Don’t let an ALL CAPS text ruin your weekend – part 1

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Picture this scene. It's Friday evening. You are a principal middleware infrastructure engineer responsible for ensuring the availability and capacity of middleware products and services in a large and complex environment. The director of IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) messages you on Slack in all caps:

"WE NEED TO MAKE A CRITICAL UPDATE TO OUR WEBSPHERE APPLICATION SERVER ASAP!"

After your heart rate peaks at 165 beats per minute, you hesitantly reply with "Sure, I'll assess the impact and risk, open an emergency change request and present it to the Change Approval Board next week."

Let's pause right here. Several questions immediately pop into your mind. Why is the IT director using ALL CAPS? Do you wonder what the IT director is missing here? Who would continue working the change over the weekend if the implementation went south? Is there a disconnect between the IT director and the middleware engineer?

Let's dissect the dialogue. The middleware engineer knows that WebSphere affects many different applications that require meticulous planning and coordination across multiple teams. There are more questions to ask. Who informed the IT director about the critical update? Is this a security patch or just an essential upgrade? In case of an audit, how will you describe this change to the auditors?

Let's continue to go deeper. The middleware engineer now begins to switch into a change management mindset. What is your step-by-step implementation plan for the change? How will you report on the change after success or failure? Do you have a rollback plan? How will you update all cross-functional teams?

There are a lot of moving parts and potential risks here, red tape, approvals, and testing.

Now, time for a pop quiz.

To successfully automate, deploy, configure, orchestrate, and report across all impacted systems for this change, you should?

  1. manually connect to each system to perform the update - to be sure
  2. write several custom scripts to perform all steps individually
  3. use Bolt to make the update repeatable
  4. stay in your comfort zone by using the Puppet desired state code to enforce automatically

The answer depends on your current design methodology, where you are in your DevOps journey, and how much time you have to “do it right” with documentation, repeatability, and auditability. This blog post series guides you along the path offering insight into when your I&O teams may have outgrown their current automation tools and how to weigh those challenges against the potential benefits of transitioning to a commercial enterprise platform.

Design for the future, today

Whether you are a longtime infrastructure automation champion or are just starting your automation journey, it is essential to identify the impact of change across your entire organization. You should also consider identifying your current challenges and match them to the potential benefits. The first challenge you may encounter depends on the design of your automation infrastructure. If you have inherited your current automation tool and desire to scale, but the current design has been inflexible and challenging to maintain, then now is the time to consider upgrading to Puppet Enterprise.

You should ask yourself several questions to begin planning for the future or to relieve your current operational pressure.

  • What happens when a new person joins the team, and you don’t have time to train them on your bespoke infrastructure?
  • What happens when you want to leverage your existing technology investments through enterprise integrations?
  • What happens when you have multiple teams all trying to work together to scale out your automation strategy to support increased infrastructure demand?
  • What happens when you have the budget to consider switching from open source to commercial but are unsure of the migration level of effort?
  • What happens when there are too many known security vulnerabilities identified by auditors in your IT environment?

If you think about maintainability and a future upgrade path to scale your current DevOps toolchain by deciding to transition to a commercial automation product such as the Puppet Enterprise platform, then you alleviate the pain sooner than later. Puppet is ready to partner with you on your transition path to more stability and higher availability as you scale.

From challenges to triumph

Your homework for today: Begin to think about your automation journey and the evolution of your infrastructure growth. How will you continue to manage the various stages of the IT infrastructure lifecycle? Start by acknowledging your challenges and the friction that has occurred as a result of automation stagnation.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the series, where we discuss why you should make the shift to Puppet Enterprise.

Demetrius Malbrough is a principal technical product marketing manager at Puppet.

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