Automation: The Key to Modern IT
Automation is everywhere in our day-to-day IT practices. Many of the processes that have been created for managing hardware and software components were designed, or at least initiated, in a time when managing only a few instances of an application was the norm. When we look at the work required to create, deploy, and maintain applications at a modern scale, the shortcomings of these processes become apparent. It’s not that what we were doing in the past was wrong; it’s that things were built under a different set of constraints.
Now that many of even the most basic applications have complex ecosystems, sprawling dependency chains, and fast-evolving platforms, old processes are no longer effective for dealing with components in a timely manner. This includes not only when things are running smoothly, but also when there is a problem. Automating tasks during an incident response workflow can save time and help your team deal with the demands of modern system architectures.
We can use automation in many different areas to help our teams with three major pain points:
- Reducing toil
- Reducing mistakes
- Keeping pace with fast-moving development cycles
Let’s take a closer look at each of these points.
Toil is how we describe boring, repetitive tasks that can make up a significant part of the work day in large environments, such as deploying new instances, installing updates, and configuring connections to various services. All of these things need to be done—and done correctly—for our environment to continue serving our users. They often aren’t particularly challenging, but if you are prepping a new environment of even several dozen instances, creating and configuring them all manually can be a mind-numbing exercise.
Toil contributes to burnout and employee disengagement, so it’s important to minimize it as much as we can. When we automate basic tasks, including tasks that will be done over and over again, we free up time for other, more challenging tasks.
Repetitive tasks can also lead to mistakes. When a task has many steps or complex commands, it’s easy for things to be missed or entered incorrectly. When we create a piece of automation, whether with a tool or a script, we have the opportunity to preserve those tasks in their correct form for future use.
For example, maybe we have some applications that run in virtual machines in a public cloud. Automation can leverage APIs in our environment, which allows our team to always deploy new instances using the same configuration options as the existing systems. This helps ensure everything matches and meets our requirements. We don’t have to create a complex set of documentation to outline which things to select or click on in a graphical user interface ; our team instructions simply rely on the automation and the API it integrates with to produce what we need.
Keeping Pace With Fast-Moving Development Cycles
All parts of the software development lifecycle are seeing the use of more and more automation. For example, the use of Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery methodologies pretty much requires every step to be heavily automated to keep up with the pace of changes.
Putting changes through a continuous pipeline and into production—whether they are new features, bug fixes, or operational changes—will have your team looking at automating the delivery of files, the updating of configurations, and the deployment of new resources without manual intervention to avoid holding back progress.
Find Out More
Supporting automation efforts will help your team complete tasks in a faster, more predictable way. Publish your workflows with automation to alleviate toil, reduce mistakes, and keep up with the increasing pace of change in modern IT environments.
At PagerDuty, we’re always thinking about automation and how it can help teams better deal with the inevitability of unplanned work and incidents. Read more in our new Ops Guide on Automated Remediation. Already working on automation with your team? Join our PagerDuty Community to share with peers and let us know how automation is helping you cope with the complexities of modern IT systems.