How cloud automation is key to building a successful DevOps function

How cloud automation is key to building a successful DevOps function
Phaedra Divras is the Director of Infrastructure, Support, and Operations Solutions at CTG. She has led both Fortune 500 organisations and startups to enhanced levels of connectivity, productivity, and efficiency through technology. Throughout her 20 years of steering enterprise-wide solutions delivery, she’s guided C-suite and executive leaders to articulate their strategic vision.

Many businesses today are accelerating digital transformation strategies to increase efficiency and agility. For organisations where the IT department and development teams work separately and often at odds with one another, however, this undertaking is quite the challenge.

Traditionally, tension has existed between IT operations and developers because IT had to take time to build infrastructure by obtaining hardware, developing servers, and ensuring security before developers could jump in. Eager developers were ready to start spinning up software right away, but operations had to go through lengthy manual processes first.

For true agility and efficiency in business operations, organisations need to reduce this tension and bring operations and development teams together through a movement referred to as DevOps. In its Enterprise DevOps Report 2020-21, Microsoft defines this movement as “the union of people, process and technology to enable continuous delivery of value to customers.”

Driving success in DevOps

Success in DevOps depends largely on the technology and tools in place to empower teams. For example, infrastructure as code (IaC) enabled by cloud computing has stepped in as an excellent tool to reduce manual tasks and free up more time for building software.

When the code already provides the infrastructure, developers don’t have to wait for IT teams to develop servers before they can jump in and start building software. IT teams can simply step in to quickly customize the infrastructure when developers request new functions. Operations can maintain control with standard, secure infrastructure code and configuration capabilities while developers move into action on their own.

Considering that researchers predict the global DevOps market to soar in coming years, organizations that want to remain competitive should start aligning their teams now for greater agility and efficiency. However, DevOps alone isn’t a panacea for connecting operations with developers and launching companies into successful digital transformation. Building the DevOps function requires repurposing human resources into DevOps roles, which often takes time and extensive training. Luckily, this is where another technology can step in to help fill the gap: cloud automation.

By automating the server’s development and creation and the operating system’s loading, cloud automation can simplify and speed up the following processes:

  • Infrastructure as code: By managing your infrastructure using code, you increase your ability to scale more quickly and take advantage of many aspects of cloud automation. Teaming IaC with deployment automation, you can quickly spin up a different version of your application on isolated infrastructure
  • Identity management: Managing identities in a large-scale environment can be a difficult and time-consuming task. With cloud automation, you can reduce administrative overhead and increase efficiency by taking advantage of predefined identity access templates, scripts, and pipelines
  • Application deployment: Using pipelines and scripts, application deployment automation provides you the ability to build, test, and deploy your application with the push of a button
  • Monitoring, alerting, and remediation: Using cloud automation in tandem with monitoring, alerting, and remediation, you can define automated workflows that trigger once a specific event or threshold has been reached. This goes hand in hand with IaC and application deployment as you can alert on an event and trigger automation to deploy a new server and the application

When cloud automation helps simplify the above processes, IT teams are free to focus on configurations and other high-value tasks, and developers can begin spinning up and deploying software right away. This eliminates the tension between developers and operators along with the need for companies to invest heavily in retraining employees. This new level of self-service and control empowers teams to collaborate quickly and efficiently to deploy new solutions.

How to implement cloud automation for DevOps

To help their organisations realise the full benefits of the DevOps function enabled by cloud automation, technology leaders can implement the following strategies:

Guide a smooth transition to the cloud: If you haven’t already, the first step is to transition on-premise development processes to the cloud. Engage both operations and development teams early to gain their trust and buy-in for the long haul. Before making any decisions about platforms or languages, consult your employees to see which features will be most important to them in cloud migration. Whatever platform and language you choose should be specific to the needs of your organisation, and the people who will be working closest to the new integrations. Engage everyone in the process from the get-go and secure buy-in by proving your dedication to finding a solution that works for the whole team.

Identify the right people to lead the transformation: You don’t have to build a DevOps function from the ground up. Start by surveying your IT and development employees to find out who has the skills and interest to take on a new role. What you must be able to promise before upskilling any worker into a DevOps role, however, is that they won’t be expected to continue their usual day-to-day work in combination with their new responsibilities. Building and configuring IaC, even when made simpler by cloud automation, is a learning experience that takes time and dedicated effort. Upskilling more than one employee into the DevOps function is a great way to ensure you’re not putting too much on one person. This also gives your organisation redundancy of expertise with a wider pool of experts who understand the infrastructure in case one person becomes unavailable.

Start with small steps toward a clear end goal: When you’re building a plan to implement new solutions, it’s always best to design with your end goal in mind. For most companies developing software, that end goal is increasing consistency and reducing time to market. But don’t jump in headfirst with brand new approaches for your most business-critical tasks to make it happen.

Instead, start small and build up to larger-scale efforts. Allow new DevOps employees the opportunity to gain experience with cloud automation tools in a low-stakes environment with small-scale, non-priority projects. With the experience they learn from this, those in DevOps roles can continue refining their abilities while helping to prepare the team, from top to bottom, for larger tasks that lie ahead.

The clock is ticking for companies to make progress on digital transformation. The ones who finish first will be at a significant competitive advantage, just as those who fail to transform will soon find themselves far behind the curve. Cloud automation helps DevOps teams multiply what they’re capable of without having to increase their size.

Want to find out more about topics like this from industry thought leaders? The Cloud Transformation Congress, taking place on 13 July 2021, is a virtual event and conference focusing on how to enable digital transformation with the power of cloud.

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