back to article Automation - one step closer to lights out?

In an earlier article in this workshop we considered the challenges associated with procuring system management technologies. We know from our research amongst IT administrators that making a business case for systems management tools is rarely straightforward, even when major changes in the infrastructure or the way services …


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Change is the enemy of automation

So you've got a bunch of screen-based processes and procedures you have to carry out: Whether it's adding new users, updating the helpdesk status of support requests or reporting the consumption of storage space across the enterprise. All fine and dandy, then some numpty in another part of the organisation goes and changes something.

They might do a software upgrade to the storage manager, or patch the helpdesk software or change the default width of the user's address field. Whatever it is, no matter how far ahead they published the change notice or how innocuous it seemed at the time, things like this break automated processes. You can't test for them before deploying your automated scripts as the nature of the change is unknowable (even down to correcting a spilling mistake that you were screen-scraping for, or creating a new one that you now miss). Hence you now have to spend the time you saved automating something to fix the automation script to account for the new environment.

The end result is that as long as people make software changes, we will always be playing catchup with our automation suites. So all that happens is sysadmins go from spending boring days doing repetitive tasks to boring days debugging faulty automation scripts.

Ho hum.



Perhaps you have stumbled upon why sysadmins take 6-12mo to update/patch their software! WinXP+IE6 for everyone! Why? Because we have automated scripts to manage that (and you don't get a block-all popup requesting authorization to make system changes, Vista/7).

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Automatic provisioning

Over my rotting corpse. Users (and especially managers) don't give a flight-enabled euphemism about anything except that which directly affects them. If you happen to work in a business where licensing costs are “ITs problem” then the concept of automated provisioning is essentially like asking all members of IT to please go an slit their wrists with an HIV infected needle. The very concept is ludicrous.

Users are the “people” (and I use the term loosely) who /demand/ with raised voices, red faces and other tantrum-like symptoms a copy of the latest full Adobe CS suite so they can open a JPEG. “Because the colour is rendered better in Photoshop.” Not so they can EDIT a JPEG mind you, but so that they can VIEW it. Why they need the whole rest of the suite is bloody beyond me.

Don’t forget that apparently saving a word document to PDF absolutely REQUIRES the latest Adobe CS Suite as well. Apparently using PDF 995 would /end the world/. Also; every single new task, render engine or what-have-you apparently requires a separate VM. The capacity for which supposedly grows on trees.

AUTOMATED PROVISIONING? Like hell. The day that the resources to provide the licenses and the storage/network/server capacity come out of someone ELSE’S budget, they can automatically provision anything they want. As it is, I have trouble just keeping critical business functions (such as e-mail, data storage, backups, web services, etc.) running under the existing budget.

I should add that training/”educating” users doesn’t help. At all. You can’t make someone actually /care/ about something they don’t view as their problem. There is no education platform, corporate policy or incentive package in existence that will ever cause the average joe to grow two spoonfuls of give-a-shit. If the cost of what they are “automatically provisioning” doesn’t hit them /personally/ and /directly/, then they will simply look at it as “something the company/IT/my manager/someone-who-is-not-me” has to worry about and push the button to spawn another instance.

If you don’t restrain users, they will feast upon IT services long past the point where they have gorged themselves.

Automatic provisioning? Over my rotting corpse.

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