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Infrastructure engineers and the roles they play have been in the queue for major disruption for a number of years. The risk of being disrupted is becoming increasingly salient as the years move on. 

Well-known ridesharing apps have disrupted transportation industries and continue to spread that disruption to the industries that they touch. At the push of a button, you can get a ride home or have the food from your favorite local restaurant delivered using the same, clean interface.

Like ridesharing, AIOps, DevOps and other "ops" are seen by many as the current "Harbingers of disruption" for infrastructure engineers. When done well, these concepts and practices delivered unprecedented spikes in workloads. This rapid consumption of infrastructure has caused engineers to spend increased focus on tasks related to provisioning and supporting their solutions. Keeping up with the pace of change in the IT infrastructure landscape--who has time for that anymore?

Given the relentless pace of change, what do infrastructure directors and CXOs need to know in order to equip their engineers for the future? Regardless of your industry or business, we've found the following four basic ideas to produce the most success for customers: 

  • Build a scalable automation platform.
  • Ensure flexibility by investing in malleable software-defined products that enable you to have a true hybrid cloud experience.
  • Educate and enable your engineers with the training and tools needed to prepare them for the future of infrastructure management.
  • Hire for the skillsets of the future.

Automation platform

A scalable automation platform is a flexible set of pre-integrated software that aids in the designing, building and running of intelligent automations. Flexible is the operative word here. The product should enable you to automate applications and digital workers on any cloud, using integrated tools wherever possible.

attributes of an automation platform

The platform needs to be consumable by both the people using the service and the people writing the automations. This means that the barrier to entry on the platform must be low. If not, expect to see issues with adoption rates amongst your infrastructure engineers. Adapting legacy workflows while adopting the robust features of the platform doesn't have to be difficult. Make sure the appropriate level of documentation on how to use the platform is developed and available to the engineers.  

A product-centric approach is also a key element in ensuring successful adoption of your automation platform. Features should be incremented in an agile fashion and released to the platform as quickly as possible. Every automation built is not a project that is spun up, but is just another feature that is now included in your platform.

From a security perspective, the platform will hold access to credentials that are very sensitive to the organization. If the platform is compromised, you have the potential for an attacker to severely disrupt business. Due to this, security must be the top concern when designing the platform. Further, proper governance needs to be put into place in order to support your organization's regulatory compliance constraints.

Let's take a quick look at a success story around utilizing tools such as Github, Jenkins, Ansible and ServiceNow in order to build an automation platform.

You can find more information regarding automation and automation platforms with the following resources.

Software-defined infrastructure

Earlier, we noted that the second principle for success was ensuring flexibility by investing in malleable software-defined products that enable you to have a true hybrid cloud experience.

Application programing interfaces (APIs) are a key component to the flexibility and scalability of your platform. For maximum flexibility, they should be available for each underpinning infrastructure component. This will ensure teams are able to expose automated services utilizing your automation platform.

On top of that infrastructure (and we can't stress this enough), standards for this infrastructure need to be well defined and implemented. Ideally, the teams would be utilizing automation tools to help ensure your configurations are consistent across all components. Automating the identification, verification and remediation of inconsistent infrastructure configurations will free up enormous manual labor throughout your engineering teams.

Upon that standardized infrastructure, you are able to construct distinct infrastructure services and start to utilize tools and other solutions to provide infrastructure as a service. Your teams can then start to adopt truly differentiated offerings by layering on platform services. 

If you are interested in hearing more about software-defined infrastructure, take a look at the following content.

Transforming traditional engineers

Many infrastructure teams struggle to transform themselves. A common analogy is changing the tires on a car while it's still moving down the road. Infrastructure teams are being asked to do more with less: less team members, less budget and less available time.

Investment in training for the engineers will accelerate your success and ensure they understand key concepts when automating. This journey is not just a one-and-done training course to enable a team. It is also about giving the teams time to internalize, strategize and implement these solutions. 

Where should you start?

Have teams start with something small in scope. Find the easily repeatable tasks that are done frequently. Experience within WWT and our customers has shown that simple, repeatable tasks can create a snowball effect to larger automated processes in the future.

WWT's expertise, combined with our ATC platform, provides many tools at your disposal in order to enable your teams. On-demand labs from a large variety of vendors (F5, NetApp, Cisco) can help validate and facilitate the learning and idea generation, or utilize a training or workshop to have a facilitated engagement to further develop and validate the ideas into a strategy.

Changing the way you hire

As the industry and your strategies change, hiring practices must also evolve. Many organizations are hiring developers in place of infrastructure engineers. Those organizations that go down this path are cross-pollenating skillsets so that the developer learns infrastructure components and the infrastructure engineers learn how to automate.

Not sure how to start? Our Strategic Resourcing services could help align, vet and support your WWT contractors while they work as part of your organization.