Executive Vice President, Chief Product Officer, SolarWinds.
IT environments are becoming too complex for humans to manage, and it could be killing your business.
The surprising cause of this complexity is often the very tech investments that are meant to help businesses compete in an increasingly competitive market by finding growth opportunities and creating innovative solutions for customers. Rapidly implementing various new applications, cloud services and other technologies can backfire if done incorrectly. Too often, the result is an IT environment so complex it can’t be efficiently managed.
The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting increase in remote workforces exacerbated this challenge. Virtually overnight, tech professionals adapted their networks and infrastructure to position their companies for success by migrating to the cloud. IT and DevOps teams must now ensure business services, workloads and applications can run across cloud and on-premises infrastructure.
This complexity matters for more reasons than just making it harder to ensure everyone can access their company email or data. The job of tech pros is already challenging: These obstacles prevent them from doing the important work of innovating. In other words, you aren’t able to move forward on the digital transformation efforts needed to remain competitive if your tech team is bogged down in the simple maintenance of existing solutions by responding to one alert or issue after another. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, it’s death by a thousand bandages.
Business transformation efforts stall, and the result is a slow and painful decline into irrelevance.
How can teams offset this threat to their business? Counterintuitively (or maybe expectedly for the technophiles reading), the solution may lie in more technology.
Enter self-driving operations. Taking a page from the Tesla playbook by allowing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to take over some prediction and decision-making for tech teams is powerful in its capacity to free teams from the tyranny of tool sprawl.
Much as a self-driving Tesla can anticipate a curve in the road and take action to not crash into the trees, advancements toward self-driving operations would mean being able to ensure an entire IT environment—everything from a company’s custom-built web applications to its databases—won’t crash.
Though self-driving ops are presently in the realm of science fiction (and some might say fantasy for overworked ITOps, DevOps and cloud teams), we’re beginning to see glimpses of what a future driven by autonomous operations might look like. Self-driving ops could mean a world in which tech teams no longer need to focus on identifying and solving problems but might instead innovate to support the business.
An effective first step on the road to such autonomous operations is observability. As a disclosure, my company SolarWinds is one provider of observability solutions. When considering an observability solution, teams should look for one capable of taking in a massive amount of data to provide a more comprehensive view of today’s complex IT environments. You should seek solutions which provide proactive insights, automated analytics and recommendations to solve issues in real time.
Think of monitoring like driving a regular car. A good solution, by contrast, should feel like accessing a cruise control model in which a car can, say, know when to slow down for a car ahead of you—while still requiring human oversight and control.
By identifying issues and recommending actions, a strong observability solution should enable tech teams to overcome alert fatigue. It helps them know what’s important and what needs to be immediately addressed.
Truly autonomous operations, on the other hand, would mean providing complete visibility across the entire environment to identify issues and take corrective action without human involvement, including databases in private and public clouds.
According to Gartner (subscription required), many companies already use upward of 15 monitoring tools. This is because so many of the new technologies companies are using require new monitoring tools to ensure they run correctly. These disparate monitoring tools send alerts when there are issues, but they aren’t smart enough to prioritize them.
Self-driving ops, on the other hand, would be smart enough to identify what’s important.
Such an advancement would represent the equivalent of your check engine light turning on but not knowing whether it’s due to a minor inconvenience like a loose gas cap or the result of a catastrophic failure that might send you careening off a cliff.
With autonomous operations, the car would know not only that the check engine light is on but also what’s causing it—and how to fix it. This could be transformative for tech pros who now find themselves inundated with irrelevant “check engine” alerts.
With self-driving operations, teams would be able to focus on the important things to keep the business moving forward. Each team could define their business objectives based on service-level agreements, key performance indicators or other criteria—and allow the technology to take care of the rest.
Like a seasoned mechanic who looks under the hood and knows what the issue is, the future of self-driving ops could mean the ability to provide deep, holistic visibility into IT infrastructure and services, helping organizations focus on key issues without the deluge of extra data.
With self-driving operations, teams could access greater insights, pinpoint issues impacting performance and more accurately predict and plan resource capacity to prevent issues and unplanned downtime. Autonomous IT systems could automatically discover an organization’s infrastructure, applications, cloud services and databases to automate their operations—no matter how complex—and manage every business’s service.
By reducing the need for manual tasks in daily operations, observability can provide a step in the right direction to reduce human error and provide IT professionals more time to develop new products, focus on business requirements and improve bottom lines.
Just as AI is no longer the exclusive domain of large companies, self-driving operations will also have to be accessible to companies of all sizes to be impactful. The first companies to embrace and perfect the technologies and innovation that can help lead us to self-driving operations: Those will have the tools to remain relevant and competitive for generations to come.