IT Automation Explained

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IT Automation Explained

IT Automation is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and overused terms in IT. The term automation takes on many different meanings based on the context and the situation. It is often used when talking about business process automation, operations automation, service provider automation, monitoring automation, tools automation, etc. In more recent times, thanks to the introduction of cloud computing, Amazon, and the elastic infrastructure, the need for IT automation has increased, providing more and more automation variations. However, there are still many misconceptions about IT automation, and the vast differences among the various automation types.

In general, IT automation refers to a non-manual way of completing a task. This applies to IT as well, instead of using mechanisms and robots, we use scripts, programs, jobs, and various other means of achieving the IT automation goal. IT Automation can and should be applied to as many opportunities in IT possible e.g. creating new infrastructure, modifying existing infrastructure, operating IT infrastructure, reporting, gathering metrics, releasing code, deploying code, etc. Every-one of these situations and activities benefit from IT automation.

Additionally, automation in traditional IT operations can be applied to the following elements:

  • Standard operating procedures
  • Troubleshooting and recovery processes
  • Productivity improvements
  • Pre-set automation works very well and has the most impact under static IT infrastructure situations.

Additional IT Automation Opportunities

The definition and scope of IT infrastructure has undergone a massive sea change in recent years. IaaS, PaaS, SaaS services, public cloud options, and converged infrastructure solutions contribute to new and drastic dimensions of IT and automation requirements. Some use cases need a very high degree of IT automation to not only build the application stack but also keep track of infrastructure during modifications or recovery from failures. These include elastic infrastructure (multi-sourced in most cases), on-demand dynamic provisioning, always-on applications, fail-fast scenarios, frequently changing apps or tools, etc. Additionally, new age practices such as DevOps, NoOps, and Hybrid-Ops demand high degrees of IT automation.

To add to the complexity and confusion, there are new and differing product concepts as well as the positioning of various vendors to implement new and different use cases for IT automation. New requirements such as “IT as a service provider” and “IT as a broker (to the business)” further muddy the waters with discussions on IT automation. The opportunity now goes beyond the aforementioned “IT automation” options and encompasses a more holistic approach to help IT thrive in today’s more complex environment.

IT cannot wait much longer to better leverage additional automation to drive consistency and standardisation, reduce operating costs, and improve the service levels it provides the business.

At Cyberteam Security Services, IT automation is implemented holistically at two basic fundamental levels:

  • Client IT Automation - Automations that only affect a single client fall under this category. These include IT automations in the areas of self-serve, provisioning, integrations, auto-remediation, run-book automation, etc.; there is considerable amount of re-use of these automations across our various clients.
  • Service Provider IT Automation - Automations that fall under this category, include those that improve a service provider’s ability to improve productivity, increase efficiency, increase reliability and consistency of operations, increase compliance using best practices, reduce defects, and/or reduce risks. These automations are very specific to a service provider's business practices and processes and are dependent on their technology platforms.

Popular IT automation questions we are asked include:

  • Where does IT automation fit in?
  • How does IT automation help enable IT to be the service provider to their business?
  • Who is responsible for IT automation?
  • What are candidates for IT automation?
  • How is IT automation enabled in the organisation?

The answers to these questions are critical to the future of IT, as without additional automation, IT will struggle to maintain service levels, manage costs, and support agile infrastructure driven initiatives.

Cyberteam Security Services IT Automation Approach

Cyberteam Security Services classifies IT automation into three distinct yet related automation areas:

  • Workflow IT Automation: Any automation that helps in moving work items is termed as workflow automation. Typical examples include helpdesk alert-to-ticket automation, auto-escalations, pproval processing, etc.,
  • Workload IT Automation: This refers to any scheduled job automation. Examples include triggering backup jobs, reporting, cleanup activities, moving files, etc., This also includes automating on-demand workloads such as provisioning of servers, decommissioning of servers, retrieving orphan NAS storage, etc.
  • IT Process Automation: The key to successful IT operations and true IT automation benefits, can be found with process automation, as this step brings automation, including workflow and workload all together. This approach encompasses all key aspects of IT including event management, incident management, SLA management, capacity planning, availability, reporting, dashboarding, and service management.

Some key examples of processes that should be automated are:

  • Runbooks for troubleshooting, data gathering, reporting, etc.
  • ewPatch management activities and processes
  • Self-serve options
  • Fulfilment of service catalogue entries
  • Standard system builds
  • Automation of alert triggered cross platform runbooks for recovery from various problem situations

In the new age of dynamic infrastructure, it is critical that normal IT functions be fully automated. With the advent of new instances being created on a need basis, monitoring and management tools need to be updated in real time to reflect the true nature of the infrastructure. It is no longer possible to depend on manual interventions to update the CMDB Configuration Management Database, monitoring, tools and other databases for the new infrastructure. Application dependency maps that work very well with static infrastructure need to be modified in real-time, based on newly provisioned and/or decommissioned infrastructure.

With an ever-changing infrastructure comes new change management processes. Traditional change windows and maintenance periods are things of the past. Downstream processes of incident management, problem management, and reporting, must have sufficient information to determine root cause of issues. This is not possible without documenting all changes in the infrastructure. It is also essential that we log information to be able to audit the infrastructure at all times. Getting a true picture of what infrastructure was active when an issue occurred is critical for problem solving. These are other areas where IT automation can help.

Information on real-time infrastructure changes must be updated in the ITSM (IT Service Management) and ITOM (IT Operations Management Database) databases.

Cyberteam Security Services provides a comprehensive policy driven framework for the following requirements:

  • IT Automated device management – deployment of monitoring templates, updating device knowledge base articles, device owners, escalation methods, etc.
  • IT Automated service map generation – ensuring that application and infrastructure dependencies are updated in real-time
  • IT Assurance that appropriate service level expectations – are attached to the device or application to ensure correct services

Conclusion

IT can better take command of traditional and agile infrastructure, cloud, and more with a comprehensive IT automation approach:

  • Complete visibility
  • Full control
  • Fewer errors
  • More speed
  • Improved service levels.

Yet IT automation is not an end, but a beginning and a journey. An ongoing IT automation program is essential to provide enhancements to IT, continuous improvement to IT operations, and additional coverage to the IT environment.

Please Note

The IT Automation Explained information shown above is mostly generic and based on best-practice, therefore to get a better understanding on what we can do for your business, all we ask is that you contact us to discuss your cybersecurity security needs to securely automate your systems and data.
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