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Catch the IT automation technology wave

IT automation is taking over in operations as tasks get bigger and more complex, handling distributed systems. Stay current with these five big trends.

As work queues up, IT operations admins must organize, prioritize and attack the pile before the day is done. That's where IT automation technology comes in.

Automation saves time, not to mention mental energy. There is no future of IT in which automation tools and processes do not reign, so organizations must invest in both intelligent IT automation technology and admins who can make the most of it.

Follow these five expert tips to bring the right and the best IT automation technology into a traditional or DevOps environment in 2018.

Learn how to script

DevOps organizations are seeking infrastructure-as-code developers, and the paired trend of site reliability engineering encourages professionals to script their way into self-managing infrastructure. With IT automation, scripting -- to some degree, at least -- is a key job requirement.

Shell scripts are the easiest entry point for infrastructure automation because they range from simple to highly complex. Admins who seek to improve their scripting abilities have the benefit of starting small and increasing difficulty with plenty of resources to aid their growth into a shell-scripting pro.

Lengthen the toolchain

Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) workflows function best when they span from development to operations to users without pit stops along the way. The more waiting rooms there are for apps, updates and upgrades, the longer the release cycle gets -- and DevOps is about speed and efficiency. A disjointed pipeline has got to go in 2018.

Organizations with IT automation technology set up and working in each department now face the next step: to connect all those automation tools and processes together to eliminate waiting room bottlenecks.

Correct mistakes

It's easy, with the depth and breadth of IT automation technologies on the market, to do too much too fast without any grasp on the consequences.

Not all systems are designed to be automated, and often, automating one task in one tool requires automating functions in another system. What was proposed as a quick and easy project turns into a domino effect nightmare.

Before your IT team gets too excited about automation implementation on its 2018 roadmap, establish what the shared goals are and how you'll approach them. Plan how you'll track the IT automation tool's behavior, success and failure to ensure that value validates the cost.

Speed alone isn't enough

Simply scripting a task out of an admin's hands isn't enough for DevOps success. If an admin makes a mistake, a basic automation system will replicate that mistake as programmed and wreak untold havoc -- see the Amazon Web Services outage of 2017.

IT automation technology must be intelligent to some degree, not just fast. Tools that can recognize errors and either prevent or directly remediate them avoid costly outages.

Other benefits of intelligent IT automation systems include reusability. The tool should be able to port scripts from one task to others, for a more general-purpose platform. Admins gain the flexibility to automate various deployment and release processes with negligible manual intervention.

Automate the bigger picture

Admins need a firm grasp of their work's effect on the business, how their tasks translate into corporate value and the top-level goals of each project.

Automation technology doesn't just make IT's job easier, it can also integrate and validate IT's role within the larger corporate picture. In 2018, create better methods to interact with automation technology and the projects at hand. Design monitoring dashboards to track which tasks are completed when and with what success rates. By making the work self-maintaining, self-perpetuating and self-sufficient, admins provide themselves with new opportunities to become indispensable.

This was last published in January 2018

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