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Using Automation to Address Change

A Unified Automation Platform Provides a Set of Capabilities That Allow Organizations to Meet Changing Infrastructure and Business Needs

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Meet the Experts

Key Takeaways

⇨ The pace of change will continue to increase, so organizations must be prepared to manage these infrastructure and environmental shifts.

⇨ In addition to changing, environments are also more likely to become more complex. With the mixture of cloud and on-premise environments that will exist while enterprise solutions move to the cloud, it is important to be agile enough to react as necessary.

⇨ Implementing an automation platform will provide the ability to streamline manual, repetitive administrative tasks and scale the ability to patch, remediate, and release new systems and infrastructure.

Today’s infrastructure and environments are changing more rapidly than ever. Cloud infrastructure and cloud-based solutions are becoming part of enterprise landscapes, while at the same time there is a critical need to bring together data from across the enterprise to provide a greater depth of understanding of the business. But as organizations start to use these new landscapes, they often struggle with the rate of change that they are expected to achieve. An inability to keep pace with change can then impact how quickly organizations can comply with changing needs and requirements. This is where automation can help organizations better manage change.

Addressing the Pace of Change

To better understand these challenges, SAPinsider sat down with Red Hat’s Justin Hibbard, Global Ecosystem Technical Strategist for SAP. Hibbard has many years of experience working in the enterprise space and focuses on Red Hat’s ecosystem technology strategy for SAP.

“The only thing that we can guarantee is that the rate of change is going to be faster, and the level of complexity is likely to increase,” says Hibbard. “That means that we need to pivot to deal with the complexity and focus on what is important – improving alignment between business outcome and the systems that sit underneath them to provide the services that they need to succeed.“

Creating this alignment requires communication and establishing that communication relies on working across the organization. Hibbard says that he has worked with many organizations where there has been a segmented or siloed approach to infrastructure. This has resulted in different teams handling things in their own way, often based on the way that they have done things in the past. It is often difficult for these teams to step back and look at the broader picture and determine how things fit together. But it is only by zooming out that it is possible to consider whether there is a better way of approaching change.

Most projects start with bringing teams together and establishing who will do what. But when teams are already communicating and collaborating effectively, it is possible to approach change in a more organized manner. But This is only part of the challenge. While the first step requires effective communication, organizations also need to be agile if they are to effectively address technology change.

Improving Agility

“A lot of the challenges that organizations are dealing with today are around operational friction, trying to reduce complexity, and trying to understand how things connect together,” said Hibbard. “While some organizations have sorted out their individual technology domains, increasingly the challenges are around the issues that layer across those domains. It would be easy to say that motivations are around skills, governance, compliance, standardization, consistency, and security, but it is more about agility, speed, and pace to change with consistency.”

If an organization is falling behind in patching, or if they can’t release features to the business because they are running older versions of the software, that can be a challenge. Failure to keep up with compliance requirements can limit what it is possible to do with systems. There are lots of different challenges in which greater agility can bring significant benefits.

Some organizations look to address these using a variety of different tools. But while these may meet specific needs, they also have the potential to reduce agility if each tool is too specialized. Hibbard has seen organizations that have needed to consolidate some of the tools that they are using in order to improve operational efficiency and drive down the ratio of tools to the number of systems that are being managed. Reducing the number of tools, in addition to increasing agility, can also yield cost savings.

A way of approaching this need to remain agile while minimizing costs is using an open automation platform. “An open automation platform gives you a choice as to where you run your workloads because you can position them, automate them, and orchestrate them more effectively,” Hibbard stated. “With that you can get other efficiencies such as in a deployment model or across a supply chain. An automation platform allows organizations to address a variety of different business requirements and business needs.”

In order to understand the value that an open automation platform can bring, Red Hat has an ROI tool that is used to help identify pressure points, where opportunities for automation exist, as well as what the sequencing and the journey would be. Since different organizations start the journey in different places, and have different aspirations and velocities, being able to map out the journey is very important for organizations considering an automation platform.

Importance of a Unified Platform

“Historically, customers used manual processes to deploy because that’s a task that they would only have to perform occasionally,” said Hibbard. “But, because these were manual, repetitive tasks, no matter how good the team was that did the deployment they were prone to errors. Those were manageable because they weren’t being done that often. Now we’re dealing with a whole new level of complexity and operational processes that may be of a different era. Driving that scale and getting things right becomes a significant challenge. This is further compounded by the frequency of change. All of these factors come together with the continual need to patch, remediate, release, and evolve.”

Given the complexity of and pace of change, Hibbard says that organizations need an automated approach to drive consistency because consistency brings predictability and with predictability comes a better security posture. While there is a cost involved with achieving this automation, automation brings greater agility and ability to react. In addition, automation can help reduce friction and accelerate the time react, especially when it comes to patching.

Most customers initially adopt automation technologies to address a specific task. However, Hibbard is seeing organizations maturing rapidly when it comes to automation. They are now looking at the complexity of environments and see automation as a choice they need to make if they are to effectively manage those environments. There is also a greater connection to line of business stakeholders that are consuming both SAP and non-SAP functions and need increased value. This is where an automation platform, such as Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, offers benefits beyond more basic automation tools or scripts.

“Increasingly, customers, integrators, hyperscale partners, and communities are looking at the challenges they face not just in building but in operating,” said Hibbard. “As tools have become platforms there is an ability to leverage these for greater agility, to be more adaptable, and to move from standalone environments to a cluster of nodes supporting an integrated service platform for SAP and beyond”. Turning to the future he goes to say, “Enterprise automation adoption is accelerating at pace, many of our customers are already releasing further value from their automation platform investment, embracing event driven automation to trigger automation seamlessly, and accelerating automation development using AI benefiting from rich curated content”.

This is where an automation platform, such as Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, provides a consistent and predictable approach to automation. With content that is being created and curated specifically for SAP environments, this is where the true benefits of automation can be seen for those that are struggling with keeping up with change within their organizations and from an infrastructure perspective and providing them with the agility they need for the future.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

The enterprise landscape is already changing for SAP customers, and the pace of that change is likely to accelerate as more enterprise workloads move to the cloud.  While some may be effectively managing this change, others are struggling to keep pace. Given there will continue to be a need to patch, update, and deploy new systems, how should SAPinsiders prepare to meet these challenges?

  • Communicating across the organization is the starting point for managing change. It might seem self-explanatory, but implementing effective communication is vital if organizations are to effectively address change. This starts with aligning every team supporting systems and infrastructure. Because different teams have often approached system and solution management in different ways, it is vital that these groups be brought together. It is only by bringing these teams together that it is possible to understand which teams are responsible for which tasks, and avoid any duplication of roles, as the organization moves forward with new environments, solutions, or infrastructure.
  • Leverage automation capabilities to increase agility in responding to challenges. As they respond to change organizations are looking for agility, speed, and a way to change with consistency. An important way to achieve these capabilities is by using automation platform, but organizations must ensure that too many specialized tools do not result in a negative impact from an agility standpoint. This is where utilizing an automation platform, which provides many of the same capabilities as individual tools, can be beneficial from both a cost and complexity standpoint. Because an automation platform has the ability to address a variety of different needs, it can reduce complexity while streamlining the approach to challenges.
  • Explore the benefits of a unified approach to automation. The challenge that many SAP customers face is in the need to deploy and support new systems and environments at an accelerated pace. Traditional manual processes of deployment, configuration, and patching will not keep up with these requirements. Using an automated approach can help provide the agility that organizations need to meet these challenges, but it is also critical to reduce complexity and streamline administration capabilities. This is where a unified platform offers significant benefits. Because a unified platform offers a consistent and predictable approach to automation, this can help streamline the management of complex landscapes and better help organizations keep pace with change than individual automation tools or even platforms that do not provide a unified approach.

 

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