Enterprises want to automate cloud infrastructure in order to reduce the complexity of cloud maintenance – but are worried about the security and cost of automating, a new survey finds.
According to a report by Logicworks, IT decision makers report that, on average, 43 percent of their company’s cloud applications and infrastructure are currently automated. This likely reflects the growing popularity of DevOps tools like configuration management and other CI/CD pipeline tools, as well as the rise of SaaS products that automate aspects of database, storage, and DR.
However, IT leaders cite difficulties in security (51 percent), cost (43 percent) and lack of staff expertise (37 percent) in not automating further. This lack of expertise is further exacerbated by the difficulties of hiring a DevOps professional; the majority of respondents (54 percent) felt it was harder to find a DevOps engineer than a “unicorn”.
What is Cloud Automation?
Cloud automation is a broad term that can refer to any solution that reduces manual infrastructure engineering effort and simplifies cloud operations.
The benefit of cloud automation is not just reduced operating cost, but the ability to quickly change infrastructure and therefore respond rapidly to changing business needs. This is why cloud automation and DevOps transformation efforts usually go hand in hand; a seamless continuous delivery system requires that infrastructure is treated as code, manipulated and versioned like the software it supports.
In concrete terms, DevOps-enabled cloud usually requires three main components:
- Infrastructure automation: Infrastructure is structured and built into templates, where it can be versioned and easily replicated for future environments.
- Deployment automation: Code deployment processes are integrated with cloud-native tools, improving deployment velocity and reducing manual effort (and error).
- Self-healing/auto-correcting/self-monitoring: Proprietary configuration management scripts and monitoring tools catch anomalies and proactively correct failed/misconfigured resources.
Together, this framework forms the bedrock of cloud infrastructure that is resilient, costs less to maintain, and allows engineering resources to be devoted to revenue-generating products, not infrastructure maintenance.
Overcoming Security, Cost, Staffing Fears
Security is the biggest roadblock for IT leaders that want to implement automation. Automation tools provide the ability to easily manipulate infrastructure — and in the wrong hands, such tools could do a lot of damage. Access to these controls can and should be a top concern. Also, using multiple tools for multiple cloud systems is always a risk.
Two trends will likely reduce these security concerns over time. First, just as familiarity with cloud technology is directly correlated to increased confidence in cloud security, increased familiarity with cloud automation will likely yield the same result. Second, as the role of central IT evolves as a service-oriented organization, IT teams must unite around a common, limited set tools to simplify governance and auditability, thus substantially decreasing the number of access points and the institutional complexity of cloud automation.
In addition, there are significant security benefits of cloud automation that may contribute to the rise in popularity of cloud automation practices:
- Transparency: You know exactly how every system is configured for security at any point in time.
- Policy enforcement: Your configuration management tool regularly “checks in” to your system to make sure your baseline configurations are maintained, meaning your system never suffers from configuration drift.
- Reduced manual error: By centrally managing configuration, you discourage ad hoc work; any change made directly to the instance and not to the script will be overwritten when your CM tool runs anyway.
- Simplified patching: Patches can be distributed across every system rapidly and with a complete audit trail of what was patched where.
The cost and lack of expertise around automation are clear challenges for IT professionals, who must convince leadership that upfront time investments and hiring costs are worth downstream benefits. Advocates for cloud automation have two main options: first, to find the right engineers and build their own automated system from scratch, and second, to hire an outsourced cloud DevOps service provider with an existing set of scripts. The first option can be costly and time-consuming but yield custom results; the second sacrifices full control but allows you to jumpstart your automation efforts and immediately refocus engineering talent.
The Rise of DevOps-Enabled Cloud
As DevOps exits the hype phase and matures, cloud automation is clearly a top priority for the enterprise with nearly half of IT environments already automated. However, operationalizing automation practices across the IT organization presents additional challenges — and for many, outsourcing this work can boost productivity without delaying critical projects.
Logicworks is an enterprise cloud automation and managed services provider with 23 years of experience transforming enterprise IT. Contact us to learn more about our managed cloud solutions.