S1E13: Automatic, Systematic, Hyyyyydromatic... Discussing IT Automation with Estelle Lissouck
Angel Leon: Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of ASCII Anything presented by Moser Consulting. I'm your host, Angel Leon, Moser's HR advisor. In today's episode, we'll be talking about IT automation. What is that, you ask? That and much more will be answered in today's episode by a resident expert, Estelle Lissouck. Estelle is a senior consultant and Linux system engineer at Moser consulting, focusing on the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. Estelle is originally from Cameroon in Central Africa. She has been working as an IT professional for over nine years, and she enjoys using her skills to contribute to the exciting technological advances in her community. Estelle is a Linux system engineer having expertise in Red Hat, CentOS and Solaris. She also has expertise in virtualization techniques using AWS and VMware and Red Hat tools. Estelle loves teaching, and she volunteers at a nonprofit organization where free IT training and equipment are provided to less privileged individuals and minorities, mostly in developing countries in Africa. Estelle, I am excited to get to know more about IT automation. Thank you for being with us today. How are you?
Estelle Lissouck: I'm good. And thank you for having me.
Angel Leon: Outstanding. We're very excited. So let's start with the definition of IT Automation, because I know that when I think of this, I don't know, for some reason I think about a warehouse full of robots controlling the flow, but that's not it. So tell me, what is IT automation?
Estelle Lissouck: Great. Let's start with automation in the big picture. Automation itself, it's the use of technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance. Now, coming to IT automation is just the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to either replace or reduce human interaction with IT suspense. Now in our present time and era, IT automation is really the way to go because with the rise of virtualized network and cloud systems that really, really requires rapid and complex provisioning, automation has become an indispensable strategy that can help IT professionals to deliver services with improve speed, to meet up with the demands. And it just not improve the speed, but it also provides consistency in your processes, accuracy and even security. When I mean automation is the way to go, I really mean it. Because it's an important tool that can scale a business into this world. It can significantly reduce your costs. It reduces error, and it reduces the time to deliver your production rate of resources. And all these really makes automation to become the go- to for your business needs in today's world.
Angel Leon: So basically everything that you described... It's very modern. It provides a dynamic IT environment for your organization. So basically automation can integrate with and apply to anything from network automation to your infrastructure to cloud like you mentioned. But it also extends to other technologies such as containers, methodologies like DevOps and to broader area such as cloud security.
Estelle Lissouck: Yes. Definitely. It really can integrate to anything, and you said it really well. It does not only limit to what you said. The list is really exhaustive. It can go as far as security automation, such as monitoring and response, incident management. Because using automation to respond to major incidents help the enterprise restore services faster and with fewer errors. So IT automation really applies to anything. And the list is exhaustive just as you said. Yes.
Angel Leon: Wow. Outstanding. You're right. It can extend... The list could be exhaustive, but the items that you just listed themselves are just very exciting. Because as an organization, if I'm looking to automate some of my IT infrastructure, I would start with all of those things that we mentioned. So if my IT operations are working fine, and there's really nothing wrong with my current setup, why would I consider making a change to automation?
Estelle Lissouck: Okay. The more reason to automate. The fact that your operations are working just fine is the very reason to do automation because you can't automate anything that's not working. All right. So a couple of reasons why you really need to consider automation. First, automation will increase the effectiveness of your organization and increase productivity level. We cannot beat about it. We cannot change anything about it. Automation will really increase the effectiveness of your organization and increase your productivity levels. Second thing, it will optimize your performance. With automation, your employees can now spend less time on tasks that once required hours to complete. And this is important, not just because the automation can do this, sometimes menial tasks in a fraction of time, but it also just shrinks the chances of human errors. Employees who complete repetitive task often get bored. I do. When I start doing very repetitive tasks, I get bored. And when employees get bored, they're more prone to make mistakes. And an IT administrator is liable to make an error. Like while typing in the command line interface, choosing the wrong configuration setting for a server, overlooking a key step in a complex task or just make all the mistakes. These errors also lead admins to take additional time just to troubleshoot and repeat the process just to make it right. So that is one thing. Another thing why you really need to consider a change and go towards the automation is that automation will definitely reduce your costs. If automation reduces the amount of time spent on repetitive tasks, it can also reduce costs, in the sense that it will eliminate the need for large teams to perform a lot of manual tasks. And therefore it can help save on staffing costs. And for organizations that have large teams and very complex infrastructures, the savings could be extensive and even improve quality substantially. Another reason I can think of, and I will say it as, IT automation will allow for more efficiency in your process, really. For example, you could set a condition to provision a server, let's say, only after a certain test are done. So each task within that workflow can have separate dependencies to ensure that they are executed only when certain conditions are done. So it automation really improve your efficiency in the workflow of your process, making it very consistent.
Angel Leon: Yeah. Just to summarize everything that you mentioned, which... There are a lot of good reasons there to go to IT automation. So in a nutshell, you get better efficiency in your process. You get less errors. You utilize your IT professionals better. You lower your costs as an organization. And something that I think... I don't know, it depends on who you ask. But something that I believe actually makes more sense and probably means more to others, is better support for your clients and improve satisfaction across the board for them. Wouldn't you agree?
Estelle Lissouck: I absolutely agree. Perfectly. And I wanted to add that too. As IT professional, our end goal is to make our client or customers happy. So automation provides that better support just as you said, for our clients and improve satisfaction. And it not only streamlines the process of releasing new software, but it also significantly reduces the amount of time to fix bugs and other issues that may affect the customer user's experience. And also in the development standpoint, it will also rapidly provision new environment. For example, let's say you are a developer and you need a new web server, normally you would have to send a request and three days later you'll finally get a new VM server. Who has time for that nowadays? It's time to automate and get your server up in minutes, not days. And not only would you get it in minutes, it will decrease or eliminate the variability in new infrastructures. Now imagine you finally have the servers we're talking about and the tools you need, but you realize it's not configured the way you want it to. IT automation comes now to eliminate those errors in the vulnerabilities. Servers are configured the same way every single time, and even better, if someone does change anything or something, automation we're putting back where it belongs. So automation really reduces the time to deliver your production- ready resources and makes automation become the go- to for your business. And that increases satisfaction to our clients and customers. So that was really a great point.
Angel Leon: Yeah. I think you actually summed it up probably way better than I could, with all of your examples right there, to be honest. Because I really like your example about, if you get a set up and it's not configured the way you want it, how it automation can actually just come in and redo that very quickly for you instead of waiting two to three days to get that done. So that's really interesting.
Estelle Lissouck: Right.
Angel Leon: So, I'm sure a lot of people out there listening to this are probably thinking that this is something for large companies with huge IT staff, but that's not completely true. Why would a small or medium- sized company need to worry about IT automation?
Estelle Lissouck: That's a really great question. And it's really important to mention because it's a glass ceiling that we need to break. The truth is, small companies may think big organizations have more resources available to research automation options and even a large object budget to try new tools and technologies without it affecting their bottom line in any major ways. But because small organization tend to also have a limited budget and therefore smaller teams, so they're often pushed to do more with less, for the good of the company, of course. And at the same time, they are also faced with the reality of having a small workforce to address a demanding work volume. I don't know if you understand me. So the expectation... these expectation where you put a lot of work on the little team, it generally backfires, as placing a large burden on a small team can negatively affect the morale, which in turns affect the quality of work, and therefore affects the productivity. And that is really where automation work best. The automation system is really flexible to meet the needs of any industry and any size. What I will say is that automation doesn't really have to be expensive. You just have to be strategic. How do you do this? Take a look at your processes to determine which will benefit most from automation, and really just begin there. Then find the right tools for each process with an eye opening to, how to integrate them with each other. So my question to you is why continue wasting time... your business time and money on processes that can easily be automated and save your company money in the long run?
Angel Leon: Right. Yeah. No, absolutely. I agree. I don't think that organizations... The size of the organization, I think that's a myth. Because when you're talking about IT equipment, IT networking, etc, you're still dealing with the same issues across the board, whether you have an IT staff of five or an IT staff of a hundred. So with automation, as you said, the flexibility is there for you to meet your needs. So what's stopping you?
Estelle Lissouck: I definitely agree with you. Yeah.
Angel Leon: So I wanted to ask you real quick, because as an organization, Moser does provide this type of service, one called Ansible Quick Start Program, in which I understand, we can get a system up and running in as little as three weeks. Could you elaborate a little bit on this?
Estelle Lissouck: Yes. Great. This is a really great program for any business size, big or small, just like we mentioned. And Ansible Quick Start, is a program where you get one Ansible architect, two senior business consultants and a project manager. And what we do is that we come to your organization and we get an Ansible use case up and going for your organization just in three weeks. So we set everything up in three weeks and you are ready to go.
Angel Leon: Hmm. Very interesting. Very interesting. So let me continue on the line of thinking about small to medium- sized company. So seeing how you could incorporate IT automation to these types of companies, small and medium- sized. What does it mean for their bottom lines? If they were to make an investment into IT automation, does it pay off financially and otherwise prove to be beneficial to the organization?
Estelle Lissouck: Of course. The first question that comes up when considering it automation is," is it worth it?" And perhaps as an investor... As an infrastructure, you're worried you won't see enough return on your investment, or that your employees who are used to manual process will not just adjust to the new technologies quick enough. So what I want to say to you is, rest assured that's not the case. Because by automating workflows and eliminating human errors, your business is sure to see a high return on your investment in no time, and allowing your employees to be used better, to focus on more important and even less tedious tasks. I don't also neglect the fact that introducing the automation solution can seem costly for the business at first. But the truth is that automation tools actually drive down costs. It increases the workflow efficiency and saves resources pinned on manual tasks. So automating IT tasks will immediately increasing the productivity of your IT staff. It will speed up delivery and improve SLEs. Now, instead of spending time configuring computers, for example, freeing of server disk space, resetting password for active directory users or restarting service, your IT personnel are happy. And that's a really great return on your investment. It might not be quantitative, but it's qualitative. It makes your IT personnel happy because they are removed from menial tasks, and they can now be free to focus on more important... in the high value work. And I also want to note here that savings for IT process automation is incremental. So while you automate a 20 minute tasks, for example, it may seem insignificant for your perspective changes. When you realize that this task is performed 10 times a day, and there are hundreds of those tasks in the weekly basis, then you realize how much savings you're making. So rather than seeing automation as a short- term fix with potentially stalled initiatives, calculating the true return on your investment means stepping back to see how it can help your organization achieve its long- term, big- picture goals. I don't know if I made myself clear a little bit.
Angel Leon: Oh, you did. I think you did. You brought up something very interesting in that, you talk about return of investment, and when people hear that they might think dollar signs. But you mentioned a couple of things, happiness of their employees. And the example you brought up about doing a task 10 times a day, 100 times a week, that can get boring, as you said. That can get frustrating maybe for your IT professional. And the fact that you're taking that away from them, and making them do different non- menial tasks. That's probably going to major IT worker a lot happier, I can proudly guess.
Estelle Lissouck: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah.
Angel Leon: So incidentally, your return on investment, like you said, might not be dollar sign or quantifiable, it is qualifiable now. Because now you have a happier employee who's doing things different. Who's probably thinking," Hey, maybe I can do this better on this other thing. Or maybe I can develop a little bit further on this other thing." Because they don't have to worry about doing that same task over and over again on a daily basis.
Estelle Lissouck: Right. And a happy employee, is a productive employee.
Angel Leon: Absolutely. Yep. That's a very good return of investment right there.
Estelle Lissouck: Right. So Estelle, finally, in a forever changing world, what is the future of IT automation? Where do we go from here? Yes. The age of automation has unquestionably arrived. And the future of automation looks promising, where everything will be made accessible and increased autonomy built into it. The new development in artificial intelligence and machine learning are now driving the IT automation train and even influencing change management strategies across a wide range of industries. And it's really worth examining how they're likely to develop in the years to come. Now, think about automation built from a bare metal to middleware, to application, to security, to updating, to notification failover and decisions being made with no direct oversight. Now, I'm going to take an example, consider a security risk being automatically detected, reported, patched, tested and deployed while your IT staff is sleeping. Isn't that wonderful?
Angel Leon: Oh, it is.
Estelle Lissouck: This is automation. Yes. So your system can heal itself. It can gather relevant information to discover if and where an attack came from, and notify the correct people without losing any of time. So that is automation. So yes, IT is the future... IT automation is the future.
Angel Leon: I could think of a couple of friends who would definitely love to have the IT automation on their security side. I can tell you that much.
Estelle Lissouck: Yeah. Yeah. Every IT professional will like that.
Angel Leon: Yes. Yes. I think everybody would agree. Using your example about security, that's something that... You wish that would be something that we could incorporate beyond just IT automation onto other things. But just to get that start there, that's very promising.
Estelle Lissouck: Right. And not having to wake up in the middle of the night because of a call that you need to get on the computer and try to fix stuff. Yeah. That is a great thing to consider.
Angel Leon: Absolutely. Estelle, it was a pleasure having a chat with you today. Thank you very much for being with us.
Estelle Lissouck: And thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.
Angel Leon: All right. Thank you for your time again, and I'm looking forward to what's next in this fascinating field.
Estelle Lissouck: All right. Bye- bye.
Angel Leon: Thank you for listening in to this week's edition of ASCII Anything, presented by Moser consulting. We hope you enjoyed this conversation about IT automation, and how this could provide you with the IT help you never thought you'd need. We'd love if you'd join us next week, when we continue to dive deeper with our resident experts in what they're currently working on. In the meantime, please remember to give us a rating and subscribe to our feed wherever you get your podcasts. And until then, so long everybody.
In this week’s episode of ASCII Anything, we talk to Moser Consulting’s resident expert, Estelle Lissouck, about IT Automation.
- Reasons to Choose IT Automation
- Improve What Already Works Through Automation
- Making Clients Happy, Keeping Clients Happy
- IT Automation Helps Teams of Any Size
- Driving Costs Down Through IT Automation