Efficiency through automation
Discover the requirements for smooth IT workflow automation
In order to be able to perform recurring IT infrastructure tasks with consistently high quality and as little effort as possible, automation of such processes is indispensable.
In order to be able to successfully manufacture such "IT products", certain preconditions are elementarily important. Such as clear detailed ideas of the end product, uniform concepts, clear definition of variable elements and good, complete inventory data.
Statements such as "we don't yet know what the product will look like, but we will definitely automate its manufacture in order to keep the effort within limits, so why don't you start thinking about what automation might look like" is not a useful basis for automation. Automation is an evolutionary process that is run through, in which it is important that the skills of the employees can grow with the increasing complexity.
In the following sections, we will go into more detail on important points that are considered prerequisites for successful automation.
Low level design and number of expressions
It must be clear in all details how the product is to be structured in all its manifestations. The number of different characteristics should be kept as small as possible. The term "T-shirt sizes" is often used here. This term implies that there should not be an unlimited number of versions of a product.
The key lies in well thought-out concepts
In addition to the Blueprint, many different concepts are usually necessary. For example, name, IP address and VLAN concepts, to name just a few. In the case of the concepts, care must be taken to ensure that the values for the various parameters can be calculated; if necessary, existing concepts must be adapted to this end.
Observe customer and factory side
An automation solution always has two sides. We speak of the customer side and the factory side. The customer side is formed by the presentation layer, and it is the essential element that must not overburden the user, but supports him in entering his data in as structured and validated a manner as possible. The presentation layer is a defined ordering interface for the customer and ensures integration into the data management system.
On the factory side, the orchestration layer is considered, which supplies all the data required for manufacturing the product and its values in order to manufacture or roll it out as automatically as possible. The orchestration layer can be mapped at different levels. In the simplest case, automatisms are controlled with scripts. Another level is that existing process automation is used and provided with business logics. In the advanced case, one or more existing tools can be adapted to the business needs and processes and their APIs used.
Organize data sources
All data of the parameters necessary for the manufacture of a product must be available on some system. If they are available on several systems, it must be clear which is the leading system and who is responsible for the data. "Single source of truth" does not mean that all data must be available on one system. As an example, VLAN numbers and IP addresses are obtained from an IP address management system, while the site addresses where a device is to be installed come from the ERP.
There is no such thing as "the automation". In every company, the requirements and needs for automation are very different. This is especially true in the area of the existing skills of the IT infrastructure teams, which historically contain only a few software engineers and programmers.
It is important to approach the topic of automation from the small to the large and to acquire the necessary skill set in order to grow with the tasks and to be able to complete them successfully.