Automation is not new, but its use in cloud computing is recent. The idea is to automate tasks traditionally performed by humans; for example, automatically repairing a saturated compute server by automatically restarting it on a cloud provider. Or limit the overuse of some expensive cloud services through finops automation, or have security automation defend against a cloud-delivered breach attempt that occurs at 3:00 a.m.
Truth is I preached the role of automation in cloud computing For many years now, but I’ve noticed a reluctance to set up and leverage automation in cloud deployments. This appears to be a systemic issue that could lead to under-optimized cloud deployments, missing an opportunity to have more reliable, secure, and traceable cloud operations.
I believe a self-driving car is the best analogy here. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s somewhat disconcerting to watch the thing drive and steer in some complex situations. At highway speeds, I’m still worried about the car hitting a telephone pole and that’s it for me.
However, with few exceptions, automation will generally be better than depending on humans to perform specific tasks reliably. Take our self-driving car: These things have hundreds of sensors that have a 360-degree view of the environment, including speed, direction, engine status, tire inflation, and more. As automated driving happens, the systems have near-perfect understanding. of what’s around the car, more than you ever could. In addition, the car is equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities and has almost zero reaction time. The car is never tired, never drunk, and it does not infuriate the driver.
As human beings, we’re just not that good. Although we have experience in driving cars and can look out the front window, we do not have a perfect understanding of current data, past data and what this data probably means in operation and driving the vehicle. Properly configured automation systems do.
For the same reasons we get anxious when our cars pull away without us actively turning the wheel, we’re slow to embrace automation for cloud deployments. People responsible for making critical decisions about automating security, operations, finance, etc., actively avoid automation, largely because they are not comfortable with the fact that critical processes are performed without humans watching.
I understand. Ultimately, automation is a leap of faith that the automated systems will perform better than humans. I understand the concern that they don’t work. The adage is true: “To really screw everything up, you need a computer”. If you make a mistake in configuring these systems, you can indeed cause real damage. So don’t do that.
However, as many people also say: “The alternative sucks.” Not using automation means you’re missing out on approaches and mechanisms to make your cloud systems work less expensively and more efficiently. Plus, you should need less operational staff and can stop responding to 1:00 a.m. events that can be fixed with very simple and…easily automated solutions.
If you’re not looking for ways to actively automate things in the cloud, you’re missing the point of using cloud-based systems in the first place. We need to expand our abilities, even if it doesn’t seem natural.
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