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What is IT automation?

IT automation, also called infrastructure automation, is the practice of creating and managing IT resources with minimal or no human interaction.

Assets managed can include virtual compute resources, storage, virtual network appliances, and even security zones. Automation should use repeatable, auditable software to manage the entire lifecycle of IT assets. The automation software can be as simple as custom scripting to deploy virtual hardware and configure software, or as complex as pipeline workflows that manage the full lifecycle while integrating with existing tools such as security, change management, and mesh systems.

Organizations can adopt practices incrementally, starting with scripting of simple, repetitive tasks. More sophisticated groups will integrate discrete tasks into a continuous toolchain, providing end-to-end automation of the entire infrastructure lifecycle.

What are the benefits of IT automation?

IT automation improves company efficiency while ensuring infrastructure compliance. With greater emphasis on compliance, security, and rapid application delivery now more than ever, infrastructure automation is even more valuable – effectively addressing challenges and providing opportunities for growth. It’s a critical way for companies to stay competitive in today’s market.

IT automation saves time, saves money, ensures reliability and governance, and promotes speed and agility

How does IT automation help my company?

IT automation is hugely beneficial in helping companies manage their infrastructure and meet their compliance goals.

Saves businesses time

Many IT departments spend as much as 50 percent of their time on repetitive manual maintenance tasks.

When teams spend most of their time being reactive, there’s less time to spend on the work that matters: deploying applications quickly and moving the business ahead. IT automation speeds up the time to value of infrastructure assets.

Saves businesses money

By reducing the need for highly skilled professionals to be engaged in manual, repetitive tasks, IT automation allows employees to focus on strategic initiatives. They’re able to be more productive in the aspects of the business that matter most. Plus, the risk of human error is decreased.

Brings reliability and governance to businesses

Automation is the key to faster deployments. It’s the foundation for continuous delivery and other DevOps practices. It assures that IT assets are created and maintained in a defined state, reducing errors, increasing confidence, and assuring license and compliance needs are fulfilled.

With IT automation, it’s possible to:

  • Define how infrastructure and applications should look
  • Test changes before deploying them to production, in an environment that matches production
  • Automatically fix any unexpected changes

Allows businesses to move with speed and agility

The competition of a crowded market demands that companies are more efficient than ever to rise above the noise. IT automation removes tedious manual processes, decreases system downtime, and increases the ability to shift with market demands. It saves companies time while providing peace of mind.

How does IT automation help IT operations teams?

IT automation allows operations teams to scale services far beyond what manual processes can do. It reduces the time to delivery of new assets from days/weeks to minutes/hours while reducing post-deployment problems. It is the cornerstone to self-service, where end users can request new assets and have them delivered via a fully-automated process, with the licensing, resources, and compliance restrictions deemed necessary.

Automation practices can be extended to the full asset lifecycle:

  • Updates can be deployed in an orderly fashion, old or outdated assets can be recycled, and current state is known and reportable (visibility being another core DevOps tenet).
  • The need for troubleshooting systems (and the amount of downtime) is greatly reduced as automation removes manual errors, helps ensure conflicting configurations aren’t deployed, and allows testing at scale.
  • Troubleshooting is simplified because the state of each machine is known and documented, making identifying incorrect/changed/drifted configuration much easier.
  • Onboarding and transition of people is also easier since automated processes reduce the need to learn and understand manual, laborious processes.

How does IT automation factor into DevOps?

IT automation is one of the practices adopted from DevOps and introduced to the wider IT world. It is one of the basic DevOps tenets. Larger IT organizations saw the significant improvement in deployment times and testing success experienced by DevOps teams, and thus the practice was adopted more broadly.

Several other core DevOps philosophies also accompany well-developed automation practices: collaboration, visibility, and “design with the end user in mind.”

How do I know if my organization is ready for automation?

Very small businesses may not be ready for automation. However, there are several signs that your organization may be ready:

  • You’re growing faster than IT can keep pace. When you start to scale infrastructure to keep pace with growth, manual processes no longer are feasible, economical, or efficient.
  • Certain production issues recur regularly. It may be one issue or several, but if it needs continual fixing or maintenance, automation can help.
  • You’re restructuring your workforce or it’s hard to find talent. When headcounts drop, automating processes can fill the gap and help lower labor costs.
  • You need to streamline workflows to improve efficiency. As your company integrates applications and data, automating workflows will connect systems and apps to create a more efficient, smooth process that improves customer and employee experience.
  • You want to reduce toil and free IT for more important initiatives. Automating IT processes like compliance and configuration lifts the burden from humans and frees them to apply their skills and expertise to higher return on value work.

How can I get started with IT automation?

While many tools are available for IT automation – both open source and enterprise – getting started is very simple. Most organizations likely have some automation in the form of scripting. That is the most basic type of automation.

Putting script into a source control system for wide availability, collaboration (a DevOps tenet), and version control is a next logical step. Orchestrators and tools that will automatically run scripts and link them together in a tool chain comes next. These methods work but don’t scale, as maintenance tends to be more of a burden as use and scope increase.

That’s when bringing in specific automation tooling pays for itself, especially if it allows you to reuse existing automation during the transition.

Recommended for you

Puppet provides infrastructure automation that simplifies complexity for the masses in order to strengthen customers’ security posture, compliance standards, and business resiliency beyond the data center to the cloud.

Through the power of an IT automation platform, teams are freed up to innovate. For more than a dozen years, Puppet has enabled infrastructure and operation teams to scale infrastructure in the largest and fastest growing organizations in the world.

Puppet also offers free training options including instructor-led classes, web-based labs, and self-contained virtual environments to safely explore how Puppet can help you excel at automation.