditions.
Because of these needs, the market has been relatively quick to adapt and embrace automation technology. According to a recent study by Forrester Research, 56% of global infrastructure technology decision makers have implemented/are implementing or are expanding/upgrading their implementation of automation software. Many of these IT organizations have a trusted tool in place and have been automating scripts and tasks for years.
Along with outgrowing managing infrastructure by hand, the industry is also quickly outgrowing automation tools. The automation market has now reached a point of maturity where an automation tool alone is not enough. In order for automation to continue to have an impact on an organization and keep pace with the speed IT changes, organizations need a platform that allows them to create a culture of automation.
Automation as a Trait, Not a State
Typically, when an organization acquires a new technology, they try to adapt it to their needs and how they work. Automation technology, along with most technology tools, does exactly that—it lets you adapt it to how you want to use it, and performs tasks as desired. But ultimately, successful automation comes down to more than just supporting task execution. Enterprises have realized that they need to support the behavior of automation in order for it to continue to scale.
As opposed to automation being a state, use automation as a trait—something that is done naturally without thought. The analogy we like to use is one of learning a new language. When you learn conversational Spanish, your mind still thinks in English, then translates what you want to say into Spanish based on what you have learned. Yes, you improve over time, but when you start to dream in another language, that is when it has become second nature. It is no longer something you have to do, you just simply do it.
When automation becomes second nature, that is when it can make the biggest impact and will help address a continually evolving infrastructure. As a discipline, automation is not technology-specific. As much as we talk about the technology behind it, it actually has little to do with automation. The technology itself is the easy part, the part that is reliant on a tool. Many have reached a point of maturity with using tools and are now working toward IT staff viewing automation akin to testing or documentation—while we may not always do it, we know we should.
Having automation become second nature is easier said than done, and something organizations are struggling with, realizing that a tool alone will not support this effort. It doesn’t provide the coordination and collaboration that is desperately needed to unlock the next level of automation capabilities. We need more than a tool to continue to scale automation and spread it to new areas of IT.
The Next Phase of Automation and What to Look for
There are multiple personas within an organization that are paramount to successful business-wide automation, and, to be blunt, automation must cater to all of them. Between developers, those trying to simply consume automation or sys-admins executing automation of mundane tasks, they all need something that works for them—but can also work consistently across these personas. Organizations need a common automation language across the entire enterprise and the hybrid cloud that creates a standardized experience for solving problems (and solving them only once).
Not only that, but they need a repository or catalog where everyone can find an answer to what they need, along with easily accessed integrations. Part of why automation is growing so rapidly is because of how many technology vendors have embraced the concept and, in turn, are working with automation vendors to integrate their technologies and make them easier to use.
To continue to spread automation to new areas of a business, organizations need a single repository to more securely search and find necessary modules. Additionally, having a shared repository helps create an automation community within an organization. It brings different personas together to find what they each need, fosters collaboration and ultimately encourages sharing automation specific to their organization. It also provides a place to find integrations that they may not even have been aware they needed.
When preparing for the next step in their automation journey, organizations should look for automation platforms that provide access to analytics, specifically those that can tell you how your automation is being used and where. As the adage goes, knowledge is power, and the more you know about your automation, the more successful it can be. More importantly though, if you are trying to create it as a behavior, analytics let you track and measure progress. It allows you to better understand what is working, what groups are thriving and what areas need improvement. Using automation analytics enables organizations to create a system for enabling standardized practices.
On the whole, a successful automation initiative needs a supporting automation platform to provide coordination and embrace collaboration between different groups. Simplification is also essential for making automation more accessible across these groups, especially in the face of competing needs and varying levels of engagement. Scaling automation successfully applies both to technologies, as well as the users that want to benefit from automation.
Strategy for 2020
There is no such thing as a perfect tool, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. The good news is it’s not about having a perfect solution, it’s about the experience that can be gained from a solution. Every organization is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all option.
What is needed when developing an automation strategy that takes organizations into the future is a foundation for growing that automation. Automation platforms offer so much more than a tool alone, allowing it to be more easily scaled and being leveraged how the organization needs. It may never solve all problems but will take away a lot of the efforts. You need to find a vendor that is not selling a tool—but selling automation as a whole.