Five Things to Implement in Your Infrastructure Operations Team in 2015

Another year is about to make its way in to the history books, and what a year it has been.  We’ve seen a major focus by almost every vendor on Hybrid Cloud, Automation and everyone’s favorite, the “Software Defined Data Center”.  We also saw the rise of everything Docker and OpenStack and for better or for worse, saw the word DevOps appear in the most curious of places.

I would like to end the year off with a wish list of sorts.  With all of the new technologies, terms and acronyms being tossed about this year, I would like to make note of the five things that I think all Enterprise IT groups should look at implementing in the year to come.

1 – Configuration Management

If your organization can run with only one improvement project this year, let it be the adoption of configuration management or the tightening or expansion of existing Configuration Management programs.  From deploying an initial Configuration Management tool like Puppet, Chef, Ansible or Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager to further defining your existing server configuration templates and workflows, this will give you the base from which all future automation and cloud scale-out will flow.

2 – Automation

If you are already automating some or a lot of your operational processes, great!  Keep automating and try and find five new processes to automate or take five existing processes and review/improve them.  If you are just starting your automation journey pick five processes that can be automated, such as server deployments – to go along with that new Configuration Management system, LUN creation or user account creations.

3 – Log Management and Analysis

We all log stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  If your organization is like most, there are different logging systems for network devices, storage systems, Windows and Linux servers, and the only time that they are really looked at is when audit and compliance or the security team says that you have to.  Take the time to look at what you log and how you log it and start to funnel your logs into a central system like Splunk, Logstash/ElasticSearch or Boundary and start to link log events across multiple sources and uncover operational issues and help determine root cause for performance, capacity and failure events and start thinking about log collection and reporting beyond SIEM.

4 – Stop Caring about Docker and OpenStack and Start Caring about Docker and OpenStack

You’ll have to excuse me for being a little bit meta here, but over the last year both Docker and OpenStack have gotten a large amount of press, and rightfully so.  Both are well on their way to turning into fantastic game-changing technologies – just not yet, for most of us.  Over the next year both of these technologies will start to hit a maturity level where they can start being adopted by businesses other than start-ups and large cloud providers, probably seeing true enterprise viability by sometime in 2016.  With this in mind, take 2015 to evaluate them, play with them and start to identify what you need to change or do in your organization to accommodate them from both a development and an Infrastructure Operations perspective.  These two technologies change the way that you will be running your shop in the future, so the more that you understand how they impact your existing processes the better.

5 – DevOps for non Devs

DevOps has been thrown around a lot this year as the must have thing for your organization.  Personally I love the idea, but hate the fact that it has become all about Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration and less about Operations people working with and understanding the Development and Application support teams.  If you are like most medium sized enterprises that have an Operations team and a Application Support/Development team, make it a point this year to try and introduce the agility that the App and Dev teams crave to your Infrastructure Operations and Solution Architecture teams.  Test out shorter project sprints and cross-functional teams a la Scrum, use the 5 Whys method from Lean for root cause analysis or look at using Kanban to measure your teams workflow and identify backlogs visually.  There are a lot of things about Agile/Lean that don’t really work with Infrastructure but there are many more that do.  Take a look at what Agile and Lean have to offer and see how you can apply some of the concepts to your organization.

So long for now and have a great new year!

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