Infrastructure automation

Many system administrators and system engineers would agree that their day-to-day work is always challenging, they try to automate their usual routine tasks to reduce the manual labor by writing scripts in whatever scripting language they are comfortable with.

infrastructure automation, doityaar

Be it Windows native PowerShell or VB script or C#. Among web developers, Ruby is very popular for system administration work. Ruby is definitely known for its large scale infrastructure automation projects. Two of the massive infrastructure automation systems Puppet and Chef have been built on Ruby. Keeping these Infrastructure automation tools aside, is scripting one-off tasks and combining all of them to provision an environment a infrastructure automation? That’s an interesting question!

I have been a System engineer myself, we are so stuck with doing things the old-fashioned way. Sometimes we tend to ignore the very obvious. We forget to think out-of-the-box because we are so damn stuck in-the-box. I had always assumed that infrastructure automation is for large enterprises only. The cost of manually building datacenters and setting up servers would be high enough to justify setting up a sophisticated infrastructure automation framework.

Well I underestimated the power of automation, misinterpreted the benefits beyond just reducing costs of doing repetitive and complex configurations manually. Even if you aren’t maintaining hundreds of servers or spending countless hours maintaining the consumer facing systems, automation will help.

Earlier days, just few years ago. Infrastructure growth was limited by the hardware purchasing cycle. It would take weeks if not months to get the new hardware shipped. Operations and System engineers would rack the hardware in the datacenter after installing the operating system and doing basic configurations going through the checklist. It took weeks to get the server UP and running. With latest advent of Virtualization and cloud, servers are being created at drop of a hat. Virtual Machines templates and cloning abilities within these virtualization technologies makes creating servers that much easier and companies now have different challenge, to maintain these ever growing portfolio of servers.

Automation doesn’t just mean you have a button to click and then the Environment with a bunch of servers are ready for use. If server creation is automated with scripts and templates then you have just automated an administrative task of creating servers and not an infrastructure per se. However, once you have thousands of servers created with that automated server creation task. Your Operations team is left with managing those thousands of servers and they have to reinvent the wheel all over again to maintain those servers. If you had to change any configuration, then you would have to make that change across the board manually which is error-prone and cumbersome and should I say extremely frustrating.

That’s where Infrastructure Automation tools like Puppet and Chef are helpful, helping us look at Infrastructure as a piece of code which can be configured, tested, deployed, measured, versioned, refactored just the way other software source code is treated. Also gives the ability to automate how we build, deploy and manage our infrastructure.

Infrastructure as a code, especially as it related to creating systems that are abstract, modular, testable, understandable, measureable. Infrastructure automation also goes by the names like Configuration management, IT Management, Scripted infrastructures, System Configuration management. They are all the same. Infrastructure is defined as a code or set of scripts so that environments can be replicated and same configuration can be applied to single node or thousands.

Accelerate the standardization and consolidation of the infrastructure and application environment. Continued efforts to virtualize the server, applications, database, storage and network are also essential. After achieving standardization in the infrastructure, companies can move to Automating their infrastructure. Making these Automated infrastructure to more robust predictive smart Infrastructure is another step forward. Using the historic data as well as predictive analysis, Infrastructures should be enabled to be smart which can scale up when there is a business demand and scale back down after that.

Today’s IT Infrastructures are being challenged by newer technologies and applications, the implications are more than we can imagine. Loss in revenue, inability to serve customers effectively, broken supply chain workflow, slower development and more. Build faster, Operate simply, Secure proactively, Store efficiently and analyze in real time should be the prime focus and Infrastructure automation tools and technologies helps us do just that. With proper use of technologies, businesses can reduce operational cost, manual labor, enable faster time to market, lesser time to deliver products, Efficient, reliable and scalable Capacity management.