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Eric Wright

Why Self-Driving Data Centers are Good for Your Career and Business

If you walk the floor of most manufacturing environments, you'll see lots of automation in place.  Like an iceberg, you actually only see a tiny tip of the real visible activity of a self-driving environment.  The other thing that you'll see in place is people everywhere.  What does this mean in the context of what we want to talk about here?  The answer there seemingly a classic one:  robots did not replace us, and most often it created better jobs thanks to automation.

Taking the self-driving car analogy into the data center is quite easy to do.  Especially as we look at the advantages that we can gain in a self-driving data center environment.

Value of Self-Driving Data Center Environments

There are a lot of both tangible and intangible effects in any self-driving environment.  Let's focus on a few that will hit home the most effectively when we look at the data center environments.  We see distinct, positive results in:

- Removal of mundane, repetitive decisions

- Operational accuracy

- Operational velocity

- Skill increase for people

- Competitive baseline is increased

Remove Repetitive Decisions

Using the word mundane to describe the decisions we make every day may seem a bit harsh.  The reality is that we are doing things every day that we don't have to because we can turn on even the simplest level of automation in a system to reduce the human decision (and error) factor significantly.

By taking out the continuous need to take in information, process the data, derive an action to take, and take that action, we take a huge amount of time out of our overall day-to-day operations.  It may not seem like a huge effect in the single decision you make at the time, but you will make that decision again, and again, and again.  Those savings in time and human decision making that could be spent better elsewhere is very real.

Operational Accuracy

Did you remember to check the logs on the servers in rack 4?  What is the ideal point where we should scale application X?  Which VM should we be putting in the cloud?  What flavor size is the best for this particular application at launch? How much storage are we going to consume if we continue at the current rate, or if we add a couple of SharePoint farms?

All of these sections are being made with many factors that can be challenging to process, and are also fluctuating continuously.  When we think about the effect in public cloud resources, add in the real capital cost of those decisions. That's a whole other blog unto itself.

Operational Velocity

When you remove the need to have your engineers deal with these operational decisions that can be automated, that means they are innovating your environment.  Innovation leads to increased velocity of your IT infrastructure.  The purpose of IT is to provide the tools to increase the velocity of your business.

Every minute you save for every person on your staff means that those valuable minutes are being spent making things better for your business.  Add this to the operational accuracy and you're already feeling the positive effects.

Skills Increase

If you ask any of your staff if they want training, it's usually a resounding "Yes!" that comes from them.  We've all heard the quote about whether we want to train staff and risk them leaving, but the real risk is that we don't train them and they stay.  Giving back in time to allow for skills advancement and training will be a positive for both your people, and your business.

Having made a career out of bringing automation into every layer of IT, I can tell you that the benefits are very real and very effective.  Self-driving doesn't mean losing the roles of driving.  It means elevating yourself and your skill to attack constraints at a higher level.  It means thinking further up the stack and expanding your value for yourself and for your company.

Competitive Baseline

Your competitors are doing this.  That is happening for people, teams, business units, and businesses as a whole.  It is table stakes at this point to embrace automation and move towards truly self-managing platforms.  Having been in hundreds of environments over the last few years, I can tell you that everyone is doing everything they can to embrace automation.  The full effect is felt when we enable a self-driving infrastructure.

What about accidents?  We will always see the headlines about a self-driving car being involved in an accident.  What you don't see in a headline is that there are millions of accidents every single day in manually driven cars and trucks,  The percentage of self-driving cars involved in accidents is significantly lower, especially when more self-driving cars are on the road.   The most dangerous thing around a self-driving car is one being driven by someone who is prone to human error.

Self-Driving in the Data Center

Take this to the context of our data center.  Of the millions, or hundreds of thousands, or thousands, or even tens and hundreds of decisions that are being made by you and your staff every day, how many are repetitive, mundane decisions that can be automated? What is even worse is if we think of how many can be made in error?

It's my favourite thing to see as I visit the environments powered by Turbonomic and hear the stories of systems admins who are working on deployment automation, and advanced networking, or other more up-level responsibilities and learning subjects, because of the time freed up by a self-driving data center.  You most likely used Google Maps with traffic or Waze in the last while, so you're accepting a base level of intelligence and routing automation already.  Why wouldn't you do this in your data center environment as well?

The end result is that self-driving data centers means more time for you to advance yourselves personally and professionally.  It also means that your business has the competitive advantage as you increase the velocity of IT.  In two to five years, we won't even question the results, but if you choose to resist automation, you will find that everyone around you has moved ahead with the time they gained back.  That is the power of velocity of self-driving infrastructure.