Earlier this year, the IT sector reached a crucial tipping point.
For the very first time, it is predicted cloud spend will outstrip on-prem infrastructure spend, heaping yet more pressure on businesses already grappling with a severe cloud skills shortage, ongoing worries about over-complicated IT systems, and not to mention a 40-year high inflation rate.
As companies become more heavily invested in creating virtualised environments through the cloud, DevOps, agile delivery and automation are helping to reshape the ITSM (IT service management) sector. This, however, often leaves I&O (infrastructure & operations) teams under increasing pressure to enable change faster, whilst still assuring quality and governance – frequently pitting them against developers who want to run fast, build, test and rebuild.
These challenges are making it clear that a new approach is needed to modernise ITSM practices – enter, superautomation.
Automation has, of course, been a buzzword for years, with 'next gen' automation practices like hyperautomation becoming increasingly commonplace as businesses look to capitalise on advances in cloud technology.
Superautomation – achieved through tools such as DPCs (Digital Platform Conductors) – takes this one step further.
It quite simply represents the ideal way for ITSM teams to free-up time for better delivery, reduce IT complexity, and improve business operations.
In case you’re not sold on the benefits of superautomation – here are four ways it can help reduce internal friction and boost day-to-day operations for ITSM teams:
1. Improved monitoring and observability in different environments
At its core, superautomation connects the observe, sense and respond processes which complex environments depend on to increase reliability, maintain uptime and limit the impact of outages. Essentially, it strips manual intervention from the equation – which is often too time consuming, unscalable, and ultimately nigh-on impossible to do well when battling against complex, enterprise-level, legacy estates.
With the frequency and length of outages on the rise, and regulation in the pipeline in the form of the EU’s Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) and the PRA’s equivalent regulation the UK, outages are fast becoming critical business issues. They risk both reputational damage and a dented bottom-line, given research by IDC estimates just an hour of downtime costs in excess of $100,000 for a Tier-1 bank.
By setting up predefined parameters, systems can continue to be well governed and compliant, but crucially they can recover in minutes, not hours.
2. Increased resilience
This can often boil down to one key ingredient – a system’s ability to seamlessly switch workloads between public clouds and on-prem environments, meaning services stay online even during a critical network outage.
This happened only a few months ago during the UK’s sweltering summer when Google took the unprecedented step of switching off its London-based datacentre for fear of overheating. The outage caused multiple access issues across its services, though the company was quick to assure users it was auditing its cooling system to avoid a repeat incident.
Designing hybrid environments is key to being able to achieve this; if these environments are expressed as code and controlled via a superautomation or superorchestration tool which sits across your entire estate, then you can switch environments and workloads much quicker and easier.
3. Improved leveraging of ITSM tooling
ITSM tools are crucial in helping to manage the consumption of infrastructure. Whilst there are several to choose from, three tools spring to mind as benefiting most from superautomation: Ansible, Terraform and – the world’s largest ITSM tooling company, ServiceNow.
For Ansible, ideally suited to cloud-based environments, superautomation delivered through an orchestration tool represents the best and most advanced way to simplify, orchestrate and manage playbooks in both your traditional IT infrastructure and the cloud.
In Terraform’s case it achieves the same end solution but delivers this by combining Infrastructure-as-Code capabilities with the governance, automation, and control.
By layering advanced orchestration with ServiceNow, ITSM teams can modernise and extend their service and governance reach with self-service catalogue integration and CMDBs (Configuration management database) – allowing it to handle different types of workloads.
4. Automation at each stage of lifecycle - Day 0-2.
Day 0: By baking a superautomation layer into blueprints and architecture templates, applications will have governance deep rooted from the start, helping create efficiencies further down the line and freeing up time. It also creates consistency and avoids unknown variables – two of the biggest challenges in implementing superautomation across IT estates.
Day 1: When superautomation comes into its own by allowing teams to easily increase the frequency of their CI/CD pipeline (continuous integration; continuous delivery) bringing with it a host of benefits to help modernise the entire ITSM process and open up traditional IT environments to DevOps practices. As we accelerate towards containerised applications and multi-cluster Kubernetes strategies – helping to boost availability, compliance and accelerate the adoption of a cloud-native microservice driven architecture – organisations need powerful service orchestration tools to monitor, manage and maintain their Kubernetes and other containerised or virtualised deployments throughout their full lifecycles.
Day 2: A key challenge of implementing a hybrid IT strategy is sourcing accurate and timely data from across your IT environment, giving yourself the ability to quickly flex restorative action into gear. Good observability means you can immediately identify a problem, its impact on other systems and the solution to the problem, reducing the likelihood of a critical outage.
Your existing monitoring tools may only surface information from cloud platforms or on-prem deployments, meaning your teams have a one-dimensional picture of application performance. At its core, superautomation closes these gaps, making performance data visible from across diverse platforms and infrastructure, ensuring your automations (and the services they power) are resilient and deliver value.
Whilst take up in superautomation initiatives is increasing – 70% of large global organisations will have over 70 concurrent hyperautomation initiatives (according to Gartner) by 2024 – there are several challenges to overcome to be successful.
● Not working with IT teams
This may be because of perceived barriers, such as waiting for resources and educating IT on the desired outcomes.
Integration, complexity and dependencies all must be overcome with IT teams' input, especially when upgrades or replacements can break the automation. For the best outcome, the business and IT should work together to create a well-governed process where IT can provide guidance and support to the business.
● Failing to recognise automation doesn't work like a human brain.
Whilst automations are rules-driven and can process much quicker they aren't able to take nuance into account. To avoid delays and failures in production, evaluate and redesign your process before you commit to a particular tool or path. This means you can automate through complexity and deliver an end-result with better outcomes.
● Not monitoring in post-production.
You've tested your automations throughout the implementation phase, but in changeable complex environments it's essential to extend monitoring and testing to automations in production too. Application updates and process changes can break your automations, leading to the perception they’ve failed - and creating customer experience, financial and regulatory issues.
The increase in superautomation is being driven by customers increasing their digital expectations, and organisations' digital footprints growing to meet these demands.
Although they come with challenges, these can be rectified with a solid roadmap and correct oversight in place. The benefits of superautomation are simply too great to ignore. Or to adapt a well-known industry quote: "Software hasn’t just eaten the world, it has devoured it and has come back for seconds," which is why every business needs to invest in superautomation – or risk being left behind.