You probably have heard the phrase, “Today, every company is an IT company.” Yet, it is not uncommon for the expectations of an IT department to grow while the budget remains the same or even decreases. Executive decisions are not the only cause; customers expect businesses to adapt rapidly and bring new products or features to market at a remarkable pace. Even if your company is not a pure technology company, technology plays a key role in getting new products to market.
The IT industry is producing new technologies, new tools, and new techniques constantly. Many of these could offer advantages to our businesses and employers, but how do you find the time to learn these new things? How do you find the time to test these things to see what benefit they might offer your organization? How do you find the time to implement them in your environment? The answer is automation.
Automation enables you to be more effective and efficient, which in turn enables you to spend more of your time adding value doing more interesting things. By automating the routine, mundane, or error-prone parts of your regular job, you free up time to focus on things you’d like to fix, improve, or upgrade in your environment. Automation is a force multiplier.
Automation doesn’t happen overnight, though. It requires effort of its own, and you may have to prove that value to others on your team. Nothing proves value better than demonstrating something that works. So, where do you start? One of the best ways to start is to step back from your daily routine and evaluate where you spend your time. What repetitive tasks take a few minutes, but over the course of repeated requests or multiple devices multiply out to a significant amount of your time? What things do you repeat across multiple devices using some simple algorithm in your head or a spreadsheet, such as increment an IP address?
These are areas that are ripe for automation. Done correctly, automation can reduce inconsistency in your environment, and eradicate typing errors that cause hard-to-troubleshoot issues. All of this enables you to be more effective.
Remember that making IT more effective can help businesses compete more effectively in today’s fast-paced market. As IT engineers, we need to understand the relationship between making IT more effective and enabling the business to better compete. Every opportunity to reduce the time or effort required to accomplish a task helps the business get to the end goal more quickly.
Auditing is a great example to use here. What if you could reduce the time and effort required to support an audit in your environment? Most teams fear audit time, from the interviews to having someone comb through systems looking for issues or inconsistencies -- the dreaded “findings.” Can you demonstrate that every device on your network has the correct time, AAA, or logging settings? With effective automation in place, you can, which makes audits easier and faster.
How long does it take you to ramp up a new engineer? Have you ever wanted to try something new but felt stuck because nobody else could support what you do? With good automation, excellent network architecture is still required, but it is far easier to hand off portions of your work allowing you to take on the next interesting thing.
All of these reasons make it clear why automation is so important. In future articles, we'll cover tool selection, steps to get started, and address the cultural aspects of embracing automated workflows.
You can hear more about automation from Jere Julian and Scott Lowe live and in person at their half-day workshop at InteropITX, "Hands-On Practical Network Automation." The workshop will cover how to get started with network automation, and experts will help guide attendees. Twin Bridges Technology Founder Kirk Byers, who teaches Python to network pros, and Matt Oswalt, software engineer at StackStorm, are co-presenters. Don't miss out! Register now for InteropITX, May 15-19 in Las Vegas.
Jere Julian, DevOps for Networking Evangelist and Extensibility Engineer for Arista Networks, has more than 20 experience in networking and automation. Scott Lowe, Engineering Architect at VMware, is a blogger, speaker, and best-selling author with more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry.