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Cloud computing is going to be wonderful, said the hopeful virtualisation salesperson back somewhere around the turn of the millennium. 

We’re going to provide enterprise organisations large and small with an on-demand means of tapping into computing power (encompassing everything from core compute to data analytics, AI services and eventually, even quantum) in a service-based format that enables a business to pay for what they need without having to incur Capital Expenditure (CapEx) outlay on systems that lay underutilised – they said.

Best of all, we’ll build migrated cloud services (and the subsequent generation of cloud-native technologies) to be tighter, leaner, more beautifully orchestrated and altogether less messy – they said, they hoped, they dreamed.

Cloud reality happened

As we all know, cloud computing didn’t really enjoy that kind of perfect birth. Security started off way too flaky, the delineation between public and private cloud was poorly laid out and it was up to the customers in may cases to realise that hybrid was the path of least resistance and the most sensible option… and even Cloud Service Provider (CSP) like AWS – other hyperscalers are also available – admitted that cloud 1.0 (even just a decade ago) was not as well engineered, integrated and (perhaps most of all) automated as it could be.

Where automation has happened in the modern era of cloud, it is often in far from perfect circumstances i.e. it’s bolt-on automation that has not been architected for from an application’s state at ground zero and very typically it ends up being siloed away from other transepts of a total system deployment where it could potentially help. 

Keen to highlight the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into and provide some suggestions to help tighten our collective cloud commodities is Maryland-baed CloudBolt Software. As a company that specialises in automating, optimising and governing hybrid-cloud multi-tool environments, CloudBolt has a vested interest in showing us where cloud is out of kilter and in need of a reboot.

The company’s latest research report is entitled The Truth About Siloed Automation and is available (link shown) in a pleasingly easy-to-access format without users needing to submit their email address, their phone number or any form of pledge to donate the first litter of kittens their cat might have. The analysis here examines industry sentiment across specific hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud dimensions among senior IT and DevOps leaders at companies with 3,000+ employees.

The survey was conducted on the Pulse platform, a research subsidiary owned by magical analyst house Gartner

Automation Center of Excellence (ACoE) 

“Our latest CII report [suggests] that today’s enterprises suffer from disconnected and disparate automation practices,” said CloudBolt CTO Rick Kilcoyne. “To reap the full benefits of cloud automation, it is time IT teams acknowledge automation silos are real and establish an Automation Center of Excellence (ACoE) with the remit to unify the disparate pieces into a single repository for consistent re-use – accessible to all who need it.”

Kilcoyne says that automation silos are real, costly and threaten business continuity. The core proposition here is that while most enterprises can still access and share automations across their siloed teams, the larger promise of enterprise-wide automation efficiency and reuse is yet to be realised. 

More than half of organisations (57%) keep their automations within individual silos, with 75% pointing to silos of automation hampering their ability to unify cloud operations across functions, leading to inefficiencies and redundancies. Some 77% share that business continuity is at a significant risk any time a vital member of the team leaves. 

Further, a large majority (88%) agree that having all previous and new automations centralised in one place for the entire organisation could help ensure compliance, bolster security, enable business continuity, encourage reuse and reduce risk.

Tool overload

Whether its survey was pre-loaded and contrived to uncover these specific findings ot not (and let’s remember that most surveys are, otherwise what’s the point), CloudBolt says that IT teams today have as many as 27 different automation tools their organisations have deployed, using one or a few as they see fit, with little to no consistency across teams. 

That figure might arguably sound slightly prone to scaremongering i.e. with so many of the automation tools in the cloud build space being open source – let’s think about Google Bazel for continuous build automation with optimised dependency analysis and parallel execution as a good example – there’s no reason why some IT shops shouldn’t be looking at using automation tools in double figures. That said for some balance, CloudBolt’s general point relating to tool sprawl still stands for the most part.

“This automation tool sprawl results in a ‘choice paradox’ and pervasive lack of standardisation. Aside from suboptimal decision-making, teams have no easy or scalable ways to reuse best practices and templates across the organisation,” says Kilcoyne and team.

More than half (55%) of respondents point to having four or more automation teams across their organisations, with 95% of teams operating in their own silo. Among other factors, the lack of effective automation centralisation poses a significant risk to business continuity, especially when vital team members leave.

The promised land

Okay so, the cloud automation management specialist here is advocating the use of cloud automation management technologies in order for IT leaders to get a central ‘home for all automations’ – no big surprise there. But if that goal does represent some element of the promised land for cloud, then we can see why building a unified ‘Automation App Store’ (again, something that CloudBolt does) makes sense in terms of its ability to advance beyond a simple repository to an advanced management system or automation exchange that makes it easy to find, evaluate and execute proven workflow automations and elements. 

Let’s continue to clean up cloud, avoid silo structures and orchestrate in tune. As the Henninger Turm proved, the only good silo is next to a brewery and has a revolving restaurant on top – and even that one got demolished.

Free image use: Wikimedia Commons