Code for America is a nonprofit that focuses on reforming government services to make them simple, easy to use, and accessible for all Americans. Founded...by Andrew Turner
June 12, 2019
As modern operations gain momentum, it is quickly becoming the new norm for business. Infrastructure has become malleable and self-service is in demand. As a result, traditional IT operations need to evolve from legacy models with outdated tools and methodologies — a thought that’s often met with opposition since it’s these very legacy tools that have kept systems up and business running. Yet it is more imperative than ever that ITOps build a framework for managing a more hybrid and agile infrastructure because it is this very agility that keeps organizations competitive in response to the ever-increasing demands of customers and partners.
To get started down the path of building a modern ops framework, here are few areas to consider:
Re-discover how technology impacts your company’s operations and strategic direction. This is the part of the process where you assess the current IT infrastructure and interview key personnel to better understand how technology impacts their jobs. Do they have the ability to spin up their own servers without your approval? Do they need more resources to throw at their job or application that will impact the way they operate? Although this may be arduous, it is the first step in understanding how you can build this framework. Plus, you may just stumble upon a game changer that will alter the way your organization functions. This aspect of the process also has the pleasant side effect of building credibility with the team and creating more open dialogue — a crucial aspect of a modern ops environment.
Some things will always remain legacy, but there are likely existing infrastructures and configurations that could be lifted and shifted to a modern stack. To validate this thesis, IT will need to take advantage of Asset Discovery tools. Some ITOps groups may be utilizing Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM)/Automation tools like LabTech to probe and discover assets. However, to operate in hybrid environments, leveraging cloud resources tools such as UpGuard can help paint a picture of the current IT environment and provide downstream services. Most infrastructures will have a line in the sand declaring what needs to remain legacy and what can be migrated, while others may be able to plan for a full transition to the modern stack.
This is not a small effort, but it has a great long-term impact. A service layer allows you to abstract your static legacy systems to an API layer that modern systems can consume resources through. It becomes an internal platform as a service (PaaS). This service layer can impact the entire stack as it allows operations to provide a service to modern systems that they can support without supporting each of the endpoints individually. It also creates a central language and a consistent model for utilizing legacy systems, which avoids a lot of the specialization and support it would require otherwise.
With the discovery completed, the next step is to discover new tools that can help build toward this modern IT infrastructure. Don’t get too overwhelmed — there are a ton of tools out there to help you adopt this new mode of operation. Start with the basics that can help give you visibility into this new hybrid infrastructure. For example, leverage an incident management platform such as PagerDuty to help gather issues and set up notification structures. Evaluate public cloud resources such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform that can help give users flexibility outside of the organization and won’t affect your production SLA. If you are managing application infrastructure, you can look into error management with Rollbar.io or QA tools like SauceLabs to help automate your team’s productivity. The goal of these tools is to help provide legacy ITOps enhanced management and visibility into this new modern IT environment.
When implementing these new tools in your modern infrastructure, it is crucial that implementation be followed with process and methodology. As an example, when keeping track of incidents, ITOps needs to build new methodologies to ensure incidents will be taken care of efficiently. To maintain pseudo-control over an ever-adapting hybrid environment, you need to ensure that proper security is in place to avoid putting the organization at risk when employees leave or when there is overlap between agile systems and your production environment. Designing proper management methodologies behind enhancing users’ ability to spin up servers (while maintaining proper security) will be paramount to the success of your modern IT framework.
Again, security needs to be a major component when building your framework for modern ITOps. Discover what built-in security your new stack of tools has to offer. In addition, building a service layer between your hybrid infrastructure and your production environment is key in adding a layer of security while enabling IT to maintain SLA in an ever-increasingly agile organization. Note that there will be times that these two worlds will connect, but it is at this point that your modern ITOps framework will pay dividends.
It is clear that the demands on modern organizations to move faster, be more agile, and be more responsive to customers and users are key drivers in the success of modern business. Therefore, these demands will also fall on ITOps to ensure service delivery, performance, and security while opening the IT infrastructure up to users and services that were not there in the world of legacy IT. In most cases, critical legacy IT systems will have to remain in place and continue to be managed while adopting hybrid infrastructure, as rip and replace is not always feasible. It is a common belief that IT will lose visibility and control as they are forced to adopt these new modes of operations. Yet it is clear that with the proper framework of discovery, tools, methodologies, and security in place, legacy ITOps can navigate the new landscape of modern ITOps.