Moving Beyond Basic Automation: The Autonomic Revolution

IT Automation

Just about every industry – whether automotive, manufacturing or electric – has invariably gone through a process of standardisation, consolidation and finally, automation. History repeats itself, and IT is no different. The world is changing dramatically, and we are rapidly approaching the point of inflection. The majority of tomorrow’s IT infrastructure is not going to be managed by people, but by expert systems.

Why Automate?

The ultimate goal of automation is to absolve employees of the repetitive, mind-numbing tasks and free them to concentrate on higher forms of creativity. I have never met an expert engineer who likes to tighten the same nut and bolt day after day, so why should we subject the intelligent engineering brains on our IT staff to this drudgery, when there is a better way?

Rather than chasing low-cost resources around the globe, autonomic technologies reduce costs and offer improved scalability, flexibility, and compliance. Plus, autonomics perform manual processes much more efficiently with drastic reductions in time to resolution and more consistent business outcomes.

The growth of autonomic capabilities has opened up many possibilities for automation. Basic automation tools can automate the execution of an activity, but autonomics add a contextual element that automates a variety of activities based on environmental cues.

Contextually-aware decision automation can actually change course depending on certain factors such as time of day, current activity across the infrastructure and the leading party on a given action. For instance, an autonomic tool can decide to do bandwidth-heavy work in the middle of the night when there is less competition for network space, and can analyse a complex series of actions and decide which to do first. It can also ask permission to perform an action, and decide how to proceed based on the engineer’s answer.

We have reached a point at which we need to focus on creativity to design a better planet, and technology is the most faithful servant that mankind will ever have. Necessity is the mother of invention, and automation technology encourages human brains to go to higher forms. As soon as the mundane chores are taken away, the human brain will move up the chain.

IT’s Immune System

Humans learn with time and as we experience more, we gain intelligence. In the same way, autonomic technologies can learn and develop adaptive reasoning systems based on experience.

Consider the human immune system. When the immune system detects something wrong, it tries to diagnose the problem and alleviate it with an existing antibody. If that doesn’t work, it calls attention to the problem, through a fever or sore throat. Once a doctor treats the problem with medication, the immune system takes note of this antibody, teaching the body how to heal itself. With every vaccine and virus the human body is exposed to, its knowledge of how to heal itself grows.

Similarly, if an autonomic technology notices something wrong within an IT network, it will attempt to diagnose the problem and fix it. If the autonomics tool doesn’t know how to solve the problem, it will “watch” how a human engineer solves the problem, learning how to resolve something that it hasn’t yet faced.

To visualise how this works, picture a robot peering over an engineer’s shoulder, observing remediation sequences. Over time, the autonomic system will be able to diagnose and deploy solutions to “heal” IT infrastructure, eliminating the need for human intervention in most IT scenarios.

By observing and tracking engineers’ actions, autonomic tools develop probabilities of what to do in certain situations, expanding their knowledge base as well as the range of issues that they can resolve. Autonomic technology adds a contextual element based on environmental cues such as time of day and current activity across the infrastructure.

For instance, an autonomic tool can decide to perform bandwidth-heavy work in the middle of the night when there is less competition for network space, or analyse a complex series of actions and decide which to do first.

If all of your servers and network devices continuously grow more intelligent, they will have much better uptime and availability characteristics. By putting a veneer of engineering intellect on top of every router, server and application, we make the system become smarter with time.

Looking into the Future

With ever more pressure to deliver effective, low-cost industrialised services, the IT world is seeing increased adoption of automation. With more companies transitioning into the cloud, it will become even more important to standardise and automate IT processes in order to free engineers from long and complex run books requiring support and maintenance.

In the next five years we are going to see the further acceleration of the transformative effect of automation, not just on the technology business, but on the social fabric that exists worldwide.

Technology has already taken over the way we communicate. Eventually, technology is going to be the servant that will take out the garbage, cook dinner, drive our cars, fly our planes – allowing mankind to focus on more rewarding pursuits. There are no easy shortcuts to developing breakthrough technologies. But we are already seeing the impact of autonomic systems that truly mimic the human brain.

Chetan Dube has served as the President and CEO of IPsoft since its inception in 1998. During this time, he has helped the company create a radical shift in the way IT is managed and also played a major role in bringing the company to the UK market. Prior to joining IPsoft as CEO, Chetan Dube served as an Assistant Professor at New York University, where his research was focused on deterministic finite-state computing engines. Chetan is a widely recognised speaker on autonomics and utility computing and serves on the board of numerous IT-related institutions.