Survey Shows Shift to SRE Principles to Automate IT Management

A global survey of 1,500 IT decision-makers conducted by F5 found that, on average, organizations are managing more than 200 applications across an extended enterprise as well as more than 20 different security and delivery technologies.

Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist in the Office of the CTO for F5, said that level of complexity makes it apparent that IT teams will need to embrace higher levels of automation to manage the IT environments that are now at the core of a wide range of digital business transformation initiatives. The survey revealed that more than three-quarters of respondents (77%) were embracing site reliability engineering (SRE) principles to automate the management of IT.

A full 95% of respondents also planned to mine operational data for insights they could use to improve the customer experience and drive business growth. However, 98% of respondents also said they are currently unable to extract those needed insights from their existing systems. A total of 90% said they planned to implement some form of artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve that goal. More than two-thirds of respondents said their organizations realized that creating superior digital interactions for customers will require modernizing business processes and back-office functions.

As part of those efforts, the survey suggested that application workloads are being shifted across highly distributed computing environments. In addition to the 84% of respondents that are planning to move workloads to the edge, the survey found two-thirds of organizations (67%) are currently or planning to repatriate applications from the cloud to a data center environment in the next 12 months . A total of 93% of respondents reported using some type of as-a-service offering delivered via the cloud today.

Naturally, securing that many platforms also represents a major challenge. However, despite inherent risks, more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents said, given the choice, they’d turn off security to improve performance. That lack of willingness to sacrifice performance suggests that attitudes to security may not have changed much despite all the breaches that now regularly occur, said MacVittie.

It’s not clear to what degree managing enterprise IT environments has become untenable; However, it’s clear that legacy manual processes will need to become automated. Organizations can’t afford to keep hiring IT staff to manage IT platforms that span everything from the network edge to public clouds. In fact, the survey makes clear that DevOps practices—in the form of the SRE principles first defined by Google—are gaining traction. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone managing IT is becoming an SRE or an engineer, but it does suggest that automation frameworks are being more widely used.

It may be a while before those automation frameworks are ubiquitous. However, one way or another, many of the tasks that have historically conspired to make working in IT tedious are going to disappear. The issue, of course, is to not wind up with islands of disconnected automation that introduces more complexity.

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