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Uptime Blog

Automate your DevOps processes, and let go (a little)

As the demand for instant innovation and real-time delivery of mission-critical processes continues to grow, your organization risks falling behind if it can’t adapt to an automation-centric strategy. To be successful, managers have to loosen the reigns and enable teams to automate their DevOps processes.

Automating DevOps processes isn’t an all-or-nothing decision, and implementing automation processes slowly can let teams adapt to the changing environment and let go, little by little. Putting routine processes on autopilot allows DevOps teams to focus on innovation and take some chances, and set goals that previously would have been called “unrealistic”.

Why automation?

Automation encourages quick implementation and feedback for DevOps processes by optimizing key processes. An automated DevOps environment enhances a number of tasks including:

  • Reviewing and creating code
  • Testing applications and infrastructure
  • Deployment and live evaluation
  • Deploying code
  • Gathering metrics
  • Data security compliance

Automated code evaluation and creation, for instance, can allow your DevOps team to evaluate existing code, make modifications, or even develop new code that matches your organization’s changing needs as they occur. Automation can also help businesses stay compliant with ever-changing data management and industry regulations, installing and testing updates automatically before implementation deadlines. Pus, automation can create a much more reliable paper trail for audits or other regulatory examinations.

Enhancing these functions via automation can significantly reduce your organization’s time to market, which is strongly correlated with the ability to stay ahead of the competition.

Simplifying the road to automation

Automating your DevOps initiatives can seem like a daunting task, but getting started really only requires two simple steps: identifying your needs and identifying bottlenecks.

Evaluate your organization’s needs
You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you have been or where you are. In general, DevOps teams need to figure out how they can increase the speed and frequency of their software releases, improve feedback cycles, reduce downtime, and effectively monitor both test and production environments.

As you evaluate each of these aspects, it’s important to consider where automation can play a role. For example, automating feedback about how a piece of code is working in the test environment can help protect businesses from buggy code while increasing the pace of production. Rather than burdening developers with the need to send notes and feedback to stakeholders and decision-makers manually, automated alerts can let everyone know what’s going on at the same time, especially if automation is tied to a shared dashboard.

Your organization’s exact needs will vary, but the important thing is to make sure that your DevOps team is prioritizing the above items and finding ways to implement automation throughout the pipeline.

Identify bottlenecks
Once your DevOps team has a good understanding of where you are, they can start seeing where problems lay. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look at a recent failure and evaluate exactly what happened. Why are DevOps processes not able to reach their goal? Does testing take up too much time? Is manual management of code, documents, or data too tedious? Are things falling through the cracks simply because there’s so much to keep up with?

Considering the barriers your DevOps teams experience when trying to reach their goals must include ideas on how automation can make those situations better. Things like testing can be easily automated freeing up a ton of time. This is especially true in agile environments where updates are frequent. Automation can also help DevOps parse the most important pieces of information from large data stockpiles, cutting down on the amount of time they spend looking for data rather than using it.

Rob England, an independent IT management consultant, trainer, and commentator based in Wellington, New Zealand, has developed his own list of seven crazy goals to prepare ITSM for a DevOps world. He adds that setting expectations is a major element of success:

  • Zero risk means zero experiments, and zero experiment means zero innovation. Everyone in the organization up to the highest levels must understand that mistakes are a cost of moving forward.
  • You may never reach your goals you set yourself. The agile way of working is to iterate toward a goal, sometimes abandoning it or pivoting to another idea.
  • The real value is not what you achieve. The value is in the journey, and developing new attitudes that embrace experimentation, failure, and curiosity.

The future of DevOps automation
Automation in the DevOps world is still in its fledgling stages, but there is likely to be a surge of automatic activity in the coming years as companies increasingly embrace the trend. So what’s next? The biggest buzz is around cloud technology that’s paving the way for unprecedented scalability. Adding automation to the mix can enhance the provisioning of this infrastructure, allowing companies to scale automatically as the need arises — as well as descale when those resources aren’t needed.

Effective automation can really set your organization apart from your competitors, enabling DevOps teams to reliably design, test, and deploy applications at record speed. If nothing else, automation can liberate DevOps teams to try to do things they’ve never done before, like allow parallel testing and deploying a product on a weekday afternoon rather than waiting for “safer” times.

xMatters and automation
Automation can help organizations overcome manual hand-offs of information from tool to tool and uncertain communication processes that can slow down important processes. The xMatters collaboration platform relays data between systems while engaging the right people to resolve incidents. xMatters ensures that the appropriate individuals and groups for any situation are identified, notified, and taking action. To close the loop, xMatters manages and drives forward the underlying workflow from originating systems.

xMatters automates and brings structure to communication to help enterprises proactively prevent outages, manage incidents, and keep the right people informed. You can use xMatters for free today.

Still not sure if automation is the right way forward for your business? Learn about the differences between automation and orchestration, and how one or both methodologies might be right for your business in our blog Orchestration vs automation: Which does your business need?


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