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GCN : June 2015
BEST PRACTICES: AUTOMATION mentation required before enabling self-service. Application services Applications are key to the way agen- cies run critical processes. By auto- mating the process of provisioning applications, users can be sure that they are always accessing the newest version of the application, and they can access those applications imme- diately, from wherever they happen to be, on whatever device they hap- pen to be using. Automated applica- tion provisioning also ensures users only can access the applications based on their approved profiles. Most importantly, the traditional application development process im- mediately becomes much more agile, productive and efficient by eliminating the manual process of provisioning each development and test instance. Instead, application developers can use repeatable, preconfigured, secure code blocks to drastically reduce develop- ment time. Automated application provisioning also makes troubleshoot- ing, documentation, upgrades and decommission much easier. To get the most out of automating application provisioning, make sure the IT team understands the factors leading to full automation. That includes: • Integration: Leverage your invest- ment in existing infrastructure tools. • Automation: Conduct that inte- gration through native integration or open protocols. • Augmentation: Consider mod- ernizing the data center and reduc- ing long-term CapEx and OpEx through a more software-defined approach, such as the Software-De- fined Data Center. Beyond SaaS While concepts like SaaS, IaaS and PaaS are frequently discussed, there are many other services that don’t fall into these categories, but are excellent choices for delivery as a service. Examples include file shar- ing as a service, analytics as a service, or storage as a service. There are also many agency-specific processes that could benefit from this approach— processes like onboarding a new em- ployee, which can include everything from human resources processes to equipment provisioning and payroll. Or it could be a complicated verifica- tion process for security clearance. Automating these often complex processes provides similar benefits to other types of automation—it simplifies and speeds up every part of the process while reducing human error and saving money. It does this by integrating all parts of the process and combining it with automated abilities to request, approve, pro- vision, operate and decommission whatever is required by the service. While the benefits of implementing anything-as-a -service (also commonly referred to as XaaS) are vast, they can easily be overshadowed by poor plan- ning. The simplest and first step is to catalog the services already employed by each department in the organiza- tion and look for common overlaps, such as storage new employee on- boarding. In tandem, ask department heads and users what services they use the most often, and which services would be most useful to them. That information is crucial to determining which services make sense to offer as services. Next, examine how existing systems interact with each other, and how that interaction would change. Finally, analyze what it would take technologically for each user group to access the service under consideration. Only then is it time to consider the technology and application develop- ment part of the undertaking. Agencies also can use automa- tion to improve the performance and manageability of the enter- prise by automating management workflows. Done right, automating management workflows can reduce managers’ interaction with day-to- day processes while simultaneously improving the responses of those processes. Using a policy-based gov- ernance model will allow managers to keep tabs on these processes with- out needlessly being a pinch point in the workflow, Schulman says. Work smart It all boils down to working smarter, not harder. Automation itself is a “work smart” philosophy, but it requires the right mindset and upfront planning, training and tools. Mindset is critical; without making that shift to the customer-centric, service-oriented mindset, it’s almost impossible to make the necessary people and process changes necessary to get the most out of automation. It’s also important to stress these changes toward collaboration, communication and service throughout the organization. Upfront planning is also important. Before attempting any change to the environment, it is crucial to know what customers want, what they currently have, and how systems are currently integrated. Without that knowledge, it’s easy to make mistakes. Once you know what you have and what you need, the next step is reorienting the data center to facilitate the automation. That requires a commitment to cloud technology, along with capabilities like self-service portals that allow users to directly provision new services, management, analytics and orchestration tools. For more information, please visit: www.vmware.com/government