After a successful automation-themed #CloudOpsChat in September, we decided to take a deeper dive into automation for this month’s edition, discussing “Task Automation Vs. Process Automation.” Thanks to everyone who participated, and thank you especially to Rich Pleasants (@CloudOpsVoice), Business Solutions Architect and Operations Lead for Accelerate Advisory Services at VMware, for co-hosting!
To begin the chat, we asked: “What IT tasks or processes has your company successfully automated?”
@Andrea_Mauro jumped right in, asking how automation compares to tasks? @kurtmilne offered VMware’s take, saying “VMware IT has fully automated provisioning of complex workloads on private cloud,” and clarified that the most complex workloads were “Oracle ERP with web portals, and over 80 blueprints.” @venkatgvm also elaborated on VMware’s automation story: “VMware instance provisioning had over 20 major steps, each of them were executed by siloed teams.”
Co-host @CloudOpsVoice took the question further, asking, “Are people automating day to day maintenance activities or actual steps in the process?”
@vHamburger gave his advice on where to begin with automation, saying “[day-to-day automation] is a good starting point. Nominate your top 10 time-consuming tasks for automation.” @Andrea_Mauro replied, suggesting that “task automation is more for repeatable operations and day by day [tasks].” He followed up by offering a definition of process automation: “Process automation could be more related to organization level and blueprint usage.” @kurtmilne also chimed in with business-related definitions of task and process automation: “Task automation math includes cost/time of single task vs. developing automation capability…Process automation math includes business benefit of overall improved agility, service quality - as well as cost.” @CloudOpsVoice broke his definition of automation into three parts: “day-to-day, build and run.”
@CloudOpsVoice next asked, “What technique do you use primarily for automation? Policy, orchestration or scripting? How do App blueprints impact it?”
@kurtmilne noted the value of blueprints and scripting: “Blueprints and scripting allow app provisioning automation - not just VM provisioning.” @thinkingvirtual also offered sound advice on how to select what to automate at your company: “Always make sure your automation efforts provide real value. Don't automate for automation's sake.” Elaborating on this, @kurtmilne discussed the value of automation, stating that automation’s “real value” is “ideally measured in business outcomes, and not IT efficiency.” @vHamburger also warned against bottlenecks preventing automation: “every enhancement after your bottleneck is not efficient - know your bottlenecks!”
@vHamburger went on to mention task workflow: “Clean task workflow with documented steps is always preferred over scripts,” he suggested, because it’s “easier and repeatable for new admins.” @Andrea_Mauro countered by saying that sometimes a “‘quick and dirty’ solution could be good enough,” to which @vHamburger replied, “In my experience ‘quick and dirty’ always leads to fire fighting ;).” @kurtmilne then vouched for “leaning out” a process: “‘Leaning out’ an IT process is good. But sometimes it’s better to use automation to eliminate tasks vs. automate tasks,” he wrote. @thinkingvirtual also noted how important communication is to successful automation: “Often forgotten: keep your business in the loop. Show back the value continuously to broaden the relationship.”
@AngeloLuciani kept things moving by asking, “Do you pick a tool to fit the process or a process to fit the tool?”
@JonathanFrappier enthusiastically went with the latter: “Process to fit the tool! Processes can change, tools have to live on until more budget is approved!” @kurtmilne added, “Tool/process construct doesn’t make sense with full automation. You can do things with automation you can't do with manual tasks: For example, you don't figure out manual horizontal scaling process in cloud - then look for tool to automate.”
#CloudOpsChat ended with one last great tip (and a nod to VMworld!) from @thinkingvirtual: “Automation skills are a huge career opportunity. Don't avoid automation, defy convention.”
Thanks again to everybody who participated in this latest #CloudOpsChat, and stay tuned for details of our next meet up. If you have suggestions for future #CloudOpsChat topics, let us know in the comments.
For more resources on automation, check out the following CloudOps blog posts below:
- The Paradox of Re-startable Workflows: A More Efficient, Automated Process Does Not Always Mean Removing the Human Element
- Automated Deployment and Testing Big ‘Hairball’ Application Stacks
- Automation – The Scripting, Orchestration and Technology Love Triangle
- Refresher Course in Automation Economics
In the meantime, feel free to tweet us at @VMwareCloudOps with questions or feedback, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags. For more from Rich Pleasants, head over to the VMware Accelerate blog.