Nathan Moffitt

AI Operations: Designing a Low Touch Infrastructure

Blog Post created by Nathan Moffitt Employee on Jun 4, 2018

How Automation Lets You Bypass IT Traffic that Slows Business


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IT operations is a lot like driving in freeway traffic. It’s unpredictable, requires careful consideration of all the events around you, and is highly interrupt driven.


On a daily basis system administrators and broader

data center teams are bombarded with emergency interrupts ranging from ‘rush’ projects to outage remediation to panicked requests about applications / systems that aren’t ‘running right.’ All of which need to be resolved while doing their day job.


The Impact of Interrupts


Beyond the fact that this interrupt driven work life has a tendency to make staff grumpy (see any episode of The IT Crowd), interrupts have the distinct potential for 3 big impacts to the business:


  1. Reduced operational efficiency: Staff don’t have time to analyze resource provisioning and may simply deploy ‘first available’ or net new resources to rush a job to completion. They may also miss specific configuration settings that optimize performance / efficiency.
  2. Increased downtime / data loss: Well-meaning teams step in to help out and don’t configure snapshots, replication, backups, etc. that safeguard against downtime and data loss. This issue is frightening because it isn’t usually discovered until critical data is lost.
  3. Slower business growth: Research on new technologies are pushed out / postponed to focus on tactical efforts, causing missed opportunities (cloud, AI, containers, etc.). This puts the company behind competitors that may be leveraging technologies to gain competitive advantage.


In certain cases, there is even a 3b impact. When technologies need to be implemented quickly, leaders may decide to hire outside consultants. This can be successful, but if the work was something existing staff could do, why spend money and further ‘interrupt’ your team to TEACH consultants about your business? Wouldn't it be better to use the people that know your business and have a vested interest in success vs. those that need to learn your business and could one day be helping your competitors?


The Solution: Automation for Low-Touch, IT Operations



Long term, the best way to minimize interrupts that divert attention from strategic endeavors is to automate tactical tasks. That means implementing an extensible automation framework that allows anyone to safely and properly provision / manage practically any data

center resource. This frees your staff to focus on accelerating innovation while IT operations running fast, efficiently and safely because best practices are always followed.


It also means having a strategy for implementing and extending that framework. Before you buy ANY software offering for automation you need to have a game plan that includes understanding:


  1. What tasks you want to automate
    1. No product does everything, so understand what tasks your automation software can do ‘out of the box,’ and understand what tasks it can be configured to do.
    2. Note: Also look for developer communities. If the offering is ‘programmable’ others may do the lifting for you!
  2. If it can be programmed for your best practices
    1. This is perhaps the most important, yet daunting, piece of automation. Your data center is unique. You want automation to follow YOUR best practices, not someone else’s. So make sure that policies can be adjusted - not just added - by you, the vendor or a services partner so it does exactly what you want.
  3. How much it can think / learn
    1. This can mean a lot of things (AI, good code, whatever). At a basic level though, you want the automation software to help you manage resources for optimal performance, utilization, cost control, etc.
  4. If it is extensible
    1. That could be integration with analytics products to turn insight to action or it could mean adjusting automation policies so that different users can only see different parts of the policy (e.g. give some people access to an ‘easy button’ only).


I know that’s pretty high level, so I've added a lot more depth in this paper on Designing a Low-Touch Infrastructure Strategy (or see the pdf link above).  You’ll note this isn’t a product pitch. Its data points acquired from our engineering staff and customers that should help you create a framework for automation that dramatically reduces time spent on tactical tasks (go design the future!) and ensures resource management always follow the organization’s best practices.


That should help keep your business moving forward faster so that you stay ahead of the competition.


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More Great Blogs on AI Operations and Data Center Modernization

Richard Jew - AI Operations for Modern Data Centers

Nathan Moffitt- Roadmap to an Autonomous Data Center

Rich Vining - Data Center Modernization?  Include Modern Data Protection


Hu Yoshida - Transforming Data Center Focus from Infrastructure to Information

Nathan Moffitt – Components of Data Center Modernization

Mark Adams - Delivering an Agile Data Infrastructure with New VSP Models

Summer Matheson - Bundles are Better - Do More, Pay Less and Get Better Insights

Neil Salamack - Containers, OpenStack and Data Center Modernization

Angela MaGill - Program Your SAN with Next Generation Automation

Paula Phipps - The Super Powers of DevOps to Transform Businesses