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Artificial intelligence spurs the reinvention of IT

Rick Fitz from Splunk looks into IT predictions for 2018, highlighting DevOps, DevSecOps and the arrival of the Site Reliability Engineer into the mainstream.

By Ellie Burns

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, applied correctly, will dramatically simplify IT operations by enhancing and automating IT ops processes and tasks. IT has become too complex and operators are in desperate need of technology that can simplify and streamline their work. While we talk about the prospect of self-driving cars or machines that can win a game of Go, the real impact of AI can be readily seen by applying it in the daily operations of IT. This evolution will see predictive analytics replace manually intensive activities with intelligent automation. The big win is that IT organisations will be able to leverage data and AI to quickly identify potential problems, provide recommendations on how to resolve existing issues, streamline automation with self-service and self-recovery capabilities, and predict future outcomes to forecast costs and optimise return on assets.

Gartner has identified this trend and coined the term Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps). Imagine a world where systems will provide us insight to questions we didn’t think to ask – that’s what AIOps has the potential to provide.

AIOps will greatly simplify IT by not only providing recommendations on how to resolve issues, but also learning from past actions and solutions to predict failures and automate resolution. This requires visibility into the configuration state of machines as well as an understanding of past actions and interactions, the good and the bad. AIOps takes IT operations analytics (ITOA) to the next level by automatically applying insights to ensure high performing IT environments are proactively making decisions that ultimately improve the health of the business.


DevOps is a must for the business: development velocity or bust

While the term DevOps may not yet be commonly spoken in the boardroom, it’s key to building and maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s highly complex and rapidly evolving environment. As every enterprise becomes a digital enterprise, businesses will sink or float based on the digital services they build and deliver. Competitiveness will depend on the speed of delivery, quality of customer experience, and achievement of business goals from digital services. DevOps represents a way to not only deliver digital services faster, but also to do it more efficiently, and better engage the engineering and operations talent of the team. To do so, organisations need flexibility to easily augment the skills, processes and technologies their teams use to build and deliver services.

To achieve the velocity, quality and business impact promised with DevOps, organisations will continue to adopt new staffing approaches and new technologies that empower teams and enable agility. From absorbing new organisational concepts like self-managing teams and loosely coupled toolchains, to new technologies like containers, microservices, “Function-as-a-Service” solutions and software built with low code/no code approaches, organisations will experience constant change. Thus, DevOps means not only connecting disparate teams with a collective understanding of the quality and performance of the services in production, but also, the quality and performance of the processes that go into developing, building and releasing software.

Having a handle on DevOps initiatives will be a differentiator for executives. As board level conversations center around speed and competitiveness, being able to point to successful implementations of DevOps initiatives and having data to demonstrate their impact will be key.

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DevSecOps – the next frontier

To meet increasing expectations for governance, and audit and compliance requirements, all while maintaining development velocity, many teams will embrace DevSecOps. Just as IT organisations are performing a “shift left” to build more monitoring capability into their delivery platforms and applications, they will “shift left” with their security requirements as well. This means developers will have a larger role (and more accountability) for ensuring the security of their applications and the data they process. Likewise, security teams will need to collaborate more with development and operations teams to secure applications and delivery processes.

To combat the growing sophistication of digital adversaries, organisations must foster better collaboration between previously distinct IT and security organisations to a) elevate the operational security strategy to achieve business outcomes, and b) drive operational protection, detection and response to reduce IT risk and cybersecurity threats and fraud.

Security will become a standard requirement for building enterprise-class services and applications. Beyond having developers, release managers and application specialists involved, operations and security teams will need to be folded into the mix, and DevOps teams will be required to ensure governance and audit controls throughout the application delivery toolchain more frequently. To enable this increasingly collaborative approach, everyone involved will need to work with a single source of truth – using that data to achieve the security objectives most relevant for their roles.


No more boundaries – transparency between companies

With new “composable” approaches to delivering business services including SaaS, containerisation and APIs, traditional concepts around how a company delivers and operates applications no longer apply. To thrive in today’s competitive environment, organisations must collaborate with third parties to enable development velocity and provide service reliability. Organisations will be built on a composite of these other companies, depending on them for anything from outsourcing development to relying on a cloud or service provider. This requires IT operations to gain visibility into myriad internal and external services, while providing greater transparency through operational information shared both inside and outside the firewall.

APIs will enable this required transparency and help form the basis of ecosystems that span customers, suppliers, employees and the enterprise. This will open up new capabilities in enterprise applications to enable more rapid service experimentation and development, but it will also increase the need for security and insight into how applications perform in production.


A new breed of IT Ops

With the rise of continuous delivery and DevOps, a new breed of IT operations professionals are defining how services are delivered and managed. As comfortable with Python and Ruby as with configuration and capacity, they are leading the way in areas like systems automation, architectural flexibility, developer empowerment and site reliability to deliver better applications faster and with an exceptional user experience. As such, the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) role will become mainstream as many professionals refresh their software development skillsets so they can collaborate more effectively with developers.


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