The Challenges of IT Automation
Although automation and standardization are the most logical steps for an IT infrastructure, it is not without its challenges.
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IT automation is the digitization of IT. It digitizes IT processes such as the provision of new servers, the installation of new software, and the delivery of applications. Successful implementation can lead to cost savings, increases in efficiency and a reduction in personnel costs. You should be paying just as much attention to IT automation as to digitization.
IT automation poses the same challenges as digitization and the added value is just as high.
As with digitization, it is important to know all of your processes and their results. These results are your (technical) IT services. IT automation describes these services in a computer-understandable schema. IT processes are mapped in programs that are executed using software (configuration management systems, infrastructure as code systems).
Rules of Software Development
The development of schemata and automation programs is similar to the development of software. In software development, various principles and working techniques have evolved. These are, for example:
- Use of version control for program code
- Reusability through abstraction of modules/classes
- Automated testing
The working techniques can be applied very well to IT automation and facilitate cross-team work, reduce development cost, and increase process security.
Further IT Requirements
In addition to the requirements for IT processes and their automation, there are other requirements that need to be met. These included the documentation of processes, IT security, data protection, and information security. The implementation of some requirements is simplified, such as the documentation of processes and IT security. Other requirements like data protection and information security must continue to be documented, checked, and certified by hand.
In alignment with your business processes, IT processes are not standalone; usually other processes follow. For example, after setting up a virtual server, the operating system is configured and then an application is installed. Of course, the aim can only be to completely digitize/automate these process chains. The result of a process must, therefore, be transferred to the next process. This means that a process defines the requirements for the preceding process. As in software development, this requires a corresponding architecture that is centrally coordinated. The more flexible and holistic your architecture is, the more possibilities arise.
Think holistically to create and utilize the manifold possibilities
What the Standardization of IT Offers
In order to minimize the complexity of the process chains, possible results or (technical) IT services must be simplified. This is achieved through standardization. You reduce the flexibility of your offers, but increase the reliability, quality and security of your automated processes. This simplification also means that less expertise is required to define an infrastructure element. The result is a collaboration in which specialist teams, project staff and developers define their own wishes in a schema and IT operations provide advisory support.
A difficult part of any strategy or software introduction is the transition phase, meaning the transfer to daily operations. Especially for IT departments and administrators, the introduction of new processes and software is associated with a lot of restraint and skepticism because the employees trust their existing tools. It is of decisive importance to integrate IT employees early on in the automation process and, if necessary, to have the management clarify the importance of the project in detail.
Avoid Vendor Lock-In
The number of systems available on the market is huge. Committing to one software vendor always means being dependent in some way. It, therefore, makes sense to use open source systems in such a critical area as IT automation. In terms of future security, software and training services and interoperability, open source systems are usually superior to traditional vendors.
Automation and standardization are worth the effort. Through digitization, IT has become a central component of your company. IT automation increases the reliability and speed of your IT processes. This frees your IT employees from enormous time pressure and increases their satisfaction.
Published at DZone with permission of Kai Grotelueschen. See the original article here.
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