Automation is becoming mainstream in almost every business sector including IT. The tools used to create automation are developing at a rate comparable to Moore’s law. In the information technology space (IT) automation software falls into two main categories, software development automation and infrastructure automation. The evolution of software development automation has far outpaced IT infrastructure automation with a well defined process (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery ie. CI/CD). This process paved the way for many companies to write software to aid in the automation of software development. Whereas software designed for the automation of core IT infrastructure lags behind because of a lack of a mainstream process by which to achieve automation.
There are, however, some emerging automation tools for IT that are becoming very popular even without a well defined process which is ever so fascinating as I feel like we’ve seen this movie before!
A Similar Story
Hop in the wayback machine to the late 80’s – yep all the way back there. Someone decided (I would love to know who – so send me an email if you know) that we could distribute compute power without running giant mainframes; also that we needed this data in more places than just the datacenter or on a printed piece of paper. The discovery that there was a need to “route” packets led a smart bunch of people in Massachusetts (ie. WellFleet) and a smart bunch of people in California (Cisco) to build hardware and software to address this challenge (so the movie opens). In my opinion and with 30 years of IT infrastructure experience, Wellfleet had the better hardware and more importantly the better software with an easy to use graphical interface!
Many of you reading this may not have even heard of Wellfleet let alone used their software. Naturally, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with IT infrastructure automation. Here is the rub – Cisco won the routing market battle not by making routing easier for everyone but by creating an ecosystem of experts that got paid crazy amounts of money (I was one of them) to “route” packets. It was the ecosystem, not the hardware / software that made Cisco the technology of choice (ie. creating almost a routing religion).
Today’s Infrastructure Automation Story
Today in infrastructure automation, RedHat is making the same play with Ansible. They are building an ecosystem (ie. automation religion) for IT infrastructure automation which will allow an elite few to build IT infrastructure automation while charging companies an outrageous amount of money, all the while causing an actual delay in delivering said automation due to a shortage of people with this elite skill set – there I said it.
There are hundreds of training companies now offering Ansible training. Companies are offering 20% more salary, on average, when hiring IT staff for those who have Ansible automation experience and other companies are losing talent if they fail to give raises to those who learn Ansible as part of their ability to automate IT infrastructure tasks in their role.
How does this movie end?
There are alternative software solutions to Ansible that can be used to automate IT infrastructure using low code / no code interfaces. This software would allow more people to create more IT automation in less time, not cause an automation bottleneck, and drive business initiatives forward – the question is are we once again going to let an elite few dictate the pace and the cost of automation using a complex tool such as Ansible? Or, are we going to rewrite the end of this movie by smartly using the available alternatives to achieve the desired outcome. I’m optimistically looking forward to finding out!