Automation is not merely a technology choice. First and foremost, it’s a business choice.
Without automation, supporting the growth of your business can be increasingly complex, to the point of becoming impossible beyond a certain scale.
Here are four key reasons why automation is critical to managing a large-scale IT environment:
- Less waste
- Less complexity
- Less mistakes
- Less uncertainty
Less Waste: Automation Optimizes IT Operations
Highways are a good analogy to explain the concept. When the population in a geographical area grows, the government is forced to develop the infrastructure to support the additional cars. In some places, these highways must be equipped with toll gateways to regulate the access, and toll gateways must be operated by humans, each performing thousands of repetitive operations per day. In turn, the newly built highways attract even more citizens in the region, and more cars on the road. The government can deal with the spike in traffic either by adding more gateways and hiring new people to manage them, or it can make the existing highways more efficient by implementing automated barriers and automated access systems.
Electronic tolls enable more cars to access the highway in the same amount of time that human operators take: by eliminating the brief stop at the toll and the interaction between the driver and the human operator or the cash machine, automation allows each car to move through the toll at a higher speed, in less time. In the same way, IT automation can help your Operations team to manage more workloads over the same working hours, reducing the need to hire more staff to support the growth of the infrastructure.
Less Complexity: Automation Orchestrates Sophisticated Services
In an enterprise environment, some of the Lines of Business that you are serving may eventually start requesting services that are outside the planned offering or far more complex than what originally anticipated. For example, after a cloud computing environment designed to offer a few highly standardized services becomes highly successful, the organization may experience a raising number of requests to serve complex custom services. Each of those custom services includes many application tiers that must be coordinated in terms of provisioning, configuration, sequential system updates and patching, migration, and retirement. The risk is that this newly introduced complexity, paired with the scale you reached, lessens productivity if not properly managed.
Like the automatic transmission in your car, an automation tool is designed to deal with a large number of moving parts at the same time, taking care of repetitive tasks and keeping all the pieces together while delivering predictable results.
Moreover, to comply with regulations and reduce emissions, car manufacturers have introduced more efficient gearboxes made of eight or even 10 gears. Manually shifting eight gears not only would be complex and distracting, but it would also almost certainly result in highly inefficient driving. In the same way, automation tools can simplify your experience of deploying and maintaining applications of increasing complexity, from the multi-tier service composition to the configuration of ancillary components such as networking and firewalls.
Less Mistakes: Automation Reduces Human Errors
The larger and more complex an environment, the higher the chances for mistakes.
For example, large-scale environments easily force the IT organization to deal with time pressure and stress. The psychological stress comes from the realization that a task, even a simple one, can’t be accomplished across all the managed machines in the allocated amount of time with a low probability of errors. It must be also considered that growing complexity leads to more articulated operations that need to be performed. Highly complex tasks require constant focus and precision – skills that not all team members may possess.
Back to our car analogy. The autopilot feature recently introduced by Tesla is a good example of how automation can assist humans and help them to avoid mistakes. Driving is certainly a complex task but yet manageable by humans. Automation here, while not yet perfect, can be two times more reliable than human drivers.
Less Uncertainty: Automation Prepares You for the Future
Automation as a platform builds upon the foundational elements you already have in your computing environment, simplifying the evolution of existing services and the creation of completely new ones. Automation is not just a great tool to deal with today’s market demands, but it can also be a fundamental building block to help sustain the growth and evolution of your business tomorrow. However, as I said at the beginning of this post, automation is just one of the many technological, operational, and cultural elements that you may need to introduce in your organization as part of a digital transformation journey. Automation alone is not enough.