Software-Defined This…and Software-Defined That. It’s everywhere. Well…the phrases are. Actual products and technologies are still showing up to the party. But they mean a new way to deploy data centers with the intelligence in software and not tied to specific hardware. One of the many benefits of this approach is the ability to tie them all together via automation and orchestration. But are you ready?
Customers regularly ask us (Varrow) to come in and talk to them about how to best introduce true automation in to their environment. Sometimes it’s simple things like server builds and other times it’s more complex tasks with external integration and multi-target environments. Whatever the use cases are the hurdles are often the same.
Too often people think the key to automating their environment is tools. Get the right tool, the right product, and off you go. Pure technology is very seldom the answer to any real business problem and this is no different. Tools are important. Without them it can be hard to accomplish the goals. But they don’t solve the real problems we see.
The first and most straight problem is a lack of clearly defined goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Just automating some tasks and processes is rarely the actual goal. What does the business itself want? Is it faster provisioning for developers? Ability to spin up instances of applications more quickly as demand rises? Take the manual tasks out of a complex process to save time and money? Defining the end goals is key to a successful project. Without that you aren’t really working toward anything and you’ll find the scope expands and contracts due to outside political influences.
Second, and common everywhere is just the overall lack of documented processes. It’s very hard to automate something that isn’t well defined. Trying to define processes as you work through an automation project is a recipe for disaster. Everyone does things differently even if the end result is “close” to the same. Your first task should be to define what you want to automate, document how it’s done now even if terribly inefficient, and standardize it as much as possible.
Third, and often the largest hurdle is just regular old company politics and silos. Automation crosses silo boundaries and this is often a big point of friction. If your organization isn’t breaking down those silo walls you’ll never be successful. You’ll spend years arguing over who controls which pieces, what tools everyone wants to use, and how things “should” be done. Without a doubt I’ve seen more projects stall due to this than any other.
At Varrow we have created a methodology that walks organizations through a process to solve these problems. From assessments at the beginning to clearly define what the success criteria is and goals are, to workshops that help document existing processes and bringing different operational groups together. Yes, it’s a pitch but it’s often what’s needed to move a project like these to completion without getting bogged down by internal politics and just general lack of time by the IT staff.