Over the past few years, the notion of automation has started to slowly work its way into our subconscious. From cars to supermarket check outs, we are being bombarded with the notion that automation through technology is the key to improving our daily lives.
It seems natural then to assume, that an organizations IT function, as the guardians of technological advancement would be gearing up to benefit in the same way. The reality however is often far from the case because of one simple reason: building automated processes from the many disparate and complex systems that IT rely on is incredibly hard to achieve, due to:
• Patchwork of tools from a host of vendors
• Lots of manual intervention
• Pockets of (often expensive) knowledge
The result is inflexibility when it comes to adapting to the ever-changing needs of the business.
Solutions on the market seem costly and/or complicated and/or time consuming and the result often looks like a band aid when put into the context of any future plans that involve Cloud. The net effect is IT spending too much time running the business, rather than the more valuable task of helping it grow.
Without stating the obvious, if complexity is the enemy of automation, a good starting point is probably to reduce the complexity. The self-contained nature of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offers great opportunities to do this, but to take advantage of automation, the next evolution will need to involve not just tight integration but an intelligent layer to orchestrate end to end. The ability to draw all the data points from the environment and then effect control over each of the component parts is a logical next step.
A good example of this for digital workspaces, would be the creation and management of templates or golden images in the world of Citrix. Normally this is a very manual process undertaken by a skilled and experienced practitioner, and depending on the number of templates, it can be pretty time consuming as well. Automating and standardising a process such as this brings with it some obvious upsides, multiply lots of these efficiencies together, and the result starts to look impressive.
Another case in point is the amount of time and money spent upgrading things. As anyone working on a Sunday performing out of hours upgrades will attest, the ability to schedule and then leave this process unattended is a simple but effective step in the right direction. The challenge is in winning the hearts and minds of people who might not consider this progress – fundamentally changing the nature of their role. To get their buy in, they will need to feel the benefit as well, getting back the weekend might be a good starting point…
In the absence of an IT crystal ball, tracking, managing and planning for user growth can be a pretty manual process. I think automation has a real part to play in these kinds of scenarios. The ability to automate these kinds of processes will help build in predictability. It starts to move you away from oversizing everything to give you the just in case headroom. Both of which have a practical impact on cost - a consideration which will become increasingly important as organizations transition workloads such as desktops into the cloud.
Whilst having things happen automatically in the environment is great for reducing the day to day task list, the real power comes from:
- grouping multiple automated tasks together to orchestrate end to end processes
- adding smart capabilities to the lifecycle of a workspace user
- improving the overall security posture of the environment
- ability to customize
- providing a significant impact on service delivery improvements
For the most part, these capabilities are in fact a reality today. Intelligent automation and orchestration are no longer in the sole domain of large, technologically advanced organizations. The outcome is greater efficiency and improved productivity, which ultimately plays into competitive advantage.
As organizations across the board look to take advantage of the economics of cloud, the importance of getting the foundation right will be critical. With the right tools at hand it needn’t cost the earth, and the results could well be transformational.
Author: Dominic Wordsworth, Senior Technology Consultant
This blog is based on research and development over 10 years by Flexxible IT. As experts in delivering Cloud desktops, they are able to take this skills and expertise to a wider audience.
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