Random Thoughts on IT Automation

IT automation is key to IT efficiency, agility and control. Here are some of my recent thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share yours.

People and Automation

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  • All automations ultimately start from people, not the other way around.
  • Although automation has a role, it never takes the place of a good system administrator.
  • Not everything can be automated, and not everything is worth being automated.
  • Automation is never a self-propelled perpetual motion machine. It needs a driver – the human being.
  • While system administrators in the driver seats, good feedbacks from the IT system are like dashboard and therefore indispensable.
  • Good automation should empower system administrators to do works more efficiently and more consistently.
  • An automated workflow is like a recipe. The goal is to repeat it in a consistent way regardless of cook.

Automation and APIs

  • Automation is possible if and only if the target is programmable. Therefore APIs are crucial to automation.
  • Reactive automation is possible only if the target is observable with metrics via APIs.
  • Unified management APIs are helpful for a unified view of underlying infrastructure therefore simplify the automation development.
  • API interoperability is a must to avoid automation islands in large scale IT systems.

Policy vs. Script

  • Policy is easier to understand and author, but less flexible to extend beyond what’s already supported than scripting.
  • Policy is good for most common use cases that don’t change much over time, while scripting is good for less common use cases that are hard to define their structures.
  • With many automation scripts in place, the question of how I can get a work done becomes which script I should run.
  • The “cloudier” an IT system, the more scripting for automation.

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  1. Posted January 6, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Automation starts with you inner chronic malcontent say “What, again? Didn’t I just do that?”

  2. Posted January 6, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Rob,

    Nice way to put it!


  3. Antone (thehyperadvisor)
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I think automation and self service will be big this year. Good points Steve and Rob.

  4. Posted June 29, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    I would like to raise another matter which i think is the enemy of IT Automation.

    IT Automation improves, rather than eliminate jobs!

    In our implementations among tens of customers, we have eliminated thousands of hours of repetitive manual tasks. Nevertheless, we have not witnessed a single case of a headcount drop due to automation. On the contrary, employees are empowered to automate tasks that were never addressed before. As Glen O’Donnell, a senior analyst for Forrester Research, urges IT folks to “be the automator, not the automated.” O’Donnell asks, “Who better to automate your job than you?”

    Gabby Nizri
    CEO, Ayehu.

  5. Posted June 29, 2012 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your experience and observations!

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    My company has created products like vSearch ("Super vCenter"), vijavaNG APIs, EAM APIs, ICE tool. We also help clients with virtualization and cloud computing on customized development, training. Should you, or someone you know, need these products and services, please feel free to contact me: steve __AT__ doublecloud.org.

    Me: Steve Jin, VMware vExpert who authored the VMware VI and vSphere SDK by Prentice Hall, and created the de factor open source vSphere Java API while working at VMware engineering. Companies like Cisco, EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell, VMware, are among the users of the API and other tools I developed for their products, internal IT orchestration, and test automation.