The Benefits Versus Risks of IT Automation

Michael Vizard

At this point, the fact that IT automation is about to play a much bigger role in managing IT systems is all but inevitable. The simple fact of the matter is that IT systems and the applications that run on them have become too complex for the manual processes executed by humans to manage. Add on any number of compliance issues and the need for increased amounts of IT automation becomes obvious.

That average IT staff, of course, might find that prospect a little disconcerting because many of the IT tasks that these people manage will increasingly become automated. The obvious issue this raises is what happens to their jobs as enterprise IT becomes more automated?

According to Mickey Iqbal, distinguished engineer responsible for services delivery automation and technology deployment strategy for IBM Global Technology Services, IT automation doesn't pose so much a risk to jobs as much as it provides an opportunity to keep them. The reality of enterprise IT today is that the business is highly dependent on the availability of applications. If those applications are not available because the IT environment is too complex to manage, it won't be too long before the business starts to look to replace the people managing those IT systems.

For this reason, Iqbal says IBM is investing in a raft of heuristics technologies because the amount of signal versus noise that is being generated by all the systems in the enterprise is impossible to decipher without help from more sophisticated algorithms.

The thing to remember, says Iqbal, is that these algorithms are primarily designed to suggest remedies for problems instead of simply fixing things without consulting the human operators ultimately responsible for system availability.

Ultimately, what Iqbal is driving at is that there are naturally a lot of concerns about IT automation. But the benefits of IT automation for the average IT staff are a lot greater than any potential threat when there remains an insatiable demand for more business applications running on thousands of virtual servers running on premise and in the cloud, but no actual funding available to increase the size of the IT staff needed to manage them. In short, without IT automation there can be no virtualization or cloud computing, which ultimately means enterprise IT systems will cease to scale, and that's an outcome that is going to be unacceptable to everyone involved.

There's also no doubt that IT automation is improving at a fairly rapid rate, which, when you think about it, is a little hypocritical to resist once you realize that the whole point of IT in the first place is to invest in innovation.

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Oct 13, 2011 9:29 AM Wendy Wendy  says:

Mike- great story! It's kinda the same as, "once we have email, the paper industry will cease to exist."   I think some changes actually increase the goodness of things.  In your story, the use of automation lets the IT teams be more productive and take care of those redundant tasks more efficiently- thus letting them get to things that are more valuable to the business.  And you're right, without letting go of that "in the weeds" stuff that can be automated, IT can't get more aligned to the business needs, and start helping them shape the next gen of IT and apps.  I think the cloud and the success of all things xAAS is a direct correlation to IT not delivering on the business needs.  This is a great time to automate the mundane, establish rules on how to access and use that, and then move onto bigger and better things- the business depends on it.


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