How Infrastructure as Code Opens the Door to Amazing Possibilities

Today’s hybrid cloud enterprises are too complex and too distributed for operation teams to log onto everything that must be configured or updated. It simply isn’t realistic. Manual IT configuration is going the way of the horse and buggy because it must. Yes, manual configurations are error prone, but it goes deeper than that. Can your operations team test newly created configuration settings or updates and validate their impact on security?

And who is documenting all the changes to your environment? Administrators are asked to document their solutions to leverage their individualized domains of knowledge, but few operational people enjoy doing so or have the time to do it right. Often, a prior snapshot is the only historical documentation of required change.

Learning from the Development Team

The operations team is charged with the responsibility of optimizing the IT environment for the code that developers deploy. The problem is that the developers have a distinct advantage called continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). Their side is automated while the efforts of operations often lag behind due to a reliance on manual interactive processes.

It’s not just the pace of automation that give developers an edge. Developers deal with code and code is self-documenting. You can review your code, test it, and run analytics against it. There is great value in that. What if you could deliver the operational environment along with the development code simultaneously? What if your infrastructure could be delivered as code?

Delivering the Big Picture

We are talking about more than just automating basic configuration settings. Rather than delivering settings to a cluster that that was originally configured by the operations team, why not deliver the cluster itself? You probably have clusters everywhere in your application environment. By standardizing your cluster configuration and deploying it with code, you ensure that your clusters are uniformly constructed. That code is then stored in a repository and used whenever a new cluster is needed. In the inevitable event that a problem with the existing cluster configuration is identified, cluster admins need only make a change to the code itself. Suddenly, you can streamline infrastructure deployments and updates in the same fashion that developers do.

In addition to delivering the infrastructure itself, you can deploy your monitoring as well as any required data protections. Security and compliance checks can be automated at the time of deployment. Code can be also repeatedly deployed. A client had an on-premise Kubernetes cluster that they wanted to deploy to a new environment. Because we had their entire cluster configuration stored in a git repository, they could easily deploy it again. We had another client that was able to rebuild their entire environment within an hour rather than deal with the monumental task of troubleshooting what turned out to be a granular driver issue that would have taken far longer. It is time to think big because software developers are. They are rebuilding the world. We just need to rebuild the operational environment.

Consider What You Can Automate

Think about how often you need to do something as simple as reboot a server as part of a remediation process. That task requires someone with a server skill set who also has local admin rights to the server. Allocating local admin rights is highly frowned upon in a zero-trust security environment. One of our clients solved this dilemma by writing automation to a recurring problem into Slack. The helpdesk specialist simply inserted any remaining required information, and the rest was handled automatically on the back end under a separate admin account. While a human was involved in the process, this person didn’t have to have the same level of skills that we often expect from an IT Administrator. It also meant one less admin credential that could be exploited. At a time when companies are having difficulties filling skilled position opening, coded automation can upskill your existing personnel, making your organization more productive and cost efficient.

Automated remediation is powerful. Think of how many recurring trouble tickets repeatedly involve the same issues. One of our clients created automated remediation solutions to address frequent tickets and ended up eliminating more than 2,000 tickets a month. That is realized value going back into your business. Furthermore, these automated remediation processes can be monitored and analyzed to ensure they your remediation is succeeding in the long term. Altering remediation actions then simply entails modifying the code rather than accessing multiple admin consoles or portals.

Operation teams need to identify support tasks or addressable events that occur with relative frequency for possible automation. While we aren’t yet there, the eventual goal is that the only tickets involving first-time instances go to a human. While automated pipelines do benefit the largest of organizations for now, AIOps will eventually scale down to smaller organizations. In the coming years, we will see generative AI solutions taking the baton and bring automated infrastructure to organizations that lack the resources to acquire a CI/CD pipeline at scale.

Beware of Automation Sprawl

Twenty years ago, server sprawl gave way to VM sprawl. Without a proper automation strategy, many organizations will be faced with automation sprawl. You can’t have multiple personnel acquiring automated tools to address issues singular to their particular knowledge domain because at that point you are just substituting tools for admin consoles. You need an overall strategy that ensures that everyone is working from the same recipes designed by a defined team of chefs because too many chefs in the kitchen results in inefficiencies.

Evolving Solutions has been assisting companies with their automation strategies for years. We have assisted countless operation teams insert all their necessary configurations, tools, security validations and remediation processes into their automated pipelines to deliver the optimized environment they need to achieve their business objectives. We understand how important reliability, scalability, performance, availability, and resilience are and we know how to put it all into code that can be delivered when and where you need it. Let us share our expertise and help you create the strategy and coded infrastructure you need to excel in the modern world.

Michael Downs

Chief Technology Officer

Michael is the Chief Technology Officer at Evolving Solutions and joined the company in 2014. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn here.

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