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Automation is the future. Automation is coming. It will eliminate all of our jobs and make us obsolete. Or at least that is the story which is often being told.  Isn’t it true though?

I mean, who remembers these vending machines of the future which were set to eliminate the need for cooks, chefs, cafeterias!   That remarkably sounds just like the same tools we’re using on a regular basis built, designed and streamlined to make us all unnecessary to the business! And then Profit, right?

 

Well, if Automation isn’t intended to make eliminate us, what IS it for?  Some might say that automation is to make the things we’re already doing today easier and make us better at doing our jobs.  That can be true to a point.  Some might also say that automation is taking things that we cannot do today and making it possible so we can be better at doing our jobs. That can also be true to a point.

 

How many of you recall in over the course of your networking operations and management lives, Long before Wireshark and ethereal, having to bring online or hire in a company to help troubleshoot a problem with a “sniffer laptop”.   It wasn’t anything special, and something we all likely take for granted today, yet it was a specialized piece of equipment with specialized software which enabled us to gain insight into our environment, to dig into the weeds to see what is going on!

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These days though with Network Monitoring tools, SNMP, NetFlow, Sflow, Syslog servers and real time data telemetry from our network devices it is not only something which is attainable, it’s downright expected that we should have all of this information and visibility.

 

With the exception of a specialized ‘sniffer’ engineer, I don’t see that automation having eliminated people, It only made us all more valuable and yet the expectation of what we’re able to derive out of the network has only grown.   This kind of data has made us more intelligent, but it hasn’t exactly made us smarter. The ability to read the Rosetta stone of networking information and interpret it is what has separated the engineers from the administrators in some organizations.   Often times the use of tools has been the key to taking that data and not only making it readable, but also making it actionable. 

 

Automation can rear its beautiful or ugly head in many different incarnations in the business, from making deployment of workstations or servers easier than we had been in the past with software suites, tools or scripting.  To, taking a dated analogy eliminate the need for manual switch board operators at Telcos by replacing them with Switching Stations which automatically transfer calls based upon the characteristics of dialing.  But contrasting the making something we were already doing today and making it better, to the something we were already doing with people and eliminating them.   Until this latest generation and thanks to technology and automation credit companies are able to generate ‘one-time CC #’ which can also be tied back to a very specific amount of money to withdraw from your credit card account. A capability which was not only unheard of in the past, but it would have been fundamentally impossible to implement let alone police without our current generation of data, analytics and automation abilities.

 

 

As this era of explosive knowledge growth, big data analytics and automation continues, what have you been seeing as the big differentiators to what kind of automation is making your job easier or more possible, which aspects of automation are creating capability which fundamentally didn’t exist before, and which parts of it are eliminating partially or wholly the way we do things today?