Automation: The True Power of Infrastructure as a Service

Though there are many advantages to consuming infrastructure as a service, automation, which brings with it the ability to bring new products to market more quickly, may be one of the most valuable.

The more tasks that can be automated, the more time engineers have to bring more value to the company.

How much more? One Rackspace customer using our OpenStack Private Cloud as a service had this to say: “With our old system, we could deploy seven VMs on our own servers, but it wasn’t dynamic. Automating this through the API saves time and money. It’s 60 percent faster than the old way, and
 we don’t need a dedicated person.”

But many companies recognize that while they might like to automate All The Things, a number of constraints stand in the way, from legacy systems to entrenched culture. One large financial institution I worked with, for example, found itself all over the automation continuum, from workload to workload, task to task.

automation continuum

With OpenStack private cloud serving as the platform, my team was able to help them figure out just how much they could automate, working with them to help overcome both technical and cultural challenges. We created a custom solution that worked for where they were, while still allowing for additional automation in the future, when they’re ready.

The challenge: more automation

This firm’s IT team had a basic goal: to be able to go from code being checked into source control, triggering a process that would then automatically test that code, and if the tests passed, the code was deployed to production. In effect, they needed a way to automate their infrastructure and treat it like code.

At the outset, they had some configuration management software to configure VMs or servers, but the process of initially setting up servers and creating VMs was still mostly manual and time consuming.

In addition to automation, the team had these additional requirements:

  • tasks automated through APIs,
  • a self-service area for developers,
  • immutable infrastructure
  • continuous integration (CI)
  • continuous deployment (CD).

Their approach to code deployment was to bake the code and everything it needed into a VM (immutable infrastructure), then that VM would go through quality assurance and CI/CD processes. If it didn’t pass or if things needed to be changed, a new VM would be created with new code baked in, and the process restarted.

The solution: OpenStack private cloud

An OpenStack private cloud provided the company with a platform to run orchestration (Heat) templates. The templates pulled all the infrastructure together needed for their applications, in an automated, consistent and seamless way. That template would then be treated as code, and checked into source control with the code. In other words, building on the IaaS capabilities of OpenStack, they had a way to implement infrastructure as code.

We helped them move the needle closer to fully automated environments, but not all the way. We implemented gates, requiring manual intervention. In effect, someone had to push a button to deploy a workload to production.

And that’s what you should expect with a Rackspace OpenStack Private Cloud — it’s not all or nothing. With experts managing your cloud, we can work with you to create as much automation as your organization can handle. We can also help users get comfortable with the new technology.

At the financial institution, we helped IT find users and teams that were enthusiastic about the new technology. We then helped them become successful in using it. Once they were successful and singing its praises, word spread about the benefits, and more people wanted to reap those rewards.

Those rewards stemmed from the real power of IaaS and cloud — that it has the APIs that allow you to automate your infrastructure and treat it like code. And with Rackspace, your organization can reap those rewards without having to build and maintain a cloud yourself.  You can consume a private cloud in a similar fashion to a public cloud, taking advantage of Rackspace OpenStack Private Cloud and moving closer to a fully automated environment, without having to become experts in operating the infrastructure.

Learn how Rackspace helps customers save money, increase productivity and sharpen strategic focus using our OpenStack private cloud offering.

To learn more and ask questions about whether private cloud as a service might be a good fit for your organization, visit our website: www.rackspace.com

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Jet Wilda is an Enterprise OpenStack Architect at Rackspace where he has worked since 2016. He is a skilled engineer with 16-plus years of experience in research, system design, system security, system administration, and development projects, as well as knowledge of (and experience with) various open- and closed-source development efforts. Solutions-oriented IT-Certified specialist with success directing and contributing to a broad range of projects, while participating in planning and implementation of new cutting-edge technology.

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