Changing market conditions demand new business models and taking advantage of emerging technology is nothing new. But today’s pace of transformation is unprecedented. The Covid-19 crisis has driven organisations to cram years of planning into months – change was not optional. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, during the pandemic lockdown companies accelerated the digitisation of their customer engagements, supply-chain interaction and internal operations by 3 to 4 years.
Much of the rapid digital innovation was only possible through the increased use of IT automation and artificial intelligence (AI). This combination can drive huge improvements in efficiency and effectiveness – ripping out cost and time from business processes is ever popular with C-level decision makers.
Change is Driving Change
Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) surveyed over 400 IT professionals around the world to look at AI-enabled, cross-functional automation and processes – in practice today and planned for the near future. The survey found that IT is moving out of its operational role and into the boardroom as a strategic equal. Although only 17% of respondents stated that IT was already an equal partner with the business, 18% saw IT’s role actively evolving and further 17% acknowledged that digital transformation was the driving force behind these changes.
When asked about the challenges to delivering high IT service quality, two factors stood out: cloud and talent. Cloud took top spot, not only migration, but once in the cloud the lack of visibility into cloud operations and performance is seen as inhibiting many initiatives. These gaps are amplified when cloud operations is a distinct group apart from other ITOps teams.
The surge in demand for IT talent driven by digital transformation is naturally driving interest in the combination of AI and automation to offload mundane duties from humans and to support tasks on a scale beyond what is possible with manual operations. All respondents in the EMA survey reported that IT personnel productivity ranks as a top driver of AIOps initiatives.
AI in the Workplace
The application of AI, big data, analytics, and machine learning capabilities to IT operations enables the collection and correlation of ever-increasing volumes of data generated by multiple IT infrastructure components, performance-monitoring tools, and service ticketing systems. AI can intelligently identify significant events and patterns related to application performance and availability from the ‘noise’. Root causes can be reported to IT and DevOps for rapid response and remediation – or these issues can be resolved automatically without human intervention.
By integrating multiple separate, manual IT operations tools with into a single, intelligent, and automated IT operations platform, AIOps enables IT operations teams to respond more quickly and more proactively to slowdowns and outages, with end-to-end visibility.
Although cost is always a factor, the EMA survey reported that the top reason for investing in automation is related to people and productivity. Automation can address routine tasks while freeing scarce IT professionals for more creative initiatives – as a result business value of IT and job satisfaction both improve.
Having said that, an initial reluctance to allow totally autonomous actions is found across all sectors, company sizes and geographies. Thousands of years of experience (and most sci-fi movies) means that people trust people humans more than they trust machines. EMA’s pool of research showed and almost equal split between organisations willing to allow automated actions taken with as little human touch as possible (49%) and those that chose human oversight – automated actions are enabled only with manual approval.
AIOps: AI and Automation Together
Originally coined by Gartner around 2016, AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, such as natural language processing and machine learning models, to automate and streamline IT operations. Although each technology can exist and be of value individually, the real power come from AI and automation working hand-in-hand.
- AI can identify the causes of slow-downs and outages faster than people sifting manually through alerts and logs and can recommend remedial action
- Automation can act on the recommendation to resolve the issues with little or no human intervention.
A Day in the Life of an SRE
Consider a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) who is responsible for an e-commerce website. The SRE could spend the day staring at screens in case something goes wrong. If there is an incident, it means manually investigating, diagnosing and trying to resolve the problem. If nothing goes wrong, that’s an awful waste of an expensive resource.
Alternatively, the SRE can work on more meaningful projects confident that AIOps will monitor the application. In the event of an incident, the SRE will receive a Slack or Teams alert, but already the raw data coming from the infrastructure (metrics, logs, events) will have been analysed and possible causes identified. The AI model is trained to learn what the regular logs look like and is able to detect any significant deviations from the normal behaviour.
When an incident is detected, the Incident record is automatically opened in an ITSM tool like ServiceNow. Synchronisation between AIOps and the ServiceNow record ensures that other teams which do not have access to the SRE tools (for example, Service Desk operators) can be up-to-date with the incident resolution status.
Now that the problem is understood, AIOps automatically matches a runbook (standard operating procedure or playbook) with steps to resolve the problem. The runbook can be set to execute automatically or with SRE approval and participation.
Which day sounds more productive?
What’s Next for AIOPs and your Business?
IT innovation, especially when it comes to artificially intelligent technologies, shouldn’t feel like science fiction. Visit AIOps for your business to learn how the latest technologies can elevate your business outcomes, or get in touch with one of our experts for more information.
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CSI Change Freeze (Dec 2023 – Jan 2024)
CSI will be operating a ‘Change Freeze’ across our hosted and managed infrastructure to manage risk at this critical time.
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