People Should Drive Automation - Not Technology

Friday January 01, 2016

Service providers have traditionally organised their operations around different technology domains. The responsible teams have been staffed with specialists looking after routing, network services, security and various other functional areas. Over time, organizations like this have had the tendency to transform into loosely tied silos with limited interaction between the different teams.

When introducing service automation initiatives, the existence of silos is a common cause of friction. As automated workflows often span across different technology domains, one of the key factors in a successful service automation initiative is the collaboration between the various teams affected by the project.

Many organisations have addressed this by introducing new service owner roles. If someone's job depends on making sure that the automation project and the ensuing services are a success, it creates the incentive to bring all the affected stakeholders around the same table.

Until very recently, most cloud projects have treated networking as just an underlay for the applications and the services running in the cloud. As new networking technologies such as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) are picking up momentum, also the network teams must now be involved in the automation initiatives.

Assuming a green field deployment using a single cloud stack, networking is nowadays easy. But when faced with the multivendor scenarios many siloed organizations land on, and the necessity to tie all that together with the existing infrastructure, the perceived complexity can suddenly shoot through the roof.

To address this issue, the best approach is to set aside the technology for a while and first decide what the actual goals are. To nail down the key points, here is a five step todo that allows you to see beyond any individual technology:

  1. Define the desired business outcome
  2. Identify the specific role of each team
  3. Allow teams to innovate around their specialty
  4. Design processes that weave the innovations together
  5. Implement workflows to land at the business outcome

From the technology perspective, the chances are that no single technology will be able to adequately address the needs of each and every team. But at the same time, the solutions needed by each individual team are already there, so creating an ideal workflow is mostly a question of weaving the silos together.

When you consider what every application, service, orchestrator and controller share in common, it is the network. Given this, there is no reason to become a prisoner of a given cloud stack or piece of automation software.

Instead, let people innovate using the most suitable technologies for the subsets they are responsible for, and weld the workflows together on the network level.

By Juha Holkkola, Co-Founder and Chief Technologist at FusionLayer Inc.Juha Holkkola is the Co-Founder and Chief Technologist at FusionLayer Inc. An inventor with several patents in the US and Europe, he is an advocate of technology concepts with tangible operational impact. Juha is an active proponent of emerging technology trends such as cloud computing, hybrid IT and network functions virtualization, and a regular speaker at various industry events.