Infrastructure automation is universally defined as the way to reduce hands-on involvement with IT systems, replacing this instead by developing repeatable scripts to be used by other software or on command.
This raises an important question for both IT teams and the business operations they support: why choose to automate your infrastructure?
The primary motivating factors leading many organizations to adopt infrastructure automation are two-fold: increased speed that comes from creating faster workflows; and minimized errors as a result of replacing manual work with automation.
A quick look at the evolution of infrastructure automation
From the IT technology point of view, several key categories round out the timeline of how infrastructure automation has progressed over the years.
First come scripts. Whether scripts for Windows systems or Linux systems, writing a script is literally taking commands that a human would type out in a sequential order from 1 to 15, or whatever number of actual total commands are needed, then stitching them together into a script that executes particular items in a particular order. Additional logic or decision making is often added in as part of the script, but at its basic core, it’s a list of items to run through bundled into a single script. Scripts are often seen as the path of least resistance in moving manual work to automation, alleviating the need to run commands one by one.
Then there is configuration management, which in some ways is like scripts on steroids – and very much akin to higher level metadata. Simply put, it’s a declarative way to define the state of a system. It’s an IT management process that tracks individual configuration items of an IT system – a declarative way to define the state of a system. From a more nuanced perspective, it’s about idempotency. Essentially this relates directly to the ability to be able to run a script or automation multiple times against the system without it having an impact and without having to change certain aspects of the code if there’s a need.
Now we get to infrastructure as code. This has many of the same properties as configuration management, but it comes into play in particular with public and private cloud and ultimately does the same thing for underlying infrastructure or cloud resources as configuration management does at the operating system level. Say you are thinking about standing up a server or provisioning a virtual machine, it’s infrastructure is code that’s used to stand up the box. Configuration management handles the configuration inside the box.
All three of these things inform the modern definition of and broadening uses of infrastructure automation.
The benefits – and challenges – of infrastructure automation
Infrastructure automation brings the right set of benefits to your IT organization: simplicity where there was complexity, improved efficiency and accuracy with workflows, faster delivery, reduced errors, and reduced cost not to mention the ability to scale and adjust to necessary infrastructure changes.
Of course, there are challenges too – but not really “bad” challenges. Factoring in a learning curve is one of them. Particularly when it comes to configuration management and infrastructure as code, where it’s not necessarily just a one-to-one mapping to manual tasks. What’s required is a bit nuanced in terms of how you need to think about the automation and how to automate a specific task, plus learning some of the associated infrastructure tooling. You can think of it in this way: anybody knows how to move a box, but everybody’s not qualified to operate a forklift for moving a box.
Where infrastructure automation, self-service, and Morpheus go hand-in-hand
One of the ways that Morpheus plays well from a self-service standpoint comes in being able to allow the infrastructure automation to be easily shared across your organization. This sets up a common conversation about how with the Morpheus cloud management platform, you have a way to share, for example, a script or some other pieces of automation with a helpdesk individual or a junior engineer.
Even when you’re working with peers or those in more senior IT positions, it’s an advantage if they don’t have to think about context when they run scripts because Morpheus presents in a way that is totally self-service. It’s intuitive. All they need to do is simply provide certain inputs, then execute. There’s no need to think about any sensitive information or credentials – and no need to be concerned about any of the dependencies on their system. You don’t have to download a special tool of some sort onto your local system or laptop. You can just go into Morpheus, and an execute the automation.
What’s more, self-service via Morpheus allows your organization to better leverage your experts or, as it’s often referred to, your centers of excellence. Generally speaking, your experts’ day job as a DevOps engineer, cloud engineer, or automation engineer is about writing and creating the automation, rather than actually running the automation. But we all know how it can go even when that’s not your primary responsibility but leveraging it is. With Morpheus self-service, you’ll have fewer folks submitting tickets and coming to you asking you to run this thing or set up that thing. They are of course not asking for automation per se but asking for your help to accomplish an end goal. With a platform like Morpheus, they can simply fulfil their requests on their own. So your team of experts can do less order taking and gain more autonomy to focus on more strategic activities.
When you need to bridge the current skills gap
Industry studies show that many organizations are facing a skills gap when it comes to infrastructure automation. Gartner notes that Infrastructure and operations teams face gaps on two sides: a technical skills gap and a cultural shortcoming that limits their ability to maximize the full potential of public cloud infrastructure and platform services. Gartner notes that in 2022, at least 35% of infrastructure and operations staff must possess the software engineering skills to deliver the pace of innovation needed by business – and through 2022, traditional skills will be insufficient for 60% of the operational tasks for which infrastructure and operations leaders are responsible.
Another advantage of the Morpheus cloud management platform is its ability to work as a force multiplier for your organization, leveraging both automation and self-service to bridge the current skills gap – and enable you to focus your teams appropriately and reap the benefits of infrastructure automation that much faster.
To see for yourself, request a Morpheus demo today.