Dell study finds autonomous operations and AIops adoption lagging

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It is inevitable: the generation of data will continue to accelerate.

But while their daily accumulation moves to almost infinite levels, from petabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes (the largest unit approved as a standard size by the International System of Units, equivalent to one septillion bytes and named for the Greek letter “iota” ): the number of people in the world to curate and manage data is finite.

Organizations need to fundamentally rethink digitization to not only keep up, but also to master process and data in general. The answer to this: Autonomous Operations (AO) and AIops, the process of applying AI to IT operations, according to a new report commissioned by Dell Technologies.

“We have to go in the direction that data will be created,” said John Roese, global CTO of products and operations at Dell. “We have to improve the ratio of people to infrastructure.”

The report, “The State of Autonomous Operations: Why IT Automation is Driving Digital Transformation Success” found that while organizations are making good progress in their digital transformation, many are lagging behind in adopting AO and AIops.

Strong enthusiasm for AI and AIops, but lack of strategy

The analysis classified 59% of organizations as “digital adapters” or “digital leaders,” but by contrast, only 15% of organizations show the same level of maturity when it comes to adopting automation. While IT employees are excited about AI and AIops, often more so than management teams and other departments, 60% of respondents said their teams did not have a strong strategy for implementing it, and 77% believed that his organization was struggling to create a culture of innovation.

Barriers to adoption included a lack of in-house skills and experience; fragmented, aging and isolated IT infrastructure; security concerns; and lack of budgets and resources.

Yet at the same time, nine out of 10 organizations acknowledged that they are struggling because their IT staff is spending too much time on repetitive, manual tasks that could otherwise be automated. Also as a result of this, more than two-thirds of IT decision makers said their organizations are vulnerable to security threats and struggle with overall IT speed and IT staff retention.

AI and AIops will not eliminate jobs

Roese emphasized that just one area, IT monitoring, has been automated by more than half of organizations. Otherwise, few organizations seem to be automating a wide range of IT activities. Part of this is due to reticence on the part of management and non-IT departments, Roese said: There is a general fear that his work will become obsolete.

However, Roese has seen the opposite and points to the automation of security event management monitoring. That process has been almost completely automated and has been funneled into intelligent machine frameworks. And, in return, organizations “can’t hire enough” analysts to analyze the distilled data upstream, he said.

Another example is site reliability engineering. Developed and coined by Google, this practice involves incorporating and applying aspects of software engineering to infrastructure and operations problems. But, as Roese said, automated infrastructures can run into a host of problems that require human attention, thus creating a whole new set of jobs and required expertise.

He also highlighted the benefits that automation can have when it comes to data cleansing and cleansing. This has traditionally accounted for up to 80% of data scientists’ work. But “there’s absolutely no reason for that,” he said, adding that his skills can be applied to more important areas.

Roese agreed that with any technology implementation, manual human processes disappear and efficiencies and capabilities increase. But people are still required to “program it, manage it, interpret it,” he said. “Now the job is to make sure the automation works. You have to teach people how to be automation experts.”

Companies get AO AIops

In a positive sign for AO and AIops, the study found that 20% of organizations identified as “adopters of AOs” said there were no barriers to the process. And most other organizations recognize the importance and benefits of automation, with 87% saying they are excited about it.

Similarly, 91% of IT decision makers understand that automation is the future: they believe that in 3-5 years their IT systems will be able to react autonomously to align with business goals.

Technology leaders also recognize the benefits automation can have in delivering better service, improving security, supporting business objectives and growth, and improving the work-life balance of IT employees. Further, they said that AO and AIOP will better equip them to incorporate and take advantage of new technologies; deliver new products and services that “they are not yet able to imagine or understand”; and operate at speeds that are “currently unimaginable”.

In short, AO and AIOP have the potential to dramatically augment IT departments and enable staff to support digitization, Roese said.

AIops calls for more humans to embrace automation

In general, the most advanced storage systems have a ratio of one administrator for every 10 petabytes of data, he said. But in the case of zettabytes, that ratio increases to tens of thousands. As such, it is essential that organizations improve the infrastructure-human relationship, and that by three or four orders of magnitude. A more holistic approach to AO and AIops is needed, and IT teams must lead the charge to embrace innovation.

When they do, organizations won’t run into a “human bottleneck” and will be able to significantly expand their talent pool.

“We have a talent problem,” Roese said. “We haven’t had enough people in computer science, engineering and other areas of IT for a long time.”

Still, he emphasized, “adopting automation in a vacuum means nothing.” Organizations must judiciously capitalize on new capabilities to create a “virtuous cycle of data”: collecting it, studying it, and applying the results to learn and reprogram systems and update behaviors.

“You have to evolve with automation. It’s a change, a journey,” Roese said.

He added that, when applied correctly, “automation is a really good augmentation for humanity, and a necessary one.”

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