IT automation is the process of creating software and systems to replace repeatable processes and reduce manual intervention. It accelerates the delivery of IT infrastructure and applications by automating manual processes that previously required a human touch. With IT automation, software is used to set up and repeat instructions, processes, or policies that save time and free up IT staff for more strategic work. With the rise of virtualized networks and cloud services that require rapid, complex provisioning, automation is an indispensable strategy for helping IT teams deliver services with improved speed, consistency, and security.
IT automation is a powerful tool that can scale a business, provide significant cost savings, and allow IT staff to focus on strategic rather than administrative work. A wide range of data center and cloud operations can be automated, resulting in faster operations. Thanks to automation, IT environments can scale more quickly with fewer errors and are more responsive to business needs. A fully automated environment can reduce the time to delivery for production-ready resources from weeks to less than a day.
IT automation is useful to replace time-consuming tasks and allow IT staff to keep up with the increasing scale and complexity of IT operations and cloud infrastructure. In a modern IT environment, the speed and scale of services are too much for even a large and dedicated team to manage. IT automation allows teams to operate in a setting where it’s not uncommon to need to (for example) set up and configure thousands of servers.
The potential applications of automation are nearly infinite, but some of the most common ones include:
- Cloud automation
- Resource provisioning
- Network management
- Security automation (such as monitoring and response)
IT automation software can perform a range of IT tasks and processes, from simple to complex. For example, automation can be used to create networking or security templates and blueprints and to configure applications and provision production-ready infrastructure.
Recent IT automation trends include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (two different but related technologies) to create smarter processes that deal with more unpredictable situations. These technologies are still in their early stages, but they could allow automated processes to learn and improve as they go. Automation tools themselves are also becoming more powerful, allowing IT staff to build workflows more quickly.
Increasingly, IT automation is becoming a necessity for enterprises to navigate and manage the complex modern technological landscape. It also has several concrete benefits:
- Cost savings: With IT automation, fewer labor hours are required to complete routine tasks. Automation can also increase productivity, reduce infrastructure costs by optimizing resource utilization, and decrease costs associated with human error.
- Time savings: By automating the most repetitive and time-consuming tasks, IT staff free up their time to spend on higher-level tasks.
- Faster operations: IT automation can speed up data center and cloud operations considerably, reducing service and resource delivery times from weeks to hours.
- Reduced errors: Automation ensures consistency on a large scale, something that’s impossible to do with individuals completing tasks manually.
- Better security: Automated processes require fewer humans to view and safeguard sensitive information, which reduces the possibility of breaches. Additionally, IT automation can be used to help IT teams keep up with an incident response.
Although automation has many advantages, there are a few important things to watch out for:
- Inflexibility: An automated process by itself doesn’t handle change well. And many automation tools are built for a specific, narrow purpose, limiting them to that function.
- Investment cost: AlthoughIT automation can save money, it can also involve a substantial upfront investment to purchase software and set up the automation. A business must carefully consider its IT automation strategy to make sure that the processes it wants to automate will provide a significant ROI. Routine tasks that eat up a significant amount of IT staff’s time are worth automating. Processes that run once a month are probably not.
- Increased consequences for errors: Automation does greatly reduce the chance of human error. But because automation is so fast and powerful, any automated errors that do occur can cause much more damage than manual ones. This means that it is important to set up automation tools correctly and test them before deployment.
In all these cases, the key to avoiding problems is to be thoughtful about your IT automation strategy and deployment. Automation is a powerful tool, but it is only as good as the team that implements it.
IT automation can result in significant cost savings—in both straightforward and less obvious ways. Enterprise IT automation reduces the number of labor hours required to complete tasks, and it can increase IT staff productivity, which is what most people are thinking of when they talk about automation cost savings. But beyond that, it also ensures consistency, reduces errors (saving additional IT staff time that would normally be spent on damage control), improves resource utilization (helping to save on infrastructure costs), and even helps save on security costs by preventing costly data breaches.