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Implementing Automation

Automation and Orchestration
Vendors are focusing on orchestration and automation of their infrastructure to extract pounds instead of pennies from their customers.
The Case Against Orchestration
Management platforms have failed to deliver automation and orchestration for the last 20 years at least. Why would today's software be any more likely to actually work?

In Automation and Orchestration, we spoke about what is automation, orchestration and what the vendors hope to sell. In The Case Against Orchestration, we considered why automation hasn’t been successful in the past and considered why it might be the right time for adoption. If you decide that’s it time to try again, let's consider what options, tips and plans you could make for a successful deployment.

Orchestration platforms have better chances of success now that vendors are offering APIs to effectively manage their products. Routers, virtualization platforms, firewalls and storage arrays are delivering core features to enable external administration using XML-based APIs.

Software vendors need a few years to mature their products before they will be truly useful across a wide range of products. An action for today is to ask equipment vendors about their support for scripting and automation capabilities with languages and XML APIs that you can use now.

Start Scripting Today
You may not be ready to purchase an automation or orchestration system today, but consider starting automation with some scripts. Scripting is an art that has faded in recent years as vendors
improved product functionality and we got better software products. It’s not common today, but many IT people have Perl or TCL scripting capabilities, and more modern Windows and VMware administrators will have some PowerShell script knowledge. Set goals for your staff to develop a few scripts to automate simple tasks. Consider building a central Web console for these scripts to show status, completion and to provide useful feedback. This is the start of building your own automation system.

Realize that these scripts will need maintenance. At first, it will seem that this is "extra" work, but once automation has started to reduce the repetitive tasks, your team will have more time to work strategically and plan instead of doing repetitive tasks.

It's important to take time to check that the scripts take note of failure conditions and remember that validation is part of the development process. It takes extra time to check that the configuration was completed, valid and functional, but it will pay off in detecting when something has failed.

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